2 Answers | Add Yours
Ophelia's helplessness is probably the most compelling image that is featured. Used as a tool of procuring information by her father, of family honor by her brother, and of a bizarre combination of love and disdain by Hamlet, the images brought out in the mind of Ophelia are ones of being trapped and being suffocated. I like her to a mouse that is cornered, and shuttles from one end to another desperately trying to avert its fate. Ophelia is at that point. The question becomes if these images are meant to bring out the difficulties in being a woman of time period or if they are meant to indicate that it is inevitable for women to feel this level of social suffocation. I would think that Shakespeare is trying to make a statement about how within a paradigm of victimhood, there can be complexity and intricacy in characterization present.
Assuming that you are asking about the "imagery" that the character Ophelia represents, I hope this analysis helps: Of all the pivotal characters in Hamlet, Ophelia is the most static and one-dimensional. She has the potential to become a tragic heroine -- to overcome the adversities inflicted upon her -- but she instead crumbles into insanity, becoming merely tragic. This is because Ophelia herself is not as important as her representation of the dual nature of women in the play. Ophelia's distinct purpose is to show at once Hamlet's warped view of women as callous sexual predators, and the innocence and virtue of women.
The extent to which Hamlet feels betrayed by Gertrude is far more apparent with the addition of Ophelia to the play. Hamlet's feelings of rage against his mother can be directed toward Ophelia, who is, in his estimation, hiding her base nature behind a guise of impeccability.
Through Ophelia we witness Hamlet's evolution, or de-evolution into a man convinced that all women are whores; that the women who seem most pure are inside black with corruption and sexual desire. And if women are harlots, then they must have their procurers. Gertrude has been made a whore by Claudius, and Ophelia has been made a whore by her father. In Act II, Polonius makes arrangements to use the alluring Ophelia to discover why Hamlet is behaving so curiously. Hamlet is not in the room but it seems obvious from the following lines that he has overheard Polonius trying to use his daughter's charms to suit his underhanded purposes. In Hamlet's distraught mind, there is no gray area: Polonius prostitutes his daughter. And Hamlet tells Polonius so to his face, labeling him a "fishmonger" (despite the fact that Polonius cannot decipher the meaning behind Hamlet's words.)
But, to the rest of us, Ophelia represents something very different. To those who are not blinded by hurt and rage, Ophelia is the epitome of goodness. Very much like Gertrude, young Ophelia is childlike and naive. Unlike Queen Gertrude, Ophelia has good reason to be unaware of the harsh realities of life. She is very young, and has lost her mother, possibly at birth. Her father, Polonius, and brother, Laertes, love Ophelia tremendously, and have taken great pains to shelter her. She is not involved with matters of state; she spends her days no doubt engaged in needlepoint and flower gathering.
She returns the love shown to her by Polonius and Laertes tenfold, and couples it with complete and unwavering loyalty. Her frailty and innocence work against her as she cannot cope with the unfolding of one traumatic event after another. Ophelia's darling Hamlet causes all her emotional pain throughout the play, and when his hate is responsible for her father's death, she has endured all that she is capable of enduring and goes insane. But even in her insanity she symbolizes, to everyone but Hamlet, incorruption and virtue.
We’ve answered 334,140 questions. We can answer yours, too.Ask a question