The Role of Ophelia in Hamlet

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Nunneries call to mind a life of chastity and spirituality fueled by solitude. By condemning Ophelia to a nunnery in the first act of Scene III, Hamlet is taking from her the opportunity to marry anyone but Christ and the ability to have earthly children. However, had she been removed to a nunnery, Ophelia might have finally found herself free. In a nunnery she would have had no one to serve but Christ and her church; the desires of men cannot be forced upon those whom they cannot reach. But inversely, her insidious feminine wiles would have difficultly wielding her “wantonness” as a weapon against men. Despite being, arguably, one of the main characters in Hamlet, Ophelia has the unique distinction of being one of the least developed. However, this is far from an accident, as Ophelia was created not to act as an independent force but to further the agendas of the more “well-rounded” men around her. An important thing to note is that in Act III, Scene I is the first in which Ophelia appears to act in even a slightly autonomous way. Her displays of emotion against the harsh words that Hamlet berates her with are the first hint to the true characterization of the girl as she has so far served no purpose than to act as a vessel for Laertes and Polonius to achieve a means for their end. In “Gender and Identity in Hamlet: A Modern Interpretation of Ophelia” written by Heather Brown for The Myriad, Westminster College’s undergraduate academic journal, Brown asserts this claim, stating “[a]side from the male characters using Ophelia as a "looking glass"—casting their reflection upon her, showing themselves and the audience their power over her—Ophelia serves no purpose in the play” (Brown). The “looking glass” of which she speaks is a ... ... middle of paper ... ...et: A Modern Interpretation of Ophelia." Westminster College: The Myriad. Westminster College, Summer 2004. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.. Gray, Janet. "Patriarchy." Women's and Gender Studies. The College of New Jersey, Summer 2010. Web. 21 Nov. 2013. . Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Shakespeare-Online. Shakespeare's Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1 - Hamlet Confronts Ophelia (Get Thee to a Nunnery). 27 Dec. 2010. Web. 18 Nov. 2013. Woolf, Virginia. "Chapter Two." A Room of One's Own. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Adelaide University. Adelaide University Australia, 9 Feb. 2013. Web. 21 Nov. 2013. .

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