Essay, Research Paper: Hamlet And Ophelia

Shakespeare: Hamlet

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Ophelia is a beautiful and simple-minded woman, easily molded by the more
powerful opinions and desires of others. The thoughts of her father and her
brother influenced her the most. The love letters from Hamlet also swayed her
opinions and confused her mind. Ophelia wasn’t able to realize herself because
of all the pressures exerted on her to be something she’s not. That weakness
of mind and will, which permitted her obedience to her father and thus destroyed
her hope for Hamlet’s love, finally resulted in her insanity and death. When
her father had challenged the honor of Hamlet’s intentions, Ophelia could only
reply "I do not know, my lord, what I should think" (III, iii). Used
to relying upon her father’s direction and brought up to be obedient, she can
only accept her father’s belief, seconded by that of her brother, that
Hamlet’s "holy vows" of love were simply designed for her seduction.
She was to obey her father’s orders not to permit Hamlet to see her again. Her
father also wanted to prove Hamlet’s madness to the king. He used Ophelia as
bait so he and the king could listen to Hamlet’s words. Ophelia willingly
obliged to her father’s desires. By not thinking for herself and only doing as
her father wished, she ruined her chances of love with Hamlet. Hamlet put
pressure on Ophelia by expecting her to surpass his mother’s shortcomings and
be an epitome of womankind. He searched her innocent face for some sign of
loving truth that might restore his faith in her. He took her mute terror for a
sign of her guilt and found her to be a false person, like his mother. In his
letter to her, he addressed the letter to "the most beautified
Ophelia" and he terminated the letter with "I love thee best, O most
best, believe it" (II, ii). He used the word "beautified" to
display a sincere tribute, and it is apparent he still loves her. His attempts
to win her affection are not triumphant. Ophelia is still too much under the
influence of her father to question his wisdom or authority, and she has no mind
of her own to understand how much she has made her lover suffer. No matter how
much it pained her to not see Hamlet, all she could see in his present behavior
is the madness that terrified her. Ophelia’s insanity was a mixture of love
and hate caused by her father and Hamlet. An example of hate is when she sings
about a "baker's daughter"(IV, v). Ophelia is referring to the way her
father used to treat her before the tragic incident of his death. The love
within her madness is when she speaks about the events on "Valentine’s
Day"(IV, v). When Ophelia speaks about Valentines Day she is referring to
the events of romance that she was denied. Ophelia’s madness is brought on by
her lack of being able to demonstrate any maturity in trying to cope with her
losses and in return can only inflict her madness on the court. Abused by her
lover, and bereft of her father’s protection she loses control of her mind. In
her insane state she came to believe that the seduction her family tried so hard
to protect her from has passed. Her father’s admission of error might have
embittered a more independent Ophelia. This explains Hamlets rejection of her.
Being tormented of scenes of death and the burial, she reaches out to the beauty
of hanging flowers in a willow tree and somehow drowns. Ophelia was never able
to understand exactly what Hamlet was suffering from, and in a way he created a
situation for her to relate; death of a father and betrayal by a loved one.
Hamlet managed to rise above insanity and feelings of suicide, but her weaker
spirit could not hold the burden.
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