Ophelia, By William Shakespeare

766 Words Dec 8th, 2014 4 Pages
Ophelia, as a person, is essentially formed by the men in her life. This is not a radical idea: it has been embraced by centuries of Shakespeare critics. However, to go slightly deeper, one could consider what exactly the absence of Hamlet, Polonius, and Laertes has on her identity (outside of madness). This scene serves to force her into a new persona, as one without a personality.
Ophelia is no longer a maid. She says this herself with, “And I a maid at your window, to be your Valentine...Out a maid never departed more.” (p. 107, 4.5.50-55) And yet she is not a wife, nor a widow, with Hamlet’s abandonment of her. With no father or brother to give her the status of daughter or sister, Ophelia becomes a hollow shell, indicating what she once was. In the short time before her death, her only distinguishing aspect is her mental illness.
But how does she react to Laertes when he arrives? One would think he would make the state of things even a little better, but there is almost no discernible effect on her. (This illustrates most painfully how far gone she is from the entire affair.) She simply begins handing out flowers, in what could be construed as a veiled farewell to her brother: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you love, remember.” (p.112, 4.5.170-1) Shortly after Laertes begins talking to her, she also says “my father died” (p.112, 4.5.179-80) out loud, rather than referring to Polonius as only “him”.
This scene also ushers in several other captivating,…
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