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does Ophelia's death contribute to the catharsis in the play hamlet?

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daniellaoxo | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:16 PM via web

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does Ophelia's death contribute to the catharsis in the play hamlet?

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bwarren3 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted January 25, 2012 at 6:17 AM (Answer #1)

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In my opinion, no.  The catharsis, according to Aristotle, is the release of the emotions, pity and fear, that occurs when the tragic hero experiences a reversal of fortune and a downfall brought about by his own tragic mistake or flaw (hamartia).  We feel pity for the hero because he doesn't recognize his mistake until too late, and we feel fear because it could happen to us.  Ophelia's death, though by her own hand, is not the result of a mistake or flaw on her part; she is driven to suicide by Hamlet's actions towards her and her father, Polonius.  We may feel pity for her, but it is not the catharsis that Aristotle describes.

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