Ophelias Role in Hamlet by William Shakespeare

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Ophelias Role in Hamlet by William Shakespeare

In Hamlet, one of the many things Shakespeare shows us is how the world can change a person, how certain circumstances can knock a person so out of proportion with who they used to be that they take on a new persona, a new identity. One such character is Ophelia, a young, innocent girl, who, throughout the play is torn between father and lover, accused of not being as innocent as she seems, and finally driven to insanity. In the end, she is driven to suicide, an innocent victim of the world around her.

We first meet Ophelia when she is talking with her brother Laertes, who attempting to educate her about the ways of the world. He warns her not to get too close to Hamlet, for Hamlet is "subject to his birth," (1.3, 18) he cannot choose who he loves. His caring advice for his sister, though, is lined with undertones of accusation. He warns her that even "the chariest maid is prodigal enough,"(1.3, 36) implying that even though she may seem modest, but her intentions could very well be the opposite. He attacks her virginal nature, heaving the burden of other, more crass, women upon this frail beauty. She, though a member of the more seemingly dim and weak sex, replies very wittily to this, "Do not, as some ungracious pastors do...reck not his own rede." (1.3, 47-51), advising, and possibly implying, the same things to her dear brother, showing their mutual respect for each other.

Polonius is the next to step in with words of advice to his daughter. Rather than simply giving her advice as an equal, he chastises her for her behavior. He talks down to her, tells her to "think yourself a baby" (1.3, 106), as if she does not have a mind of her own. While Ophelia has yet to p...

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...t of grief and politeness at death, but still, the irony remains. Hamlet ruins his cover and cries about how much he had loved her, yet if he had loved her so much in life why did he treat her so badly? All of the characters seem to twinge with guilt at this untimely death, as though they know that they had been responsible for this tragedy in part.

"When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions."(4.5, 79-80) For Ophelia, this statement rings true even after death. None of the events that made her go insane were because of her own faults; she had be the good, innocent, virginal young maid. She was abused, mentally and sometimes physically, by every single character in the play. Yet, by no fault of her own, she got caught up in the selfish acts of others. These selfish acts victimized this sweet maid, leading her to her untimely death.
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