William Shakespeare's Hamlet

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The character Ophelia in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet plays a very interesting and important role in the elaboration of the plot. In the beginning, she starts off in a healthy state of mind, in love with her boyfriend Hamlet, yet controlled by her father in regard to their relationship. During the play she encounters several troubling experiences involving Hamlet which cause her to become distressed. Near the end, the death of her father leaves Ophelia mentally unstable and in a state of madness that eventually leads her to death. So, due to all of the unfortunate events that took place with the people she loved the most in her life, Ophelia gradually becomes mad, and in the end passes away.

Ophelia’s and Hamlet’s love for each other in the beginning was very real. Following the death of his father Hamlet falls in love with her, and is much attracted by her beauty. It is not uncertain, however, that Ophelia is very much controlled by her father. She is the daughter of Polonius, the chief advisor to the new King Claudius, and a highly respected man. Her father demands that she tell Hamlet at once that she can no longer be with him and tells her "I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth have you so slander any moment leisure as to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet. Look to’t, I charge you. Come your ways." (I.iii.132-35). It is clear that here Polonius is making decisions for his daughter, regardless if she really loves Hamlet or not. She feels very unimportant and helpless now, and because of this develops a lack of emotional confidence and strength. All she can reply is "I do not, my lord, what I should think." (I.iii.104). She is used to relying on her father’s direction and has been brought up to be very obedient. As well, her brother Laertes agrees with what their father is saying. He also tells Ophelia that Hamlet is no good for her "Perhaps he loves you not" (I.iii.16). He thinks that Hamlet only loves her because he wants to seduce her, and demands his sister to never see him again. Ophelia can only accept her father and brother’s beliefs and writes Hamlet a letter which informs him that she can no longer see him. As a result, she begins to feel alone with very little independence.
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