Hamlet The Naivete of Ophelia Revealed

William Shakespeare

The Naivete of Ophelia Revealed

After establishing that Ophelia's father, Polonius, is truly the fool of the play, the reader is forced to shake his or her head at poor Ophelia, who takes her addled father's advice without question.  Not only does she obey, but she reports her obedience when she says:  "I did repel his letters and denied / His access to me."  Further, she reports Hamlet's actions.  Without having seen Hamlet again (after promising to put an "antic disposition on," we learn here that Hamlet is succeeding in his quest (or is already quite crazy).  The naive Ophelia is confused, of course, and reports Hamlet's delirium to her dad.  (Can this be considered action on the part of Hamlet?  Perhaps.)  Ophelia shows complete trust here as she reveals all of Hamlet's actions.  Ophelia was doing her daily sewing when Hamlet appeared with “his doublet all unbraced; / No hat upon his head; his stockings fouled, / Ungartered, and down-gyved to his ankle / ... his knees knocking each other" and with a "piteous look" as if he had just come "from hell."  When Polonius asks what Hamlet said to her, Ophelia reports that Hamlet "took me by the wrist and held me hard," shook her arm, "raised a sign so piteous and profound," and then let her go.  How do we know that Hamlet's play of "antic disposition" (or perhaps true mental illness) is working?  Polonius says Ophelia's denial of Hamlet "hath made him mad."  Polonius does reveal that Hamlet must be in love with Ophelia (and not just teasing her) in order to cause this madness.  One should wonder what Ophelia thinks here.  She says nothing more.  However, considering her naivete, she most likely believes her father about Hamlet's love.  She also must agree with her father that King Claudius should be told of Hamlet's behavior.  Therefore, (and some scholars could disagree), through her naivete, Ophelia can be accused of indirect betrayal of Hamlet's affections.