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Custom Essays: Ophelia as a Sexual Being

Powerful Essays
Ophelia as a Sexual Being in Hamlet

In Elaine Showalter's essay, "feminist criticism allows Ophelia to upstage Hamlet [and] . . . brings to the foreground . . . the cultural links between femininity, [and] female sexuality" (221). In most of his plays, William Shakespeare has many women in secondary roles, only filling dead space or causing strife between men. During Shakespeare's time, thoughts of women bordered on weak and deceitful images, leading to the idea of frail, yet conniving creatures. In Hamlet, the character Ophelia uses her sexual prowess as a source of power when dealing with the opposite sex. As she weaves her way through the background of the play, she affects the men greatly to become a main focus when critiquing the literary work. Interpretations of Ophelia vary based on the experts' view of sexual importance. The influence she has over Hamlet's emotions and desires affects the outcome of their faltering relationship and Hamlet's sanity. Viewing Ophelia as a sexual being, one can surmise that she embodies the very essence of female sexuality. Kenneth Branagh's 1996 film version of Hamlet portrays Ophelia as a siren: natural, beautiful, and the perfect object of male desire. In Elaine Showalter's essay and Kenneth Branagh's film, the representation of Ophelia gives strong evidence regarding the sexuality Ophelia emanates and her effect on the men surrounding her despite her five short scenes in the play. Ophelia's overzealous sexuality, uncommon in those "moral" days, constitutes an image of madness and impropriety ending in her tragic death by her own hand.

With the strong sexuality Ophelia radiates, even her brother Laertes cannot resist her charms. Speaking with Ophelia, Laertes warns h...

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...h her fire and passion. William Shakespeare produces this female character, which becomes the most important heroine in all of his literary works. As a symbol for women everywhere, Ophelia depicts the importance of using the power one has to make a difference in one's own life.

Works Cited

Hamlet. Dir. Kenneth Barnagh. Perf. Kenneth Branagh, Kate Winslet, Brian Blessed, Richard Briars, Julie Christie, Billy Crystal, Derek Jacobi, Michael Maloney. Castle Rock, 1996.

Showalter, Elaine. "Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism." Hamlet. Ed. Susanne L. Wofford. Boston: Bedford Books of St.

Martin's Press, 1994. 220-238.

Wofford, Susanne L., ed. Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism, William Shakespeare: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1994.
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