To Be, Or Not To Be, That Is The Internal Conflict

1209 words - 5 pages

The great Aristotle once said, “All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, and desire.” Demonstrating a link among internal thoughts and external action, characters in both William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman harness Aristotle’s philosophical ideology. In both plays, a main character becomes so overwhelmed by mental or psychological events that the character’s actions become reflective of their psychological state. While based in different time periods and involving entirely different circumstances, the fates of both Shakespeare’s Ophelia and Miller’s Willy Loman reach a climax in self-inflicted deaths brought on by the accumulation of traumatic internal events.
In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the character Ophelia suffered through many traumatic experiences of the tragedy, many caused by her love interest, Hamlet. Ophelia begins a transition from sane to insane when she is rejected by Hamlet and told she is underserving of his love by her own family. Ophelia’s fragile mental state becomes paramount in terms of determining her actions as she takes her own life. As Ophelia’s character develops, her dependency on men, for both approval and instruction, becomes her fatal flaw. When Ophelia becomes smitten with Hamlet, her father Polonius and brother Laertes waste no time in deterring Ophelia’s devoted love for him. The challenge of actually being with Hamlet is hard enough on the young woman, but added are the combination of forbidden and unrequited love and these have a devastating effect on Ophelia’s mental state. After being told that her social class is too low to be romantically involved with a prince, Polonius takes advantage of his daughter and uses her as a pawn to bring into question Hamlet’s sanity. Being emotionally weak, Ophelia begins to crack when Hamlet openly denies her love and claims to have never written any love letters to her. Hamlet truly breaks Ophelia’s heart when he says, “I loved you not,” (Shakespeare, p.69) and soon after “If thou dost marry… go-and quickly too.” (Shakespeare, p.69-70) At this point, the only man for whom Ophelia had true feelings of love, has insulted her to such a degree that she in unable to function mentally. Stating that he does not love her and that she is unchaste (whether said in a state of insanity or with a clear-head), Hamlet successfully shatters Ophelia’s frail heart. Having such powerful yet conflicting emotions, Ophelia falls out of her false hope of love for Hamlet and the influences of her father and brother become the only thing she has left to keep her stable. Following the cruelty inflicted by both her family and her lover, Ophelia is pushed over the edge when Polonius is murdered. As Shakespeare believed Ophelia losing her father was insufficient, the playwright decided that it would be most suitable for his murderer to be Ophelia’s ex-love interest, Hamlet; in...

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