Ophelia: Harshly Criticized

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Hamlet, a tragedy written by William Shakespeare in the 16th century, has been subject to evaluation for centuries. Each character has been broken down and analyzed. The psychology of each character has been examined. Every relationship has been studied to find more answer surrounding the play. Harold Bloom and Sigmund Freud have examined it extensively. Scholars have dissected all parts of the play. One character that has recently been analyzed more and more is Ophelia. She has been defended by feminists and criticized by many who believed she was mad. In their article and revisions, “Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism,” from Shakespeare and the Question of Theory, edited by Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Hartman, the authors, being feminist critics, defend Ophelia and criticize the way she is treated and undermined as a minor character. The role of Ophelia in the play Hamlet is underappreciated and over criticized due to her developed psychosis following her rejection by Hamlet. However, Ophelia’s role is more than just a sexual arousal for Hamlet and psychosis for psychiatrist and specifically male critics to examine.
Scholars and critics throughout history have turned Ophelia into “an insignificant minor character” (Elaine Showalter). She lives in the shadow of Hamlet. Shakespeare has given Hamlet a back story while the reader has no clue what Ophelia’s past is like. Lee Edwards, a feminist critic, “concludes that is impossible to reconstruct Ophelia’s biography from the text: ‘We can imagine character. She is always shown as dependent on men, specifically Hamlet. The reader knows nothing about her, save the pre-play course of her love story with Hamlet is known only by a few a...

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...rtunity to make decisions for herself rather she is subject to the decisions of the men in her life. Ophelia is the representation of women’s’ inferiority to men. Although woman should have equal rights, this is how she is portrayed. In their feministic approach, the writers defend Ophelia and believe her role is underappreciated and undermined as a minor character.

Works Cited
Elaine Showalter (essay date 1985)" Shakespearean CriticismEd. Michelle Lee. Vol. 59. Gale Cengage 2001 3 Apr, 2014
Leverenz, David. "The Woman in Hamlet: An Interpersonal View." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 4.2 (1978): 291. Print.
Shakespeare, William, and Harold Jenkins. Hamlet. London: Methuen, 1982. Print.
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