Comparing Ophelia And Lady Macbeth Essay

1368 words - 5 pages

Shakespeare's portrayal of women in Hamlet is unlike his portrayal of them in Macbeth; nevertheless, they have similarities that are seen later in each play. Ophelia, who is Laertes's sister, Polonius's daughter, and Hamlet's lover, is seen as submissive and innocent while Macbeth's wife, Lady Macbeth, is displayed as ruthless and corrupting. Ophelia and Lady Macbeth are different in their characters because of Ophelia's weakness, her obedience to Laertes, Polonius, and Hamlet, Lady Macbeth's perseverance for power and her manipulative nature towards her husband. However, Ophelia and Lady Macbeth both have a need for the men in their lives in order to keep sane and die after these men leave them.
Ophelia's weakness and easily influenced personality opposes Lady Macbeth's outward show of strength and independence. Ophelia needs her brother and her father to think and act for her since she cannot make her own thoughts without their help. They give their advice to her, knowing that she will obey them. An example is in Act 1, Scene 3, lines 6-48, in which Laertes, advises Ophelia not to fall for Hamlet's displays of affection. This is also seen in Act 1, Scene 3, lines 112-114 when Polonius questions how Hamlet treats Ophelia, “Do you believe his “tenders,” as you call them?” to which Ophelia responds, “I do not know, my lord, what I should think.” In contrast, Lady Macbeth is able to form her own thoughts and ambitions without aid. She is the first person to think of the plan to kill King Duncan in order to follow the witches' prophesy and for Macbeth to ascend to the throne faster. She fears that Macbeth does not have the courage to seize the crown, although it is predicted that he will eventually be king as in Act 1, Scene 5, lines 15-18, “Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be that thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature; it is too full o' th' milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.” She worries that his nature is too kind to perform such an act. Thus, she shows her domineering characteristic and will do anything for the throne and the power that comes with it by mentally attacking her husband.
Ophelia is obedient and submissive to the commands of Laertes, Polonius, and Hamlet, but Lady Macbeth is controlling and able to impress her own plans and ambition into Macbeth. Polonius reminds Ophelia that she has an obligation to obey him as her father, “You do not understand yourself so clearly, as it behooves my daughter and your honor” (I.iii.105-106). Thus, she is used by Polonius and Claudius to help spy on Hamlet to determine if Hamlet's madness is genuine (III.i.31-47). Also, Laertes does not want Ophelia to be with Hamlet. He tells her to avoid what Hamlet tells her because they are “forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting, the perfume and suppliance of a minute, no more” (I.iii.9-11) and that Hamlet has different priorities as royalty, as seen in Act 1, Scene 3, lines 17-21, “Perhaps he loves you now...but...

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