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Some words that can be used to describe Ophelia are confused, frustrated, and unappreciated.
Ophelia is confused about Hamlet.
Ophelia is Polonius’s daughter and Laertes’s sister. Polonius is the king’s counselor. Hamlet has told her that he loves her. Laertes tells her that it is “not permanent, sweet, not lasting” (Act 1, Scene 3) and she should not take it seriously. Ophelia says she will listen, but she wants Hamlet to be serious. Polonius also asks what is going on. She tells him Hamlet has made advances. (Act 1, Scene 3, p. 27)
He hath, my lord, of late made many tenders(105)
Of his affection to me.
Polonius also forbids her to hang out with Hamlet, in case she gives herself up to him and is no longer pure, since he is not likely to marry her because he is a prince.
Ophelia is frustrated by Hamlet, her brother and father.
Sometimes it seems as if Ophelia is being torn in many directions. Ophelia is not sure if Hamlet loves her or not. He seems to be very suggestive to her. Sometimes she thinks he is mad.
Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced,
No hat upon his head, his stockings fouled,
…And with a look so piteous in purport
As if he had been loosed out of hell
To speak of horrors, he comes before me. (Act 2, Scene 1)
Hamlet’s behavior now, and during the play within the play, is very coarse and vulgar. Ophelia does not know what to make of it. She is also torn between Hamlet and her father and brother. The men in her life seem to be using her as a plaything.
Ophelia is unappreciated.
When the queen says she hopes “Hamlet's wildness” is because he is in love with Ophelia, she says she hopes so too (Act 3, Scene 1). Ophelia is a charming, if somewhat weak, girl. Her behavior has been debated for years by scholars.
There comes a point where she’s had it with Hamlet, telling him she was “the more deceived,” but Hamlet is angry.
Get thee to a nunnery! Why wouldst thou be a(130)
breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest, but yet
I could accuse me of such things that it were better my
mother had not borne me. (Act 3, Scene 1)
Hamlet’s seeming lack of sanity hurts her. She does not understand why she is the most unappreciated by all the men in her life.
Was Shakespeare sexist? Is there more to Ophelia? It is terrible that the only way for Ophelia to get control over her own life was to kill herself. She loses her sanity.
Divided from herself and her fair judgment,
Without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts (Act 4, Scene 5)
The murder and intrigue, especially her father’s death, was too much for Ophelia. After she kills herself, her brother and Hamlet will realize her value.
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