Ophelia's Madness

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The character of Ophelia is an excellent element of drama used to develop interpretations of Shakespeare’s text. At the beginning of the play, she is happy and in love with Hamlet, who first notices her beauty and then falls in love with her. The development of Ophelia’s madness and the many factors that contributed to her suicide are significant parts of the plot. “Her madness was attributed to the extremity of her emotions, which in such a frail person led to melancholy and eventual breakdown” (Teker, par. 3). The character of Ophelia in Zieffirelli’s version is the personification of a young innocent girl. “Her innocence is mixed with intelligence, keen perception, and erotic awareness” (Teker, par. 13). This Ophelia is a victim of a distrustful lover and an authoritative father. She is an obedient daughter, who is controlled by her father Polonius, an advisor to King Claudius. Therefore, she believed she had to do everything her father told her to, which caused her to stifle her love and hurt Hamlet, the man she loved (Hamlet). In Branagh’s version, Ophelia is more emotionally mature and physically stronger. The reasons for her madness are outcomes “of her frustrated romance with [Hamlet] as well as her status as a pawn of all the men in her life” (William Shakespeare’s Hamlet; Teker, par. 17). The experiences she encountered with Hamlet result in great anguish to her. Specifically, he did not marry her when he had promised to do so. On St. Valentine’s Day, she alludes to this by singing a song about a maid whose lover also did not marry her as he promised (Shakespeare 4.5.24-64). She was constantly conflicted by what her father wanted, what Hamlet wanted, and what she wanted.

In one scene, Laertes warns Ophelia...

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...he had ruined any chance of being with him again by her obedience to her father’s wishes. Then, in Hamlet’s world of lies, deceit, love, and rules, Ophelia’s life came to a tragic end.

Works Cited

Alleva, Richard. "Hamlet." Commonweal 124.6 (1997): 18+. Academic OneFile. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.

Foster, Edward E. "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark." Masterplots. Rev. 2nd ed. Salem Press, 1996. MagillOnLiterature Plus. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.

Hamlet. Dir. Franco Zeffirelli. 1990. Warner Brothers, 2004. DVD.

Lyons, Donald. "Hamlet." Commentary 103.2 (1997): 58+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.

Teker, Gulsen Sayin. "Empowered by Madness: Ophelia in the Films of Kozintsev, Zeffirelli, and Branagh." Literature-Film Quarterly 34.2 (2006): 113+. Academic OneFile. Web. 11 Jan. 2011.

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. 1996. Warner Brothers, 2007. DVD.
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