An exploration into the character of Ophelia in HAMLET

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Polly Birtwistle English Coursework Draft

An Exploration into the character of Ophelia

In this essay I am going to explore the character of Ophelia. Even though Ophelia is not the central character in the play 'Hamlet' she is still an important one, and I am going to investigate her character and personality. I will look at her relationship with Hamlet in detail but also the relationship she has with Laertes and Polonius. Her madness will also be analysed and her death. To do this I will examine the form, structure and language used in the play. I will also study the literary devices used within the text such as alliteration, metaphors and similes.

Shakespeare, in the portrayal of Ophelia shows how men in a strong patriarchal society controlled women in the 1600s. The influence of men in Ophelia's life is evident throughout by the relationships with men in her life.

It is interesting to note that Ophelia's first scene is in a very domestic setting. Her brother, Laertes, is stressing to Ophelia the fickleness of young love:

'Keep within the rear of your affection',

showing men's attitudes towards women in the period by assuming that Ophelia cannot think for herself. Ophelia is obviously uncertain or doubtful about Laertes' argument but she is still in awe of him so she answers monosyllabically:

'No more but so?'

This shows that he has control over her and he can influence her thoughts even if she doesn't agree with him. She has a small ration of dialogue compared to Laertes' grand lecture, suggesting the overpowering control that he has over his sister. Ophelia is consciously given few lines of ordinary dialogue by Shakespeare. Even at the end of the play she is more of an emblematic figure than a material...