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The Character of Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

The Character of Ophelia in Hamlet

In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, the character Ophelia plays an important role in the elaboration of the plot. In the beginning, she is in a healthy state of mind, in love with Hamlet, yet controlled by her father. During the play she has several troubling experiences involving Hamlet – causing her to become distressed. The death of Ophelia’s father leaves her mentally unstable and in a state of madness that eventually leads to her own death.

Ophelia and Hamlet’s love for each other begins as a very real experience. Hamlet is quite attracted by Ophelia’s beauty and falls in love with her. However, Ophelia is very much controlled by her father, Polonius, a highly respected individual who is the chief advisor to King Claudius. Her father demands that she tell Hamlet that she can no longer be with him.

I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth

Have you so slander any moment leisure

As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet.

Look to’t, I charge you. Come your ways (I.iii.139-142).

It is clear that here Polonius is making decisions for his daughter, without regard for her feelings. Ophelia is used to relying on her father’s direction and has been reared to be obedient to his commands. She is helpless to question her father’s wishes and, because of this, she is never able to develop emotional strength and stability. All she can reply is, “I shall obey, my lord”(I.iii.143). Ophelia’s brother Laertes gives her no support as he agrees with what their father is saying. He tells Ophelia that Hamlet is no good for her.

For Hamlet, and the trifling of his favor,

Hold it a fashion, and a toy in blood;

A violet in the youth of pri…

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… as hers, does not have the tools necessary for coping with the stresses of life.

Sources Cited and Consulted:

Boklund, Gunnar. “Hamlet.” Essays on Shakespeare. Ed. Gerald Chapman. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965.

Jorgensen, Paul A. “Hamlet.” William Shakespeare: the Tragedies. Boston: Twayne Publ., 1985. N. pag.

Pennington, Michael. “Ophelia: Madness Her Only Safe Haven.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. of “Hamlet”: A User’s Guide. New York: Limelight Editions, 1996.

Pitt, Angela. “Women in Shakespeare’s Tragedies.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint of Shakespeare’s Women. N.p.: n.p., 1981.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New York: Signet Classic, 1998

Free Handmaid’s Tale Essays: The Struggle of Women

The Struggle of Women in The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale This is a futuristic novel that takes place in the northern part of the USA sometime in the beginning of the twenty-first century, in the oppressive and totalitarian Republic of Gilead. The regime demands high moral retribution and a virtuous lifestyle. The Bible is the guiding principle. As a result of the sexual freedom, free abortion and high increase of venereal diseases at the end of the twentieth century, many women, (and men also, but that is forbidden to say), are sterile. The women who are still fertile are recruited as Handmaids, and their only mission in life is to give birth to the offspring of their Commander, whose wife is infertile.

The main character in the book is Offred, one of these unfortunate servants whose only right to exist depends on her ovaries’ productivity. She lives with the Commander and his wife in a highly supervised centre.

Unlike men, women have been facing unique problems for centuries, and often women experience harassment and discrimination. In today’s society, females are trying to combat their tribulations through lawsuits and protest rallies. Literature often deals with people being unable to articulate their problems. Often, unforeseen circumstances force people to conceal their true emotions. In The Handmaid’s Tale, the main female characters find ways to escape their situations rather than deal with them.

Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale uses different tactics to cope with her situation. She is trapped within a distopian society comprised of a community riddled by despair. Though she is not physically tortured, the overwhelming and ridiculously powerful government mentally enslaves her. Offred lives in a horrific society, which prevents her from being freed. Essentially, the government enslaves her because she is a female and she is fertile. Offred memories about the way life used to be with her husband, Luke, her daughter, and her best friend Moira provides her with temporary relief from her binding situation. Also, Offred befriends the Commander’s aide, Nick. Offred longs to be with her husband and she feels that she can find his love by being with Nick. She risks her life several times just to be with Nick. Feeling loved by Nick gives her a window of hope in her otherwise miserable life.

Instead of proclaiming her feelings out loud, she suppresses them. The result is a series of recordings, which describes her life, and the things she wishes she could change.

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