The Symbolism of Ophelia’s Character
The name Ophelia has been most commonly associated with William Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, where she is referred to as the title character's mad lover. She is believed to have killed herself out of madness by drowning herself in a river. Interpretations about Ophelia's character have ranged from being a woman who lost her sanity upon her father, Polonius' death to being the object of hatred by Hamlet. However, despite her supporting character in the play, her personality has roused numerous criticisms and interpretations from philosophers and critics. This is probably due to the fact that her role in the play is more of a descriptive character rather than a speaking one. There are also various symbolisms towards the current society such as gender issues which her character represents. The character of Ophelia portrays relevant symbolisms to the feminine history which is continuously open to different interpretations from the sixteenth century up to this present day. Ophelia's character embodies the intrinsic sexual struggle that women in her time have commonly encountered.
The concept of religion in Ophelia's apparent pious character roused several critiques discussing the relevance of the Catholic religion in her sexuality. In Chapman's article, she argues that the history of England's religion reflects that of Ophelia's time as Gertrude reports her drowning while “chanting snatches of old lauds / As one incapable of her own distress” (qtd. in Chapman, 112). Gertrude is most probably referring to Ophelia's sexual frustration when she reports about Ophelia's “[incapability] of her own distress”. As a woman passionately and physically in love with a man who seems to hate her for no apparent reason, resorting to madness is a plausible escape. According to Chapman, “By showing Ophelia's emotional and imaginative landscape scattered with the debris of old doctrines and ritual practices, Shakespeare uses her final madness to reflect on the costs—especially to women—of the English Reformation” (112). The costs of such religions refers to the madness and ultimately the death of Ophelia. It can be presumed through Chapman's statement that the Catholic religion puts more pressure down on Ophelia as...