Ophelia as a Foil to Shakespeare's Hamlet

analytical Essay
870 words
870 words

Ophelia as a Foil to Hamlet

In Shakespeare's tragedy, Hamlet, the audience finds a docile, manipulated, scolded, victimized young lady named Ophelia. Ophelia is a foil to Hamlet. Plays have foils to help the audience better understand the more important characters in the play. The character of Ophelia is necessary so that the audience will give Hamlet a chance to get over his madness and follow his heart.

Similarities are an important part of being a foil. One similarity that Hamlet and Ophelia share are that they both are children of controlling parents. [SV - 1] Hamlet's father, who is murdered, comes back as a ghost to tell him who his murderer is. This news is his father's way of controlling him from the grave. Hamlet's mother and stepfather are also controlling him by persuading Hamlet not to go to Wittenburg. Ophelia is also controlled by her father. She tells him how Hamlet has tried many times to express his affections for her. Ophelia's father does not believe Hamlet is sincere and orders her to stay away from him. Ophelia obeys her father's wishes. Women were expected to do as they were told and believed what they were told to be true.

Another similarity between Hamlet and Ophelia is the feelings they have for each other. In the beginning of the play, we are led to believe that Hamlet loves Ophelia. This frightens Ophelia, but that does not mean she does not have feelings for him also. It is her father who encourages her to suppress any feelings she may have then. Later in the play Ophelia confesses her love for Hamlet, and he then hides his feelings and denies that he loved her. He suggests that she go to a nunnery. This makes Ophelia feel worthless and not wanted.

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... when Ophelia takes her life, Hamlet does just that. [SS-1] He again admits to his love for her and apologizes to her brother Laertes for the death of their father. At the end of the play Hamlet's madness is also brought to an end, and he joins Ophelia again.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Pennington, Michael. "Ophelia: Madness Her Only Safe Haven." Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. of "Hamlet": A User's Guide. New York: Limelight Editions, 1996.

Pitt, Angela. "Women in Shakespeare's Tragedies." Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint of Shakespeare's Women. N.p.: n.p., 1981.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. No line nos.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how characters can be foils for important characters by talking to them about conflicts in the play. ophelia is used by the king, gertrude, and polonius to set up hamlet's madness.
  • Analyzes how hamlet needs ophelia to keep the audience interested in giving him a chance to get over his madness and follow his heart.
  • Analyzes the similarities between hamlet and ophelia in shakespeare's tragedy.
  • Cites pennington, michael, and pitt, angela. "women in shakespeare's tragedies."
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