The Weakness Of Ophelia Essay

2125 words - 9 pages

Ophelia's madness was brought on by a multitude of medical and social factors. Cultural restrictions always determined a woman’s behavior. Her lack of a mother, even that of a mother figure left Ophelia without any source of a female advisor. On top of the lack of a major female figure, her father was overbearing and selfish. However, his sudden death at the hands of Hamlet truly left her alone. Madness is usually brought on by depression, medically speaking, and Ophelia suffered a broken heart. She loved Hamlet, but she was forced to obey her father as in that society considered women not as people, they were objects to be owned. There also is a theory where Ophelia is pregnant and the sudden change of hormones plus the social stigma of being pregnant while unmarried can cause such an overload of stress, her psyche cracks beyond repair. Hamlet's ruse of madness and eventual obsession with revenge possibly furthered her confusion. How could one be able to conceive the reasoning behind courting a woman for several months, and then suddenly rejecting said woman in a near violent manner? Ophelia tried to understand, but there was so much against her socially and medically that it was damn near impossible to not go mad.
During Shakespeare's time, society had rather dim views on women. They were expected to obey any order given to them by a man, practically worshiping the ground he walked on. Women were viewed to be weak willed and weak minded, so they obviously needed to be protected by men. Shakespeare seemed to be "sympathetic to the plight of women," this is unsure, but the female characters of his play were created to be how he viewed women: intelligent, romantic, mysterious and sometimes naïve (Traub, 129). Despite what Shakespeare might have thought, the opinions of one man does not define that of an entire population. Religiously speaking, women were thought to be less close to God than men were as they were lower on the pyramid of holiness; which ran from top to bottom: God, Angels, Cherubs, Men, Women, Animals, Insects, Demons, and so on. In the late sixteenth century, men held power, not only over women, but also over their children, servants and/or apprentices they had. In extreme cases, women were sometimes viewed as objects; and in this inferiority women needed to strive for four virtues: obedience, chastity, silence, and piety (Traub, 129-30). Without such virtues women were subjected to the torture of social solitude and ridicule as well as assuring a man's dominance. Women were defined in society primarily by their economic status but what closely followed was one of the virtues they strove to obey, chastity. Being virginal, if unmarried, and faithfulness to her husband, if married, marked how they were viewed by others. If they were not chaste, the entire population may as well know of such and that would bring immense shame upon her family, and any associated with her. Ophelia is a girl caught within a society, backwards it may...

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