In Hamlet, do you believe that Ophelia's death was a suicide or tragic accident?

Asked on by rc1994

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In Shakespeare's tragic play Hamlet, Ophelia (the daughter of the king's counselor) dies tragically in act four. While some have concluded that Ophelia died while trying to hang flowers on tree branches, others have concluded that her death was a result of suicide.

Justification for each can be made. Ophelia, previous to her death, was depicted as being mad. After her father's death, she comes to the king and queen singing about death, love and sex. Later she returns spouting about the symbolism of flowers.

Given that Ophelia is given a Christian burial, one can assume that her death was the result of an accident. The two gravediggers responsible for digging Ophelia's grave are speaking about the inappropriateness of her Christian burial given that she committed suicide.

Shakespeare does not give readers a definitive answer. Some readers are left believing that Ophelia did commit suicide and others simply continue to think that she died hanging flowers. That being said, the hanging of the flowers could be tied to Ophelia's committing of suicide.

As for my own personal belief, I tend to side with those who believe Ophelia committed suicide. The hanging of the flowers on the tree limbs seems too forceful an image to depict an accident.


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