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Analysis Of Ophelia's Character In Shakespeare's Hamlet

1196 words - 5 pages

In the English play Hamlet, Shakespeare incorporates deep analytical thought in his writing by the use of character, symbolism, and motifs. Specifically, readers can find these characteristics through analytical reading of the character Ophelia. While initially reading the story, Ophelia represents a character that is typical of the women in the 1600s, one who is too submissive and directed by the people around her. First impressions of Ophelia's character seem much too simplistic- one that is emotionally governed and trivial, in a sense. However, when her words are analyzed along with her motives and state of mind, it appears that there is a greater sense of understanding, an underlying motive that is directed and well thought out by her words. Deeper insight into her character reveals that Ophelia not only has her own opinion, but may possess a larger capacity for independent thought than the people she surrounds herself by. In fact, it isn't her lack of intelligence and understanding that leads to her ultimate demise, but instead, it is her lack of action to certain circumstances. This type of behavior can be symbolic of Shakespeare's views on English politics. It seems that a lack of action within the populace can lead to utter ruin in the state. A passiveness and lack of defense, as Ophelia characterizes, is also symbolic of the eventual downfall that is likely to occur if these characteristics are expressed in society. In addition to being a direct contrast of Hamlet, analysis of Ophelia as a character leads to the fact that she is intelligent in her understanding, but her lack of action is to blame for her eventual insanity and untimely death, which is characteristic of the society in England.
In this play, one of the main conflicts that Ophelia experiences is the issue over Hamlet's love. Her father and her brother believe the situation between the two to be more of a seduction-like encounter, while Ophelia believes it to be a true romantic experience. This conflict is evident in the first act of the play when Laertes is set to leave to France. Laertes' departing words to Ophelia are focused upon Hamlet and his supposed motives dealing with Ophelia. Laertes describes the relationship as one that is [Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting]. He believes that this relationship is temporary and will not have any lasting benefits. It seems that the opposite may be true, in which Hamlet is set to marry Ophelia. In the 1600s, a person of royalty is expected to find love with either someone who is of the nobility or of the royalty in a different land. The relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia (who is of the nobility) appears to be public. It is unlikely that this relationship will end soon. This is especially true due to Hamlet's circumstance of his father's untimely death and his investigation on Claudius' right to the throne and the possibility of murder. If anything, Hamlet may want to end the relationship with Ophelia, but Laertes...

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