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Feminist Literary Theory Writing Assignment

1082 words - 4 pages

Ophelia’s character is important in observing the true temperament of the male and female characters, as well as the lack of feminism in the Elizabethan Era. Not only does she experience immense inequality, but is generally ignored in most circumstances. Her feelings are completely disregarded the majority of the play, and she is rarely ever able to speak for herself, express her opinions, or act on her own reasoning. In Hamlet, Ophelia’s obedience to her father and brother, along with her dismissal by Hamlet, reveals that women were not allowed to assert their opinions, emotions, or desires in a courtly setting.
Ophelia first receives constructive criticism from the men in her life through Laertes, her beloved brother, and thus follows his assertive advice. This conversation occurs before Laertes leaves for Paris, and stays there for the majority of the play. Laertes ultimately warns Ophelia against Hamlet’s intentions, while excusing them with his role for the kingdom being a legitimate and honorable reason, “Then if he says he loves you, it fits your wisdom so far to believe it as he in his peculiar sect and force may give his saying deed, which is no further than the main voice of Denmark goes withal…Fear it Ophelia.” (I.iii.24-28, 33) Laertes essentially excuses Hamlet’s plan to use Ophelia for sex temporarily, but warns her anyway because she is his sister, whom he loves and cares for. This can be seen as an act of kindness, but really shed light on Hamlet’s role and duty to the court as a responsible young man who does not have time to frolic with a young woman, while Ophelia is identified as the naïve one for believing that his feelings are genuine if he says so. Ophelia is asked to ignore her feelings towards him and acknowledge that he has duties more important than her. Although Ophelia speaks up against her brother and his hypocrisy, she still takes his advice to heart and eventually carries out her separation from Hamlet. It is also important to note that this is Ophelia’s first scene, where her character is supposed to be established and introduced. Ophelia is thus revealed as submissive to Hamlet, naïve, and generally obedient to her brother. Rather than the scene focus on her, it is also revolved around Laertes’ leaving.
Ophelia’s obedience to her father, as well as his use of her as a tool in proving Hamlet’s madness, is essential in viewing Ophelia’s purpose to the men in her life, and her inability to express her emotions affectively. Polonius first approaches Ophelia with the notion that Hamlet’s advances are far from innocent and suggests, “Tender yourself more dearly, or –not to crack the wind of the poor phrase, roaming it thus –you’ll tender me a fool.” (I.iii.107-09) Again, Ophelia is unable to think about her own feelings, but rather worry about how her actions could harm the reputation of her father. Ophelia even admits, “I do not know my lord what I should think,” since she is not given the right to think or feel...

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