Many believe that Ophelia’s madness stems from the patriarchy that she is subjected too, namely Hamlet, her father, Laertes, and even King Claudius. Ophelia is first ordered by Laertes to be careful around Hamlet with the reasoning that “he is subject to his birth” (citation) explaining that Hamlet may have to marry above his station or marry someone to resolve tensions between kingdoms rather than marry Ophelia. Next Ophelia is commanded by her father Polonius in the same scene to reject Hamlet’s advances beca...
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... under the safety of madness.
All and all it is easy to see that Ophelia is a greatly misunderstood character. She is a prime example of her times in that she adheres to society’s demands of her. Ophelia remains a perfect daughter, sister, and lover until she cannot take it anymore. Shakespeare speaks out against the wrongs of society towards women through Ophelia. He uses her to speak out for women, and uses the motif of madness to display how wrongly Ophelia, and women like her, are being mistreated. If it is concluded that Ophelia is sane, there are many new questions raised like did Ophelia still commit suicide if she wasn’t mad, who killed Ophelia if it wasn’t suicide? Overall, Ophelia’s madness was a way for her to speak out against the wrongs done to her. In the end it showed her rebellion against society and her value as a person, even though she’s a woman.
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