Ophelia's Madness in Play "Hamlet"

Categories: William Shakespeare

Presenting Ophelia as a prominent female character in the play could be because she has a very close relationship with the main character, Hamlet, or because there seems to be two distinctly different sides to her. Ophelia appears to have this happy, lively side to her, yet later in the play, a much darker side forms and becomes more dominant later in the play. A woman whom Hamlet has a love for, Ophelia is what most would consider to be a beautifully young woman, daughter of Polonius.

On top of obeying the men in her life, Laertes and Polonius, Ophelia demonstrates the actions of being a very sweet and innocent girl that could become a strong character in the play. Instead, she leaps into insanity, becoming a sadly, tragic character. So much is hidden in the play, she is shown as a person who has the perfect life set out for her and nothing could ever wrong her, however, we experience all the tragic actions result in a suicide.

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The extent to which Hamlet feels betrayed by Gertrude is far more apparent with the addition of Ophelia to the play. Because of Hamlet’s feelings of rage against his mother can be directed toward Ophelia, who is, in his eyes, sheltering her base nature under the appearance of perfection. Ophelia is slowly torn down throughout the play by Hamlet’s treatment of her. Constantly telling her that he loves her, Hamlet also reminds Ophelia that she must remember that he is not an ordinary man, but a prince.

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He haunts her with words about how princes can choose wives for themselves, so she must not ruin her name or her body before he presents himself to her as a husband.

After Laertes leaves for Paris, Polonius turns over his full attention to his Ophelia, and addresses her about her relationship with Hamlet. He is nervous that Hamlet will seduce his one daughter and orders her to terminate her friendship with him. Ophelia agrees to her father’s rules and is reluctant to see him until she is unnerved by Hamlet’s aggression towards her. She describes how he came into her private room, his doublet was not buttoned, and his stockings were loose around his ankles, and spoke no words. When Ophelia illustrates this to Polonius, he decides that Hamlet is mad with emotion for Ophelia. Ophelia is puzzled by these words because her father bans her from all forms of communication with the prince, to now being told to express her feelings to him.

After being offered a gift from his love, Hamlet becomes angry and lashes out all the hidden feelings to OPhelia, this could also be triggered by his anger toward his mother’s marriage to Claudius. In this probable madness, he drops a concealed threat: “I say we will have no more marriage. Those that are married already – all but one – shall live” Feeling that she is in complete innocence, Ophelia becomes a tragic figure because Hamlet is putting all his displeasure on her, despite feeling she doesn’t deserve the anger. Another reason why Ophelia can be seen as a tragic figure is because her father, Polonius was killed by Hamlet through is rage of hatred. Ophelia becomes mad with agony; her father has been murdered by the man she is in love with. Because Polonius was Prime Minister, he was entitled to a large state funeral with religious rites and ceremonies. Instead, he is thrown into a pit in the castle garden with nothing to conserve it. The only person who attends his funeral is Ophelia. Ophelia writes to Laertes telling him the disgraceful disclosure. Secretly arriving to Denmark, Laertes raises an army to defeat the King because of the lack of respect toward his father.

Ophelia is driven to madness and the consequence of this is her committing suicide. Ophelia is portrayed as a childish and naive girl. Her infirmity and innocence work against her, she can not simply deal with one tragic event after the other. Hamlet is the true cause to all her emotional agony throughout the play, and when his revenge is responsible for her father’s fatality, she has endured all that she is capable of enduring and becomes psychotic. The crude tunes that she sings in front of Claudius, Laertes, and Gertrude are some indications that the corrupt world has taken its toll on the perfectly pure Ophelia.

When Ophelia goes completely insane and has surrendered all control over her mind, she begins chanting songs to herself that have unfamiliar sounds that don’t really make sense to anyone. “He is dead and gone, lady, he is dead and gone” (IV.V.29-30). The King now feels compassion for her because she has lost so much, “O! This is the poison of deep grief; it springs all from her father’s death.” (IV.V.75-6). In this song she says “Quoth she, before you tumbled me, you promised me to wed” (IV.V.62-3) You can tell by the lyrics she sings, that she is distressed because Hamlet slept with her during their confusing relationship and had assured her they’d be joined in holy matrimony. These are now the final stages of Ophelia’s insanity.

When Laertes comes to visit he is terrifically puzzled by his sister’s performance. She does not speak to him now as Ophelia but she sings and speaks of rosemary and pansies, which are imperceptible to everyone else. She says her farewells to her brother for the very last time, abandoning him while he is filled with rage and grief. A while after, Ophelia is found deceased in a river nearby, having drowned herself that evening. Some conclude that her death was suicide and some assume that it was an complete accident. Unlike the other characters in the play, Ophelia passed away from being too innocent, being too pure, and at last, loving too much. She died because of her pruity, while others perished because of their misdeed. She did nothing to hurt anyone, but so many people hurt her. Therefore, it was these factors, especially the death of her father, which caused her to become insane and viewed as a tragic figure.

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Ophelia's Madness in Play "Hamlet". (2021, Mar 18). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/ophelia-s-madness-in-play-hamlet-essay

Ophelia's Madness in Play "Hamlet"

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