The Impact of Ophelia on Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

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The Impact of Ophelia on Hamlet

Michael Pennington in “Ophelia: Madness Her Only Safe Haven,” elucidates the character of Ophelia in Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet:

This is the woman she might have become – warm, tolerant and imaginative. Instead she becomes jagged, benighted and imaginative. . . .Ophelia is made mad not only by circumstance but by something in herself. A personality forced into such deep hiding that it has seemed almost vacant, has all the time been so painfully open to impressions that they now usurp her reflexes and take possession of her. She has loved, or been prepared to love, the wrong man; her father has brought disaster on himself, and she has no mother: she is terribly lonely. (73-74)
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So poor Ophelia is again asked to conform her will to the wishes of another, this time her only living parent, her father.

When the ghost talks privately to Hamlet, he learns not only about the murder of his father, but also about the unfaithfulness and adultery of his mother. Gertrude was seduced by “that incestuous, that adulterate beast,/With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts” – Claudius himself – prior to his brother’s passing. “So lust, though to a radiant angel link'd,/Will sate itself in a celestial bed,/And prey on garbage.” In the mind of Hamlet, this drastically reduces the goodness of womankind generally. Hamlet chooses to use an “antic disposition” to disguise his actions as he maneuvers to kill the one who poisoned his father in the garden. Wilkie and Hurt say that Shakespeare “is particularly fond of double-plotting.” (2156)

Ophelia is shortly affected by the protagonist’s mad conduct. And immediately she goes to her father, Polonius, to explain how she is “so affrighted” as a result of Hamlet’s visit:

My lord, as I was sewing in my closet,

Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced;

No hat upon his head; his stockings foul'd,

Ungarter'd, and down-gyved to his ancle;

Pale as his shirt; his knees knocking each other;

And with a look so piteous in purport

As if he had been
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