Ophelia's Shift To Madness Essay

1170 words - 5 pages

People have mostly seen women inferior to men because women have been thought of as simple-minded and could not take care of themselves. Shakespeare’s Hamlet shows how men treated and thought of women during the 1500s. There was an order most did not interfere with; however, some did. In the 1500s, women were supposed to conform to men’s wishes. Throughout the play, Ophelia first obeyed her father and brother’s wishes, ignored the social norms later, and then went mad, which caused her to never gain her own identity.
To stay in control, the men in Hamlet taught Ophelia to fear her every day, natural thoughts causing her not to think for herself. Gabrielle Dane's article, "Reading Ophelia's ...view middle of the document...

Polonius only cares about moving up in the social world, and will disregard his own daughter's feelings. In Hamlet, Shakespeare shows how Polonius and Claudius use Ophelia in their favor. In Hamlet, Polonius says, "Read on this book, that show of such an exercise may colour your loneliness" (3.1.46-49). Polonius instructs Ophelia to read the book so Hamlet would approach her, and Polonius and Claudius could find out why Hamlet went mad. Conclusion.
In the beginning of the play, Ophelia was like any other obedient young woman during the time. In Understanding Hamlet, Richard Corum shows that Ophelia is obedient. He writes, "Though Hamlet has been courting her, Ophelia willingly obeys her father when he tells her to discourage the prince's advances" (Corum 26). Ophelia obeys her father's demands because it was expected during that time of women to comply with men's wishes. In Hamlet, Ophelia disregards her own feelings towards Hamlet. Ophelia does as she is told:
POL. This is for all: I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth, have you slander any moment leisure, as to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet. Look to't, I charge you. Come your ways.
OPH. I shall obey, my lord (1.3.131-36)
Even though Ophelia has a fondness for Hamlet, she listens to her father when he tells her to leave Hamlet alone. Conclusion.
Because of all the men in her life using her, Ophelia soon becomes confused. Dane tells about Ophelia's descent to growing confused in "Reading Ophelia's Madness. She states, "Male voices fill her head, guiding her very thoughts [...] she grows more and more confused, more sundered from any sense of personal identity" (Dane 411). Follow. Introduce. Cite. Follow. Conclusion.
Although unknowingly, Ophelia finally speaks her mind and undermines authority. In "Sad Generations Seeking Water," Erin Campbell tells Ophelia's actions from the cause of her madness. She states, "Only after Polonius's death does Ophelia express herself for herself as her burden of paternal obedience slips into memory. Her songs confirm both her madness and her rejection of the codes her culture demands from her as a female courtier" (Campbell 58). Even though she does not mean to, Ophelia speaks her mind and goes against the social norms she had followed so religiously before. In Hamlet, Ophelia gives symbolic flowers to the King and Queen. Shakespeare tells what each flower means that Ophelia gives out:

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