Character Analysis of Ophelia
Madness is a theme that is utilized effectively by Shakespeare in Hamlet to establish the chaos that occur in the court of Denmark. Characters in the play suffer from resentment and betrayal. One such character is Ophelia, who, in madness, can adequately reveal how the feminine character endeavors to have a say of her own in a world dominated by men. A thorough analysis of the role of Ophelia reveals a transformation of character from a subdued, timid personality who lacks the will to fight for her own to a seducer, and finally a mad woman who is at liberty to express herself without any restrictions.
Ophelia is a character that has limited options in a society that is predominantly patriarchal. She can be compared to Hamlet, who, as a man, can take command of the environment he is in and create his fate. Unlike Hamlet, Ophelia has to be obedient, and is not allowed to embrace her true feelings and express her opinions. Whatever happens in her life depends on what is stipulated by the men who are in her life. In the play, she has to be obedient to her brother, father, and the king. She is bound by the societal restrictions of women, and utilizes madness and her death as tools of revolution.
Ophelia is easily manipulated by the men in her life because the society dictates that she has to be obedient. Hamlet pursues Ophelia and wants her to be his lover so that he can maintain an image of madness. However, he knows that Ophelia will report this to her father, Polonius. Her father is a politician who wants to utilize his daughter to get political favors from the king. Ophelia is put in a position where she has to choose whether to be obedient to her father or to Hamlet. If he were obedient to Hamlet, there would be a possibility of her becoming queen and Hamlet becoming king. However, as an unmarried woman, she has to be obedient to her father and the king, Claudius demands that she does so in a bid to test if Hamlet is actually mad. Hamlet is not happy with the situation as it is, and rejects Ophelia because she has chosen to be obedient to her father and the king.
Hamlet takes out his frustrations as regards to his mother, Gertrude, on Ophelia. Hamlet’s mother was quick to marry another after his father died, and he hated that about his mother. He felt that women were sexually weak, and Ophelia could not escape the same fate even though she was a virgin and well behaved. When her father dies, Ophelia realizes how dependent she has been on men. She is quite powerless when there is no male figure to guide her behavior and make decisions for her. Through her father’s death, she can see how naïve she has been, and begins to speak out. She speaks out about her father and is offended by trivial things that she never noticed before. She feels all the troubles in her life and speaks out about the deceit taking place. It is at this stage that most individuals attribute her novice character to madness.
Ophelia transforms into a lady in society, who is at liberty to express herself when other regard her as being mad. When she speaks to Gertrude, she takes on a sarcastic tone and is bolder. In her speech about the owl, she asserts that she knows her identity but does not know what options she has about the future. Her songs reveal that she is disappointed with Hamlet for leaving her. In her last speech, she issues out flowers to individuals in the court each with a meaning. Even though she is free to speak in her madness, she is not taken seriously. She has a few options only left to her since her father is dead, Hamlet rejects her, and her brother is only concerned about avenging his father’s death. She has no one to support her, and accidently falls into the water. She finds peace in this water and does not save herself because she does not want to; she can act as she wills without anyone telling her what to do.