Hamlet – Character study of Ophelia - Sample Essay
In the play written by William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”, Ophelia is seen to be a very interesting and intriguing character. Shakespeare has written Ophelia in a way that leaves the audience puzzled as to her true character. Many critics have placed Ophelia’s character at completely contrasting ends of a continuum some people believe that Ophelia is not the innocent young girl others believe she is. Some people believe Ophelia to be a wanton, sexually knowledgeable young woman, while others believe that she is harmless and pious.
This is due to the manner that Shakespeare has written Ophelia’s character, it means that Ophelia’s language and actions can be interpreted in many different factions. This can be shown by the way in which Ophelia reacts in different circumstances, while some believe that it shows that she is sexually knowledgeable others believe it shows a lack of knowledge and even slight embarrassment. I believe that Ophelia was written by Shakespeare to be an innocent young woman that is corrupted by the events occurring around her.
I believe that Hamlet treats Ophelia brutally and that her innocence and shy character during these events lead to her depression and her end. Ophelia occurs in the play as the daughter to the king’s councillor and the true love interest of Hamlet. Ophelia is written by Shakespeare to be an innocent bystander to the events occurring around her and one of the many links between the complex characters and stories within the play. Ophelia’s innocent character can first be shown in act one scene three when people try to give her advice.
Laertes and Polonius are used by Shakespeare to show Ophelia’s great innocence. The brother and father of Ophelia show worry about her character because they think Hamlet is just using her. In the same scene Ophelia’s character is again displayed by Shakespeare. Shakespeare shows Ophelia’s shy and acquiescent character in a variety of different ways. When Ophelia is placed in a scene with a person of a higher status and authority Shakespeare shows her obedience by letting her say little in comparison to the people, mainly men, around her.
Shakespeare uses this device to indicate Ophelia’s lower status and how she is obedient to people of a higher rank. In the same scene Shakespeare again uses interaction with other characters to portray Ophelia’s character. In the play Shakespeare shows the audience that Hamlet is deeply disturbed by the events that have occurred but Ophelia believes that Hamlet has shown her affection recently and has given his word that he loves her. “And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord, With almost all the holy vows of heaven. ”
Shakespeare uses this positive language to show Ophelia’s naivety, Ophelia seems certain that Hamlet truly loves her and has shown her affection. Shakespeare uses positive language to show Ophelia’s confidence, like “has” and “all the holy vows of heaven”. Shakespeare very cleverly uses this positive language to show naivety as Shakespeare has already shown Hamlets state of mind, that he is deeply disturbed and at that moment of time would not be able to show anybody true affection or love as he would have his mind on more pressing matters.
Ophelia’s nai?? ve character is again shown by Shakespeare by her loyalty and devotion to her corrupted father, Polonius. She agrees to spy on Hamlet and unquestionably agrees to all his demands. This shows true naivety as her father is part of the new corrupt and untrue realm that she accepts to be lawful. Shakespeare continues to use the people surrounding Ophelia to show her untainted character, as he shows the characters around her continually needing to make sure that she does not do something ridiculous. Her father even points out her frailty.
“You speak like a green girl” Polonius is telling Ophelia and the audience that she is nai?? ve and is too trustworthy. For someone’s father to personally insult their daughter then it must be a pressing matter. The language used by Polonius is very aggressive, this is to try to make Ophelia see people for what they are. With all the events occurring around her it only shows that Ophelia is an honest, nai?? ve young woman not open to what is occurring around her. Shakespeare again shows Ophelia’s compliant and honest character, Ophelia says “I shall obey”.
The language used by Shakespeare is very respectful and makes the audience think that Ophelia’s character is very untainted and trustful because she is always does what she is told. Shakespeare again shows Ophelia’s honest character by again using obedient and passive language when she says “as you did command, I did repel” Shakespeare re-affirms Ophelia’s obedient character by language used by others about her. “At such a time I’ll loose my daughter to him” Shakespeare uses language like “loose” to show Ophelia’s character.
The language used by Shakespeare portrays to the audience that Polonius possesses Ophelia like an object. This shows the audience that Ophelia’s innocence and acquiescence to Polonius has created a situation where Polonius feels he owns Ophelia like a possession not loved like a daughter. Ophelia’s character can be shown by the way she interacts with the others around her and the circumstances. Shakespeare uses direct and blunt language from Hamlet to show Ophelia’s character. Hamlet says to Ophelia “I loved you not” very aggressively.
People with a character that is disreputable, like some critics have said of Ophelia, would have acted in a completely different way. Ophelia reacts very calmly as though it doesn’t affect her, but the audience know that she didn’t expect it. Shakespeare uses Ophelia’s reaction to display her character to the audience and gain sympathy for her cause. “I was more deceived” Shakespeare uses very calm language to show that Ophelia is very shy and innocent and uses different prose during Hamlets onslaught on Ophelia to help show a change in the mood of the play with the dark atmosphere and the crude dialogue.
This shows Ophelia’s character to be very passive and certainly not volatile. This proves to the audience that Ophelia is the untainted, drawn-back young woman she is portrayed to be. She even finds the courage to carry on talking to Hamlet in a controlled fashion. This shows that although Ophelia is very shy she is also resilient and has a lot of pride not to show her true feelings. When Hamlet starts to heavily insult Ophelia she finds good in Hamlet, when she says; “I’ll give thee this plague for thy dowry” She replies
“O heavenly powers, restore him” Ophelia seems to find good in everybody’s character, as many would quite rightly blame Hamlet she simply blames an external factor like God or that Hamlet has been taken over by an evil spirit. This really shows Ophelia’s passive and pure character. Hamlet is trying his best to deeply hurt Ophelia but her innocent character is shown to the audience by the fact that Hamlet is not trying to hurt her but is deeply disturbed by her refusal to reply to his advances, perhaps this shows naivety as well?.
Shakespeare uses calm language like “heavenly” to show Ophelia’s passive and calm nature, Shakespeare creates Ophelia’s character by her always trying to diffuse aggressive situations with calm language. Ophelia’s importance as a character is shown by Shakespeare allowing her a very rare soliloquy, during this Ophelia still praises Hamlet which will make the audience incredulous after what had previously been said. “Oh what a noble mind is here o’erthrown! ” This again shows Ophelia’s forgiving character as she is able to find virtuous qualities in everybody, plus it shows naivety because she believes Hamlet doesn’t mean it.
Shakespeare uses this soliloquy to state Ophelia’s character firmly to the audience. Like sweet bells jangled, out of time and harsh” Shakespeare uses pure language such as “sweet” and music imagery to show to the audience Ophelia’s character. This dialogue and imagery used in this situation shows Ophelia’s character to resilient and untainted. Ophelia’s passive nature is shown again when subjected to much sexual innuendo by Hamlet. Shakespeare uses dialogue and text to show Ophelia’s lack of knowledge. Hamlet: “That’s a fair thought to lie between maids legs”.