Essay, Research Paper: Hamlet And Ophelia's Weaknesses

Shakespeare: Hamlet

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Ophelia’s Weaknesses In classic works of literature all characters have
certain flaws. In Shakespeare’s tragedies the characters all have flaws that
eventually lead to their undoing. In the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare,
the character of Ophelia is ultimately killed by her flaw. It is apparent that
Ophelia is an obedient person through her thoughts and actions in the beginning
of the play, but upon closer inspection, the audience sees that she is not
merely obedient. Ophelia’s thoughts and actions go beyond obedience to show
that Ophelia is a weak and entirely dependent character. Ophelia’s cruel
actions towards Hamlet, which go against her feelings for him, demonstrate her
obedience to her father. For example, in the beginning Ophelia tells her father
that she likes Hamlet: “My lord, he hath importuned me with love/ In honorable
fashion...”(1.3 118-119). By stating this to Polonius, she implies that Hamlet
is a decent and honorable man and that she does have some feelings for him.
Ophelia’s later actions sacrifice these personal feelings under the order of
her father, proving her complete obedience. In particular, Ophelia agrees not to
see Hamlet anymore after the request from her father: “I shall obey, my
lord...”(1.4 145). Ophelia’s actions show that Polonius has complete control
over his daughter because she sacrifices her personal feelings to please him.
Ophelia’s desire to please her father is the direct cause of her obedience.
Thereafter, upon having agreed not to see Hamlet, Ophelia allows herself to be
used as a puppet in order for the King and Polonius to spy on Hamlet: “Ophelia
walk you here / We will bestow ourselves...” (3.1 48-49). Ophelia has an
inward desire to please others, even if it means displeasing herself, and her
obedience stems from this. Ophelia’s drastic actions must come from something
other than obedience, something such as her character. Ophelia’s obedience
goes deeper than her trying to please to father and shows what a weak character
she is. Ophelia’s thoughts and actions show what a weak character she is. For
instance, when Hamlet harasses her and tells her to go to a nunnery where she
can no longer harm anyone, she does not defend herself but, after he is gone,
she pities herself: “O woe is me t’ have seen what I have seen / see what I
see...” (3.1 174-175). Ophelia is not a strong enough person to defend
herself, even when Hamlet is mocking everything that she is. Ophelia’s “woe
is me” pity comes from the fact that she barely is reprimanded because she
always tries to please others. Furthermore, when Polonius dies, Ophelia loses
her primary guidance and, instead of attempting to go on with her own life, she
calls on her brother for help in resolving her problems: “My brother shall
know of it / and so I thank you for your good counsel...” (4.5 75-76). Ophelia
suffers and basically collapses once her father dies because he has always been
there to instruct her, and now she is left to her own guidance. Ophelia is not
strong enough to survive by herself, and upon her self-recognition of this fact,
she calls for her brother’s help and guidance. Polonius’s controlling manner
is unreplaceable and Ophelia soon realizes this: “I would give you some
violets / but they withered all when my father died...” (4.5 207-208). Violets
are a known symbol of faithfulness, this is why Ophelia says that the violets
are gone, because she feels betrayed that her father has left her. Polonious’s
overbearing influence on Ophelia stunted her emotional growth by only allowing
her to think and feel what she was told to. Ophelia’s obedience and weakness
as a character can be traced to her complete dependence on other people.
Ophelia’s actions can be explained by the fact that she was completely
dependent on other people. In fact, Ophelia’s dependence on others is evident
in the very beginning: “I do not know, my lord, what I should think. POL:
Marry, I will teach you. Think yourself a baby...” (1.3 113-114). This shows
how Ophelia depends on her father to determine what she should think and feel,
and how she should live her life. Ophelia’s complete dependence, or lack of
independence, is what leads to her demise. For this reason, when the Queen is
explaining her death, she says, “At which time / she chanted snatches of old
lauds / as one incapable of her own distress or like a creature / native and
endured unto that element...” (4.7 202-205). Ophelia is completely incapable
of helping herself, because she is a weak person and, because of her dependence
on others. Ironically, it was Ophelia’s dependence that led to her death.
Still, Ophelia’s dependence on others was not entirely her fault; it can be
justified by her father and brother’s protection over her, which is shown when
Laertes curses Hamlet at her funeral saying, “O treble woe /fall ten times
*treble* on that cursed head / whose wicked deed thy most ingeniouse sense
deprived thee of ...” (5.1 258-260). Laertes proves how dominant he is by the
fact that he is willing to give up his own life to avenge his sister’s
unfortunate death. It is understandable why Ophelia would not need to be a
strong person because she always had her father and brother there for her,
whether she needed them or not. Ophelia’s complete dependence on others is,
sadly, what lead to her undoing. All characters have flaws, but Ophelia’s was
a fatal one. Ophelia’s fatal flaw was her complete dependence, which can also
be shown through her obedience and overall weakness as a character. It is a
shame that the dependence she could not help but have, ends up killing her.
Ophelia’s tragedy is a reminder of the importance of being an independent and
strong person and not placing fate into the hands of others.
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