Why is Ophelia necessary in Hamlet?
I was thinking of how she acts as a foil for Gertrude as a younger version of her and Hamlet as a female version of him. I would like to have more ideas though, thanks!
This is such a great question! It is always important to ask what specific characters contribute towards the works in which they exist, and Ophelia is definitely an important part of this play. How you respond to this question will depend a lot on how you read Ophelia's character and her role in the play, for example whether you think Hamlet truly loves her or not. Here are some ideas for you to think about:
1) If we believe that Hamlet does love her, it makes the play much more tragic, as Hamlet is forced to choose gaining revenge over pursuing his own happiness and having a "happy ending" with Ophelia. Ophelia and his love for her is made impossible by the Ghost's claim for revenge.
2) It is important to remember that Hamlet's experience is paralleled by what Ophelia suffers. Both have their father's killed and both suffer some form of madness (feigned or otherwise in the case of Hamlet) as a result.
3) Let us also remember that Ophelia is used as a pawn by her father and Claudius to try and ensnare Hamlet to find out if his madness is really the result of love for her or not. As such, Hamlet is made to feel that even the woman that he loves has betrayed him and he is left in a world where he can trust nobody.
4) Lastly, consider the role that Ophelia's death has in the development of Hamlet's character. It is after her death that he realises he has nothing left to lose, and he seems to strike something of a peace with his future and the death that he will face.