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Essay on Frail Ophelia of Hamlet

Frail Ophelia of Hamlet

Throughout Hamlet, Shakespeare makes it evident that Ophelia is very unstable. She continuously changes her mind about the way she feels. Laertes and Polonius command her to do things that she does not agree with, but she does them with no argument. Afraid to stand up for herself, she stands back and watches everyone else control her life. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia is treated as a marionette with her strings in the hands of the people around her; however, Kenneth Branagh portrays her as independent and innocent, ignoring Shakespeare’s representation of her as feeble-minded through complete male dominance in her thoughts and actions, her indecisiveness, and digression into madness.

It is obvious throughout the play Ophelia is ordered around by Laertes and Polonius, and obeys them without a moment’s thought. They act like she has no mind of her own, but she listens and does as they wish, so it seems she cannot think for herself. Polonius and Laertes treat her as though she is worthless. Laertes urges Ophelia to stay away from Hamlet …

The Madness of Ophelia

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince Hamlet may act like he is “mad north-northwest”, but it is his lover, Ophelia, who is truly mad. Both lose their fathers at the hands of others and both have loved ones that seem to have turned against them. Unlike Hamlet, who has revenge, Ophelia ends up having nothing to hold onto. Her sanity breaks and sends her into a downward spiral, while Hamlet’s remains intact. In this paper, I will show that it is the manipulation by and loss of the two men Ophelia loved most-Hamlet and her father, Polonius-which leads to her madness.

There have been many theories offered-especially by psychoanalysists-concerning the cause of Ophelia’s madness. Freudian theorists like Theodor Lidz attribute it to Ophelia’s incestuous feelings for her father and her desire for Hamlet to take her away from, or even kill him. When this actually does occur, Lidz says Ophelia’s incestuous feelings drive her mad. Victorian theorists claimed that Ophelia was a hysteric. They defined hysteria is a mental breakdown during adolescence, when a girl suffered from sexual instability. This mental illness was applied to anyone who showed what psychiatrists thought were “Ophelia-like” behaviors, “the same young years, the same faded beauty, the same fantastic dress and interrupted song” (Shakespeare, 230). Modern day theorists have attributed Ophelia’s madness to schizophrenia, which puts the madness into a biochemical framework. Schizophrenia has been argued to be “an intelligible response to the experience of invalidation with the family network, especially to the conflicting emotional messages and mystifying double binds experienced by daughters” (Shakespeare, 236).

These theories are lackin…

… middle of paper …

…ne to hold onto. What made everything fall apart, and what completely ruined her, was her love for them.

Works Cited

Partridge, Eric. Shakespeare’s Bawdy. New York: E.P. Dutton

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