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Ophelia Of Hamlet Essay Research Paper Ophelia

Ophelia Of Hamlet Essay, Research Paper Ophelia of Hamlet Hamlet Melancholy, grief, and madness have pervaded the works of a great many playwrights, and Shakespeare is not an exception. The mechanical

Ophelia Of Hamlet Essay, Research Paper

Ophelia of Hamlet

Hamlet Melancholy, grief, and madness have pervaded the works of a great many

playwrights, and Shakespeare is not an exception. The mechanical

regularities of such emotional maladies as they are presented within

Hamlet, not only allow his audience to sympathize with the tragic

prince Hamlet, but to provide the very complexities necessary in

understanding the tragedy of his lady Ophelia as well. It is the poor

Ophelia who suffers at her lover’s discretion because of decisions she

was obligated to make on behalf of her weak societal position. Hamlet

provides his own self-torture and does fall victim to melancholia and

grief, however, his madness is feigned. They each share a common

connection: the loss of a parental figure. Hamlet loses his father as

a result of a horrible murder, as does Ophelia. In her situation is

more severe because it is her lover who murders her father and all of

her hopes for her future as well. Ultimately, it is also more

detrimental to her c! haracter and causes her melancholy and grief to

quickly turn to irretrievable madness. Critics argue that Hamlet has

the first reason to be hurt by Ophelia because she follows her father’s

admonitions regarding Hamlet’s true intentions for their beginning

love. In Act 3, scene 1, line 91 Hamlet begins with his malicious

sarcasm toward her. “I humbly thank you, well, well, well,” he says

to her regarding her initial pleasantries (Johnson 1208). Before this

scene, he has heard the King and Polonius establishing a plan to deduce

his unusual and grief-stricken behavior. Hamlet is well aware that

this plan merely uses Ophelia as a tool, and as such, she does not have

much option of refusing without angering not only her busybody father

but the conniving King as well. Hamlet readily refuses that he cared

for her. He tells her and all of his uninvited listeners, “No, not I, I

never gave you aught” (lines 94-95). Some critics stress, as does J.

Dover Wilson, that Hamlet has a right to direct his anger to Ophelia

because even though many critics “in their sy! mpathy with Ophelia

they have forgotten that it is not Hamlet who has ‘repelled’ her, but

she him” (Wilson 159). It is possible that Wilson does not see the

potential harm to Ophelia should she disobey her authority figures

(i.e. her father and her king). Furthermore, Ophelia cannot know “that

Hamlet’s attitude toward her reflects his disillusionment in his mother

. . . to her, Hamlet’s inconstancy can only mean deceitfulness or

madness” (Lidz 158). She is undeniably caught in a trap that has been

layed, in part, but her lover whom she does love and idealize. Her

shock is genuine when Hamlet demands “get thee to a nunnery” (line

120). The connotations of the dual meaning of “nunnery” is enough in

and of itself to make her run estranged from her once sweet prince, and

it is the beginning or her sanity’s unraveling as well. Hamlet’s

melancholy permits him the flexibility of character to convey

manic-depressive actions while Ophelia’s is much more overwhelming and

painful. “Shakespeare is ambiguous about the reality of Hamlet’s

insanity and depicts him as on the border, fluctuating between sanity

and madness” (Lidz 156). Hamlet mourns for his father, but it is the

bitterness and ill-will that he harbors towards his mother for her

hasty marriage to his uncle that is his most reoccurring occupation.

His thoughts of Ophelia are secondary at best. When it happens that

Hamlet accidentally slays Polonius, he does not appear to be thinking

of the potential effect of his actions on Ophelia. Hamlet has sealed

her fate, and along with the “vacillations in [his] attitude and

behavior toward her could not but be extremely unsettling to the very

young woman who idolized [him]” she does not have much in the way that

is positive for her (Lidz 157). Throughout the entire murder scene in

Act 3, Scene! 4, Hamlet does not remark about the damage he has done

to Ophelia. His emotional upswing is devoted entirely to his mother,

and while his emotions are not an imitation, he does admit that he

“essentially [is] not in madness,/ But mad in craft” (lines 187-188).

Ophelia is then left to mourn her father, but it is not his death alone

that spurns her insanity. Her predicament is such that she is forced

to fear and hate her father’s murder who is also her lover and the one

person to whom all of her future hopes were pinned -Prince Hamlet.

“Her entire orientation to the future has suddenly been destroyed,” and

with her brother gone, Ophelia has no one to turn to for comfort (Lidz

157). Hamlet then delves further into his manic feigned madness and

Ophelia is cheated into the belief that he really is mad. The options

for her sanity are none; melancholy and grief are madness for

malcontent Ophelia. Hamlet and Ophelia are confronted with the

“irretrievable loss of a love object, ” however, it is Ophelia’s

dilemma that is the more horrible of the two and is indelibly more

tragic. The audience may of the general opinion that Polonius is

bordering on senility, and is a spy who meddle in affair that do not

demand his participation, however, he is Ophelia’s sole parent. We are

able to discern that his harsh attitude toward his daughter at the

beginning of the play may not be cruel for cruelty’s sake; Polonius

may actually be showing signs that he is overly protective of Ophelia

and instructs her to deny Hamlet’s “tenders” because they represent a

threat toward his position as her father. We might also infer that as

Ophelia’s only parent for such a great duration in her young life that

Polonius may actually favored her -letting her act as the replacement

for her mother in her father’s life. These ideas are not to implicate

their relationship as an abusive Oedipal ci! rcumstance. It is

interesting that the same situation can correspondingly be applied to

the relationship that Hamlet shares with his mother. Hamlet is

fatherless. While this is a more recent position for him, it is

interesting to note that rather than have his loss bring him and his

mother closer, it only serves to bind him in his melancholy and agony.

He battles within himself of doing harm to his mother. Hamlet may very

well see his mother’s infidelity to his father’s memory as an

infidelity to him as well. This Oedipal Complex is more injurious to

his character, and is the determining force for his unsuccessful

relationship to Ophelia. Ophelia has nothing to do with this emotional

inadequacies, and is nonetheless a victim of them. Her death is the

responsibility of Hamlet, who at her gravesite “exhibits some temporary

marks of a real disorder” (Mackenzie 903). It is short-lived, however,

and Hamlet again retakes his vengeance upon his father’s murderer

–using his ! melancholy as a dull weapon. “He realizes that his

emotions are often going to rush beyond his control [and] the fiction

that he is mad will not only cloak his designs against the King, but

will also free him from the rest of the play” (Campbell 104). It is

his fiction that is the leading cause of Ophelia’s demise as well as

his own. There is no way out of the created situation for either of

them. One could imagine that if this were a different play, Hamlet

could ask for Ophelia’s forgiveness, but that is not the play. The

melancholy, grief, and madness that Hamlet suffers from may well have

been the propelling force for all of his unfortunate action in

Shakespeare’s play. It is worth allowing that the first of the two are

real; his melancholy and grief are not counterfeit. Ophelia is the

more tragic of the two because her madness is not feigned, and

furthermore, that it is caused by the very love of her life is even

more disastrous for her poor young life. They are each malcontents

with no real happiness made available to them given their unfortunate

circumstances.

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