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Ophelia's Madness Essay

1152 words - 5 pages

Joey Puvel    Ophelia’s Madness  Despite the difficulty to pinpoint exactly what Shakespeare’s intended  personalities for his characters in ​ Hamlet ​ were, Ophelia’s legitimate madness is one  trait that isn’t easily proven otherwise. Poor Ophelia is a young girl conditioned to the  medieval dogma that her father is the ultimate authority in her life until marriage, while  also heavily drawn to her sense of romance characteristic to the Renaissance. Also,  Ophelia cannot express herself the way the men around her can, reserving her to a  balloon of emotions, which, in addition to being left stranded after the men in her life  essentially disappear, bursts into her ultimate insanity.    ...view middle of the document...

 Hamlet recognizes he is under surveillance and ultimately tells Ophelia he  is cutting her off. Ophelia loses her lover Hamlet because of the decision to be obedient  to Polonius, which ironically, is a similar obedience Hamlet has for his own father.   Being a woman, Ophelia is held to a different standard than the men around her  which doesn’t allow her to express herself the way they can based on emotion. Hamlet  plays insanity in a tactic to eventually get revenge, while Laertes storms the castle on  motives to avenge his fathers death. Ophelia, however, must remain relatively passive.  The rejection of her lover and murder of her father causes insurmountable feelings of  anger, stress, and frustration, and with no avenue for these feelings to escape, she  must keep them boiling inside. Eventually, she starts taking these inner frustrations and  sorrows out on herself. Upon act 4, both Hamlet and Ophelia are fatherless from  murder, but these similar circumstances do not call for similar reactions. It would be  absurd for Ophelia to seek revenge as Hamlet has for the his father. This is Laertes’s  role as he declares, “only I’ll be revenged most thoroughly for my father.” (4.5.135­136).  Being a man, avenging his father is expected, while Ophelia’s expectations require her 

to remain static on the case even though her feelings for her father are just as intense  as her brother.   At this point with the return of Laertes, Ophelia has already boiled over into  insanity. Being habituated to the non independent lifestyle subject to the commands of  the men around her, she is at a loss when that authority has essentially disappeared.  Her father is dead, her brother is away at school, and Hamlet is being exported to  England for killing Polonius. Hijacked of this independency, Ophelia inevitably is led to  her own destruction with no turning back. Up to this point Ophelia was reserved, only  speaking a few lines, and mainly those lines were in response to a man. After being  instructed to stay away from Hamlet in act 1, she simply responds to end the scene, “I  shall obey, my lord.”(1.4.136). After her madness ensued, she almost seems liberated  from her reserves, and leads the stage. In Act 4, she is the focus of the stage in scene  5. She sings without embarrassment, says what she is thinking and feels, and everyone ...

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