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‘Virginal and innocent ‘or’ wanton and sexually knowledgeable.’ How have critics arrived at these readings of Ophelia? What is your reading of her character?

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Introduction

'Virginal and innocent 'or' wanton and sexually knowledgeable.' How have critics arrived at these readings of Ophelia? What is your reading of her character? A critic's view of Ophelia differs when taking into account the contrasting cultural positions between contemporary and modern society. It is because of this statement that it is important to realise that a critic's view of Ophelia is only one way to how we view Ophelia. There are many interpretations of Ophelia, which change according to how a director can portray Ophelia. Critics can fall into too categories when reading Ophelia, those who believe that Ophelia is a virginal, innocent girl, and those who portray Ophelia as a wanton, sexually knowledgeable young woman. ...read more.

Middle

However Ophelia's talk with her father Polonius in act one scene three shows a different side of Ophelia. In this scene Polonius instructs Ophelia not to see Hamlet any more, unless Hamlet offers Ophelia more that he has done. This scene can be interpreted in many ways. Ophelia can be portrayed as the obedient daughter who doesn't question her father's motives by a swift answer to her father's wishes. "I shall obey my lord." This action by Ophelia definitely shows where her loyalties lie - to her father. The question has to be asked in this scene whether Polonius is instructing Ophelia for her benefit or not. ...read more.

Conclusion

"I shall obey, my lord." This subtle difference in her speech shows the audience that while saying she will obey her father, Ophelia has more sinister intentions in mind. An audience of Shakespeare's time would find this presentation of Ophelia very shocking, because to see a woman have the intention of disobeying her father requests would go against the social conventions of the time. This could be the reason to why Shakespeare doesn't develop Ophelia's character, and only speaks to the king and queen when she is mad. Ophelia differs from other young women in Shakespeare's plays, such as Juliet, Hermia, Desdemona, Cordelia and Miranda because these young women all place their love for men before obedience to their fathers. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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