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Hamlet Compared To Ophelia

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Melancholy, grief, and madness have enlarged the works of a great many playwrights,

and Shakespeare is not an exception. The mechanical regularities of such emotional

maladies as they are presented within Hamlet, not only allow his audience to sympathize

with the tragic prince Hamlet, but to provide the very complexities necessary in

understanding the tragedy of his, ironically similar, lady Ophelia as well. It is the poor

Ophelia who suffers at her lover's discretion because of decisions she was obligated to

make. Hamlet provides his own self-torture and does fall victim to depression and grief,

however, his madness is fictitious.

They each share a common

connection: the loss of a parental figure. Hamlet loses his father as a result of a horrible

murder, as does Ophelia. Her situation is more severe because it is her lover who

murders her father and all of her hopes for her future as well. Ultimately, it is also more

harmful to her character and causes her melancholy and grief to quickly turn to madness.

Critics argue that Hamlet has the first reason to be hurt by Ophelia because she follows

her father's wishes regarding Hamlet's true intentions for their beginning love. In Act 3,

Hamlet begins with his spiteful sarcasm toward her. "I humbly thank you, well, well,

well," he says to her regarding her initial bantering. (III, i, 101) Before this scene, he has

learned that the King and Polonius have established a plan to make reason of his unusual

and grief-stricken behavior. Hamlet is well aware that this plan merely uses Ophelia as a

tool, and as such, she does not have much option of refusing without angering her father

and the conniving King as well. Hamlet readily refuses that he cared for her. He tells her

and all of his uninvited listeners, "No, not I, I never gave you aught" (III, i, 105). Some

critics stress, as does J. Dover Wilson, that Hamlet has a right to direct his anger to

Ophelia because even though many critics "in their sympathy with Ophelia have

forgotten that it is not Hamlet who has 'repelled' her, but she him" (Wilson 159). But it is

possible that Wilson does not see the possible harm to Ophelia if she were to disobey the

authority of her father and the king.(i.e. her father and her king). She is undeniably

caught in a trap that has been laid

, in part, by her lover whom she loves and idealizes.

Her shock is genuine when Hamlet demands "get thee to a nunnery" (III, i, 131). The

implication of the dual meaning of "nunnery" is enough itself to make her run

malcontented from her prince, and it is the beginning of her madness as well. Hamlet's

melancholy causes and provokes him to show manic-depressive actions while Ophelia's

state of mind is much more overwhelming and

painful. "Shakespeare is ambiguous about the reality of Hamlet's

insanity and depicts him as on the border, fluctuating between sanity

and madness" (Lidz 156). Hamlet mourns for his father, but it is the

bitterness and ill-will that he harbors towards his mother for her

hasty marriage to his uncle that is his most reoccurring occupation.

His thoughts of Ophelia are secondary at best. When it happens that

Hamlet accidentally slays Polonius, he does not appear to be thinking

of the potential effect of his actions on Ophelia. Hamlet has sealed

her fate, and along with the "vacillations in [his] attitude and

behavior toward her could not but be extremely unsettling to the very

young woman who idolized [him]" she does not have much in the way that

is positive for her (Lidz 157). Throughout the entire murder scene in

Act 3, Scene! 4, Hamlet does not remark about the damage he has done

to Ophelia. His emotional upswing is devoted entirely to his mother,

and while his emotions are not an imitation, he does admit that he

"essentially [is] not in madness,/ But mad in craft" (lines 187-188).

Ophelia is then left to mourn her father, but it is not his death alone

that spurns her insanity. Her predicament is such that she is forced

to fear and hate her father's murder who is also her lover and the one

person to whom all of her future hopes were pinned -Prince Hamlet.

"Her entire orientation to the future has suddenly been destroyed," and

with her brother gone, Ophelia has no one to turn to for comfort (Lidz

157). Hamlet then delves further into his manic feigned madness and

Ophelia is cheated into the belief that he really is mad. The options

for her sanity are none; melancholy and grief are madness for

malcontent Ophelia. Hamlet and Ophelia are confronted with the

"irretrievable loss of a love object, " however,



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