The Tragedy Of Ophelia In Shakespeare's Hamlet By William Shakespeare

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Many people, upon reading Hamlet by William Shakespeare, interpret Hamlet’s story to be the main tragedy of the play. However, Ophelia’s story should not be overlooked, as it offers an even more heartbreaking outcome than that of Hamlet, one in which a completely innocent character is made helpless due to outside circumstances that are beyond her control. Yet, Ophelia’s story remains controversial and some readers unsympathetic, as many are unsure as to whether Ophelia caused her own death, or if it could have been prevented. Although Ophelia should be held responsible for her actions, ultimately the patriarchal pressure that governed society perpetuated her demise, as the constant sexualization and mistreatment by her male superiors drove…show more content…
Upon close observation, Ophelia and Laertes have an extremely close relationship, often surpassing that of a brother and sister. From early on in the story, Laertes seems deeply invested in Ophelia and Hamlet’s relationship. He advises Ophelia to “weigh what loss your honor may sustain/ If with too credent ear you list his songs, /or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open/ to his unmastered importunity” (1.3.33-36). In fact, his entire soliloquy seems to border on sexual advice to Ophelia, which implies that Laertes has some say in the matter. Perhaps the most descriptive sexualization of Ophelia is when Gertrude describes her dead body as “mermaid-like” (4.7.201) with “her clothes spread wide” (4.7.200). Describing her clothes as “spread-wide” is especially suggestive, as to reference the act of removing clothing before sex. Ophelia can never escape the sexual comparisons made to her while she is alive; it seems as though everyone only sees her as a sexual being. This reminder that is perpetuated within a patriarchal society can lead one to insanity and despair; in contemporary times, women are sexualized from a very young age, and are reminded of this via cat-calling and through the media. In this way, the failure of many characters within a patriarchal setting to view Ophelia as a…show more content…
Hamlet’s bold proclamations in Act 3 certainly take an emotional toll on Ophelia, such as when he demands, “Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be/ a breeder of sinners?” (3.1.131-132), and when he tells Ophelia, “I loved you not” (3.1.129). Hamlet is aware that he is playing with Ophelia’s emotions, but does not seem to care in the least. Further evidence of his psychopathic behavior appears in Act 5, when Hamlet declares: I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers/ could not with all their quantity of love/ Make up my sum. What wilt thou do for her?” (5.1. 284). Hamlet’s behavior is further evidence of how he utilizes his male –privilege to gain power over Ophelia, he can act and behave however he chooses, but Ophelia is the one to go insane and die. Many blame her for her death, ignoring the fact that Hamlet was emotionally manipulative to her. This relates to how Ophelia was rendered entirely helpless by her male counterparts; she never had any power over the way others treated
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