Ophelia Essay, Research Paper
A play with great value and quality would best describe one of Shakespeare’s intriguing plays, Hamlet. Events, dilemmas, action, and the characters all contribute greatly to make the play interesting and appealing. Every event that occurs leads to the outcome of dilemmas and action. The characters personalities is what makes the action is even more exciting. Each character has got their own special significance in the roles they play. However Ophelia, the daughter of the Lord Chamberlain Polonius, allows an atmosphere of simplicity and delicacy to surround the play. Her simple nature causes inner thoughts that allow us to question her true character.
From the start of the play Ophelia seems to always keep her distance and speak very little. She is very distinctive of the other characters and keeps to herself most often. Her first presence in the play takes place when her brother, Laertes, and her father lecture her about keeping away from Hamlet and not believing his love. “Hold it a fashion, and a toy in blood,” (1.3. 6) this is said by Laertes as he describes that Hamlet’s love will last for a little while then fade, which makes his love insignificant. Ophelia doesn’t argue and agrees to remember what he said, however she immediately tells him to make sure he follows his own advice, “…and recks not his own rede.” (1.3. 51) Having said this by her displays a quality that is not usually seen. In accepting her brother’s advice she also makes sure he understands that he needs to take his own advice too. Generally with Polonius, who also disfavors Hamlet, she is very respectful and obedient. After a long lecture from him too she says “’tis in my memory locked” (1.3. 86) and “I shall obey my lord” (1.4. 136). In spite of her love towards Hamlet she doesn’t debate the fact that he has not allowed her to see Hamlet anymore. She tells him the truth about what Hamlet has said or what she feels. Ophelia is the kind of girl who always had her father or brother telling her what to do and what to think. She says, “I do not know, my lord, what I should think”(1.3. 104) when her father asks her if she believes Hamlet’s love. Here she seems dubious and uncertain of her feelings or what she is to do. Ophelia is seen as inexperienced and very innocent for she doesn’t look like she understands love or her emotions.
Due to her inexperience and lack of gregariousness Ophelia doesn’t understand Hamlet’s weird behavior. She runs frightened to her father after having met him and with no words exchanged. She had been scared from his appearance and the way he looked at her. She exclaims, “O, my lord, my lord, I have been so affrighted.” (2.1. 74) “As if he had been loosed out of hell to speak of horrors – he comes before me” (2.1. 82-83) after having met Hamlet. She describes his bizarre looks and believes, as her father does, that the cause of his distraction is his love towards her. Hamlet had been trying to find relief for his deep grief in her. However, her na?ve character didn’t allow her to infer that there was something so much worse gnawing at Hamlet. Her father drags this incident to Claudius and Gertrude who agree to devise a plan to spy on Hamlet, using Ophelia. She doesn’t object. For the sake of obedience and loyalty to her father, she looses Hamlet’s love. She is greatly terrified by Hamlet’s actions and when he declares that he doesn’t love her. “You should not have believed me…I loved you not” (3.1. 118-121) After being very feisty and robust with her she exclaims her sorrow by saying, “And I, of ladies most deject and wretched, that sucked the honey of his music vows…”(3.1. 154-155) At this situation she is gullible and very vulnerable. Hamlet had hurt her bluntly and left her to deal with the sorrows she felt. However, that was due to him knowing of her betrayal, agreeing to help them spy on him. He needed Ophelia for comfort and was raging when he found nothing.
During the play ‘Mouse-trap’ that Hamlet had put together Ophelia acts quite strong in a sense that she controls her emotions and answers Hamlet in a discreet and strong manner, for example, “I think nothing, my lord” (3.2. 110) when he pushes her to display her thoughts on what he says. She still seems insecure though. Ultimately, many incidents take place and one of the most important would be Hamlet accidentally killing Polonius who was hiding, listening to the conversation between Hamlet and his mother Gertrude. This leads to Hamlet being sent off to England and Ophelia extremely dolorous. She is susceptible to her fears and emotions to the extent that she goes mad. She refuses to face reality and expresses her grief through songs that combine the loss of her father and Hamlet’s love. “Which bewept to the grave did go, with true-love showers.” (4.5. 38-39) She is strikingly helpless and fragile, it is clear that she would not be able to go on without her father’s support. Having had her too over protected did not result to her benefit. “Spurns enviously at straws; speaks things in doubt, that carry but half sense. Her speech is nothing.” (4.5. 6-7) says Horatio describing Ophelia’s condition to the queen right after her father’s death. Trepidation of facing more mourning and grief brings her to her immediate death.
Stepping beyond Ophelia’s personality, she displays a great importance to the play. All the scenes in which she appears in have a sense of either deep emotion or great grief that causes feelings of pity and empathy to rise towards her. Deep emotion is displayed when she talks with her brother, and once she speaks about Hamlet’s love, “And, with them, words of so sweet breath composed as made the things more rich.” (3.1. 99-100) Great grief is expressed when Hamlet admits that he doesn’t love her and she is hurt, “ That unmatched form and feature of blown youth blasted with ecstasy. O, woe is me” (3.1. 158-159) Similarly, grief is expressed after the death of her father also, “But I cannot chose but weep to think they should lay him i’ th’ cold ground.” (4.5. 66-67) Overall the presence of Ophelia in the play provided an air of sheer gracefulness and engaging frailty.
Through out the play Ophelia was always viewed as a fragile and helpless girl. She was scared of Hamlet’s behavior and very dependant on her father. Since Hamlet denies his love she gradually becomes emotionally worse as the play progress on. She proves to be unable to handle any change. First it is with Hamlet’s lost love then to her father’s death, which result in her downfall. The changes are visible and clearly depicted. They allow the readers to be placed in the mood of the play. A woman always has great effect when pinning a specific atmosphere. As she gradually begins to get emotionally worse, so does the plot of the play. Distressing incidents begin to occur as we sense the change in her character. She goes from being always taken care of, to grieving her lost love, and ends at loosing her senses after the death of her father.
In spite of how augmented Ophelia’s sorrow and grief became she was experiencing, in a few days, the same situation Hamlet had been experiencing for months. They both have had their father’s murdered, their love lost and thought about suicide too. However, an obvious and unmistakable difference is seen between how the two characters each dealt with an identical condition. Hamlet had been determined to avenge his father’s murder and was always confident that he would result with the outcome he wanted. He took advantage of every chance he got. For example the players who performed the play ‘Mouse-trap’. Whereas, Ophelia, unlike Hamlet who ‘acted’ mad, really goes mad and sings her sorrow and mourning through. She doesn’t accept to face reality, for she is now on her own and without her father’s support. This proves that she had always needed someone to tell her what to do and how to feel. And now once her father was gone, there was no one to fill the emptiness she felt.
Concluding, Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, combines a lot of themes and remarkable incidents. Specifically the roles of each character unite to form an extraordinary impression on the play. Particularly, Ophelia’s character is very perceptive and penetrating. She is described as inexperienced, vulnerable, sensitive and very frail. Leading a very protective life doesn’t result in a positive end for her. Her attitude circles the play with a sense of deep warmth and the role she plays helps express the mood of the play. Although very different from Hamlet’s determined character, she has her own urbane manner.
Quotes where taken from the play.