Shakespeare´S Presentation Of Ophelia In The World Of 'hamlet'.

2093 words - 8 pages

Even though Ophelia is not the central character in the play 'Hamlet', she is still an important one. Since Shakespeare wrote the play in the early 1600s, depending on the theatrical performances and director's view, audience's and critics' interpretations of Ophelia have changed dramatically throughout the past 400 years.Shakespeare, in the portrayal of Ophelia shows how men in a strong patriarchal society controlled women in the 1600s. The influence of men in Ophelia's life is evident throughout by the relationships with the men in her life. It is interesting to note that Ophelia's first scene is in a very domestic setting. Her brother, Laertes is stressing to Ophelia the fickleness of young love showing men's attitudes towards women in the period by assuming that Ophelia cannot think for herself. Ophelia is obviously uncertain or doubtful about Laertes' argument but she is still in awe of him so she answers monosyllabically:'No more but so?'She has a small ration of dialogue compared to Laertes's grand lecture suggesting the overpowering control that he has over his sister. Laertes speaks in a very verbose manner and even begins to sound arrogant and hypocritical.Ophelia's father, Polonius enters saying'Yet here Laertes? Aboard, aboard for shame!'It has been suggested by Elaine Showalter, a feminist critic that Polonius was willing to let his son leave for France without a farewell or wishes of good luck from his father. Therefore, she says there was little hope for a strong father- daughter relationship between Polonius and Ophelia if he had failed with Laertes. Polonius disabuses her of her longing for a relationship with Hamlet and tells here that'You do not understand yourself so clearly/ as behoves my daughter and your honour'Rather than sympathising with Ophelia, Polonius almost ridicules her by saying she not only does not understand her duty as a woman but she does not understand herself. Eventually Ophelia agrees and disregards her own thoughts,Ophelia-'I don't know, my lord, what I should think.'Polonius- 'think yourself a baby'Public image was very important during the Jacobean period as it depicted social status. It is evident when Laertes warns Ophelia not to have sex with Hamlet, that his fear is the family may suffer a financial loss as they would be unable to marry her to a man of high social rank. They talk of Ophelia with reference to commerce and property, almost as though she is merely a possession:'That you have these tenders for true pay/ which are not sterling'As mentioned earlier, Polonius has a rather distant relationship with his children; he even goes to the point of using Ophelia's loyalty to enhance his own prestige in the eyes of Claudius. Polonius lays out his plan to test his suggestion about Hamlet's madness:'I'll loose my daughter to him'Polonius's choice of words here suggests that Ophelia is a caged beast, again with no real will of her own, who may eventually escape. The word 'loose' was also closely...

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