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Characters Influenced By Traumatic Internal Events: Hamlet, And Death Of A Salesman

1197 words - 5 pages

The great Aristotle once said, “All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, and desire.” Demonstrating a link between internal thoughts and external action, characters in both William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman harness Aristotle’s philosophical ideology. In both plays, a main character becomes so overwhelmed by mental or psychological events that their actions become reflective of them. Although set in different time periods and involving entirely different circumstances, the fates of both Shakespeare’s Ophelia and Miller’s Willy Loman reach a climax in self-inflicted deaths brought on by the accumulation of traumatic internal events.
In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the character Ophelia suffered through many traumatic experiences, often caused by her love interest, Hamlet. As Ophelia transitions from sane to insane, upon being rejected by Hamlet and told she is underserving of his love by her family, Ophelia’s fragile mental state becomes paramount in terms of determining her actions as she takes her own life. As Shakespeare developed the character Ophelia, her dependency on men, for both approval and instruction, becomes her fatal flaw. When Ophelia becomes smitten with Hamlet, her father Polonius and brother Laertes waste no time in deterring Ophelia’s devoted love for him. The challenge of being with Hamlet is hard enough alone, but the combination of forbidden and unrequited love has devastating effects on Ophelia’s mental state. Ophelia is told her social class is too low for her to be romantically involved with a prince and her father takes advantage of her and plays her like a pawn, in order to question Hamlet’s sanity. Being emotionally weak, Ophelia begins to crack when Hamlet openly denies her love and claims to have never written any love letters to her. Hamlet truly breaks Ophelia’s heart when he says, “I loved you not,” (Shakespeare, p.69) and soon after, “If thou dost marry… go-and quickly too.” (Shakespeare, p.69-70) At this point, the only man who Ophelia had true feelings of love for, had insulted her to such a degree that she was unable to function mentally. Saying that he does not love her and that she was unchaste (whether said in a state of insanity or with a clear-head), Hamlet successfully shatters Ophelia’s frail heart. Having such strong, conflicting emotions, Ophelia falls out of her false hope of love for Hamlet and the influences of her father and brother become the only thing she has left to keep her stable. Following the cruelty of both her family and her lover, Ophelia is pushed over the edge when Polonius is murdered. As Shakespeare suggested that Ophelia losing her father was not hard enough, the playwright decided that it would be most suitable for his murderer to be Ophelia’s ex-love interest Hamlet, and that the only other man she loved, Laertes, would leave her too. The accumulation of...

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