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An Exploration Into The Character Of Ophelia In Hamlet

2763 words - 12 pages

Polly Birtwistle English Coursework DraftAn Exploration into the character of OpheliaIn this essay I am going to explore the character of Ophelia. Even though Ophelia is not the central character in the play 'Hamlet' she is still an important one, and I am going to investigate her character and personality. I will look at her relationship with Hamlet in detail but also the relationship she has with Laertes and Polonius. Her madness will also be analysed and her death. To do this I will examine the form, structure and language used in the play. I will also study the literary devices used within the text such as alliteration, metaphors and similes.Shakespeare, in the portrayal of Ophelia shows ...view middle of the document...

This is a very effective use of diction and alliteration as it hints at an argumentative nature within Ophelia.Ophelia's father enters saying:'Yet here, Laertes? Aboard, aboard for shame!'We see a tradition of obedience within the family by Laertes' behaviour towards Polonius, which Ophelia would be expected to share.It has been suggested by Elaine Showalter, a feminist critic, that Polonius was willing to let his son leave for France without a farewell or wishes of good luck from his father. Therefore, she believes there is little hope for a strong father-daughter relationship with Ophelia is he had failed with Laertes. Polonius disabuses her of her longing for a relationship with Hamlet and tells her that:'You do not understand yourself so clearlyAs behaves me daughter and your honour.Ron Simpson noticed that Polonius is more aggressive in tone towards Ophelia. We can see a contrast between the smooth balanced verse of 'give every man thy ear, but few thy voice' and the broken lines questions and demands like 'give me thy truth of his speech too Ophelia.Rather than sympathising with Ophelia, Polonius almost ridicules her by saying she not only does not understand her duty as a woman but she does not understand herself. Here he is emotionally committed and a simile such as 'like sanctifies and pious bawds'. This shows little concern for his daughter's delicacy. Yet even here he cannot resist a play on words, with the various meanings of 'tender'.We can see that Polonius is not a nice, foolish funny old man who is speaking to Ophelia at the end of this scene.Public image was very important in the Elizabethan period as it depicted social status. It is evident when Laertes warns Ophelia not to have sex with Hamlet, to begin with Laertes sounds as if he is trying to protect Ophelia from possible disappointment,'You must fear,His greatness weighed, his will is not his own'but as the episode develops, it becomes clear that it is fear for the loss of Ophelia's precious 'honour' which he compare to 'treasure', that appears to concern him. This loss, which would damage the family name, is as likely to come about because of her desires as Hamlet's. He also fears that the family may suffer a financial loss as they would be unable to marry her to a man of high social rank. They talk of Ophelia with reference to commerce and property, almost as though she is merely a possession:That you have these lenders for true payWhich are not sterling'.Ophelia seems unwilling to repeat to her father, Polonius, what her and Laertes were talking about, 'something touching Lord Hamlet', as she had said to Laertes, regarding their conversation, 'You yourself shall keep the key of it', but obedience triumphs.There is no indication that Ophelia thinks her father is right but every indication that she thinks its right to obey him. We see this from, 'I don't know what I should think' and after twenty lines of silence she concludes, 'I shall obey my lord'.As mentioned earlier,...

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