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Ophelia and Hamlet in The Tragedy of Hamlet

Ophelia and Hamlet

In 1600, William Shakespeare composed what is considered the greatest tragedy of all time, Hamlet, the tragedy of the Prince of Denmark. His masterpiece forever redefined what tragedy should be. Critics have analyzed it word for word for nearly four hundred years, with each generation appreciating Hamlet in its own way. While Hamlet conforms, without a doubt, to Aristotle’s definition of a tragedy, one question still lingers. Did Shakespeare intend for the reader or viewer of Hamlet to feel greater sympathy for Hamlet, or for Ophelia, Hamlet’s lover? Both characters tug at the heartstrings throughout the play, but it is clear that ‘the tragedy of the Prince of Denmark’ is a misrepresentation of Shakespeare’s true intention.

To capture our sympathy, Ophelia goes through a transformation unlike any other character in Hamlet. She is abandoned by everyone she holds dear; her father Polonius, her brother Laertes, and Hamlet, her lover. And yet Ophelia becomes tangled in a web of madness when her loyalty is torn between Polonius and Hamlet. Most horrible of all is Ophelia’s suicide-death. The emotion is evokes, coupled with the above points shows that Shakespeare’s intentions was to make Ophelia, a minor character in terms of the number of lines assigned to her, into a memorable character evoking the most sympathy.

To fully see Ophelia’s metamorphosis, one must compare her at the beginning and at the conclusion of Hamlet. Appearing first in Act 1, Scene 3, Ophelia seems to be a spirited young girl. She is very trusting and innocent. Most important however, Ophelia is naive to the way things are. Laertes attempts to ‘educate’ her about love, in lines 10-44, but his advice falls on deaf ears because Opheli…

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…hat Ophelia should be buried on hallowed ground is contested. No other character faces such peril, even after death. Why does Shakespeare do this to a character such as Ophelia?

The answer may be found, or not found, in Saxo Grammaticus’ Chronicles of Danish Realm. No mention is made of an Opheliaesque character in the story of Amleth. Then what was Shakespeare’s inspiration for Ophelia? Before his marriage to Anne Hathaway in 1582, an unfortunate event occurred in Shakespeare’s life. His girlfriend at the time fell into a river and drowned. Ophelia’s character could represent a lost love of Shakespeare’s, one for which he intended us to feel great sympathy. Such a connection would explain why Ophelia, although not the central character, is still a figure of great tragedy.

Works Cited:

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Global Shakespeare Theatre Series. 1996.

Prejudice and Racism – The Tone of Racism in Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness: The Tone of Racism

“An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,” by Chinua Achebe, addresses the issue of racism as seen throughout Joseph Conrad’s work. There is a certain degree of subtlety that Achebe uses to begin to confront the racism issue, but as the story goes on it is easy to tell his opinion. Achebe states his opinion not only on Heart of Darkness but also makes clear his opinion concerning Conrad by the end of the essay. The tone in “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” changes dramatically from start to finish.

While introducing his essay, Chinua Achebe uses a pleasant tone to begin his essay and describe the setting in which he encounters some students. He begins to describe a “fine autumn morning” which encouraged friendliness and continues by describing the enthusiasm of the “brisk youngsters.” After drawing a pleasant setting, Achebe then describes “two very touching letters” which he received from some students in New York who were learning about African tribesman. He seems enthusiastic about these letters, along with the fact that these students have just read Things Fall Apart. After a pleasant introduction, the author’s tone merely begins to stress the importance of Africa and African history and moves away from its pleasant welcome.

It comes shortly after this calm defense of African pride that Achebe’s anger begins to make its way to the surface and his tone becomes infuriated. He calls Conrad’s words “assaults” on African tribesman, and insists that the story’s main character, Marlow, is merely a vehicle for him to express his racism. Throughout Achebe’s barrage, Conrad’s character is continually questioned. Achebe refers to him as a “thoroughgoing racist,” and the notion is made that all

reviews of Heart of Darkness are mistaken in their compassion toward the author and the “European mind.” He also refers to Conrad’s “problem with niggers” and “his inordinate love of that word itself.” After attacking the credibility and sanity of Conrad, Achebe goes on to belittle Conrad’s book. He calls the book “offensive” and “deplorable,” stating that the book “parades prejudices and insults” while calling the “very humanity of black people into question.” By now the essay has turned to anger and you can feel the author’s passion to defend Africa through his powerful words and exclamations.

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