Ophelia's Madness

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Pedro Charles Professor Burks ENC1101 April 22, 2013 Ophelia’s Madness No character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, save the play’s namesake, stands as discussed as his lover Ophelia. Her story is not one of inner turmoil, or concealed conspiracies, rather it deals with a lack of control of one’s self. Ophelia is used simply as a medium for other characters to accomplish their own ends, and as a means to highlight their most significant traits. She breaks her chain of vassalage only through insanity, and obtains ultimate freedom in death. Perhaps, Ophelia’s most prominent trait is her propensity to be totally utterly manipulated by other characters in the play. Most obviously by her father, Polonius, as he treats her on equal rank with his own finances "Think yourself a baby/ That you have ta'en these tenders for true pay/ Which are not sterling. Tender yourself more dearly...or you'll tender me a fool" (Shakespeare, 1.3. 105-107). Ophelia exists at his beck and call, even ending her relationship with hamlet at his whim. Such was the lot for women in renaissance England. Heather brown touches on this in her work Gender and Identity in Hamlet: A Modern Interpretation of Ophelia; “the woman's position in history-- seen only in relation to men--is problematic because of the hierarchy implicit in the relationship.” (Brown, paragraph 3) In a like manner, the King who, like Polonius, holds influence over Ophelia (being her king) uses her to surmise the intentions of Hamlet, and gauge his mental state. In league with Polonius, he set up Ophelia to meet with young Hamlet. In this situation, Ophelia is verbally abused by Hamlet, much to the indifference of the king and her father. “When, at the scene's close, the two ‘lawful espials’ (Shakespeare, 3.1.32) sweep from the room, no line exists to suggest that either moves to comfort or to help Ophelia from the site” (Dane,

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