Why is Ophelia mad?  Does anything she say make sense?  What happens to her at the end of Act 4?What does her madness and death symbolize about the kingdom?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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  • In Hamlet, Ophelia is mentally "drawn and quartered" by men.  As a result, she goes mad.
  • First, her brother tells her not to fall for the spoiled antics of Hamlet.  Since he's a prince, he acts on whims.
  • Next, Ophelia is told by her father that she can no longer see Hamlet, whom she loves.  She is instructed to return his love letters and remain in her room.
  • Then, Hamlet has the "silent interview" with her as he first attempts to be mad.  She is bothered by his disheveled appearance and worries for his mental state.  This foreshadows her own impending insanity.
  • Next, her father uses her as bait to discover the reason behind Hamlet's odd behavior.
  • Then, Hamlet projects his rage regarding his mother's adultery onto her in his famous "get thee to a nunnery" diatribe.  She is teetering on madness here.
  • Then, she overhears Hamlet's "to be or not to be" monologue and may mistake him for condoning suicide, either his own or hers.
  • Next, Hamlet kills her father.  His death pushes her over the edge.
  • Overall, Ophelia goes mad because she has no position in society.  Men have made her a plaything, pulling her mind in every direction.  No wonder she drowns herself.  She cannot stand that corrupt and sexist double standards of Denmark any longer.


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