What are three characteristics of Ophelia from Hamlet?  Give three charaterictics or qualities about her and explain why they relate to her.

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Ophelia is a loyal daughter to Polonius. She unhesitatingly goes along with her father's and Claudius's plot to try and determine the cause of Hamlet's febrile state of mind. Polonius thinks that Hamlet's love for Ophelia is making him crazy, so he sets out to test his theory by getting Ophelia to return the love letters and little gifts that he's given her. The plan is a complete disaster; Hamlet pretends that he never gave Ophelia anything, viciously insults her, and then storms off, leaving her utterly distraught. Ophelia must have known that things could end this way, yet she willingly participated in Polonius's sordid little plan out of loyalty to her father.

Ophelia doesn't really understand Hamlet. As the infamous "Get thee to a nunnery" scene just mentioned indicates, Hamlet and Ophelia have radically different understandings of their relationship. Hamlet regards Ophelia as little more than a sex object, and shamelessly toys with her affections. Ophelia, for her part, is too naive and trusting for her own good, and genuinely believes that her feelings for Hamlet are fully reciprocated.

Ophelia is innocent. She is a unique character in the play in that she's completely above all the corruption, intrigue, and various shenanigans going on. And this proves to be her downfall. Ophelia simply lacks the psychological strength and maturity necessary to survive in such a cutthroat world. She becomes the plaything of the various men in her life, who ruthlessly use her for their own ends. Torn between her duty as a loyal daughter and sister, and the dictates of her innocent, loving heart, she is unable to go on. There is a tragic sense of inevitability about her eventual demise. Ophelia is simply too good, too gentle a soul, to exist for very long in the rotten state of Denmark.

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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.

…poor Ophelia

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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