• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Elaine Showalter argues that Ophelias tragedy is subordinated in the play. Through comparison of Hamlet and Ophelia, how far do you agree?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Elaine Showalter argues that Ophelia's tragedy "is subordinated in the play". Through comparison of Hamlet and Ophelia, how far do you agree? In her article "Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism", Elaine Showalter states that Ophelia's tragedy "is subordinated in the play". Hamlet is an Elizabethan play written by William Shakespeare - named after the protagonist. Hamlet, feels responsible to take revenge on his father's murderer, Claudius, and during this conflict he slays Ophelia's father and rejects Ophelia, whom he had previously courted. Whilst Hamlet is clearly the play's central character, Shakespeare allows his audience to see how the deaths of both Hamlet's and Ophelia's fathers lead to their madness, causing the audience to compare Hamlet's and Ophelia's tragedies and enabling us to examine whether Ophelia's tragedy in the play is subordinated to Hamlet's. Hamlet is an Elizabethan play and the audience would be aware that it is a play set in a patriarchal society. This is emphasised through Ophelia, who throughout the play is dependent on men and relies on her father and brother, Laertes. This is evident when she gives in to Polonius's scheme to spy on Hamlet with no indication that she might resist and only replies ...read more.

Middle

O God, God! How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable Seem to me all the uses of this world" Here is Hamlet's first soliloquy, where he starts to contemplate suicide and explains how it is desirable for someone whose life has become so pointless. Shakespeare, through these soliloquies, allows us to sympathise with Hamlet and we can relate to his emotions and therefore relate to his tragedy more. In this way Shakespeare prioritises Hamlet's tragedy over that of Ophelia, who has far less to say. However, we also learn that Hamlet is extremely philosophical and contemplative. Here, he contemplates suicide ("self-slaughter") but his thoughts are balanced by the fact that he realises it is forbidden by the Christian God ("the Everlasting"). Similarly, in the soliloquy in Act Three Scene One, Hamlet says, "To be or not to be"; again weighing the moral factors of suicide. Even the structure of this phrase, which has the infinitive verb 'to be' on either side, suggests the balanced nature of his mind. Hamlet represents a Renaissance, noble man; therefore to an Elizabethan audience the tragic end of a respected and educated man would create more impact as opposed to a "frail", dependent Ophelia. ...read more.

Conclusion

Therefore, her subordinate character could heighten her tragedy to a modern audience. However, we could argue that whilst Hamlet considers moral choices and alternatives, Ophelia takes action by committing suicide without procrastinating - something which Hamlet wants to be able to do. Therefore, it could be considered that despite her character being subordinate, her tragedy is of major relevance because it shows her as an active figure in her own fate, by drowning herself in her sorrows; she has a role in her own tragic end. An Elizabethan audience would be familiar with seeing women presented as weak and therefore Ophelia's presentation as 'frail' in the play allows her tragedy to be subordinated because it was expected, Ophelia herself seems to contribute to these expectations. Hamlet, by contrast, represents an Elizabethan Renaissance man with the ability to reason, think logically and therefore withstand his suicide, making his eventual death at the hands of Laertes and Claudius seem the greater loss and the dominant tragedy of the play. However, to a modern audience Ophelia's dependence on men, her absence from most of the play (and, by implication, society) and her unheard female voice could create more disbelief and sympathy towards Ophelia, allowing her subordinated character to be the foremost tragedy of the play. Anika Chauhan - Hamlet Coursework ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Other Criticism & Comparison section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Other Criticism & Comparison essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    The English Patient

    5 star(s)

    He locates the dead and buries his second-in-command, Hardy. Kip is reminded of how dangerous his job is and is angered that Hana had treated her own life so casually that morning. He returns to the villa and finds Hana sitting by the side of the patient's bed, his hearing aid turned up to its highest volume.

  2. Gatsby is more a ruthless criminal than an irresponsible dreamer(TM) How far do you ...

    this friendship for means of no end, so that he could manipulate it to his own advantage. Gatsby is a ruthless criminal in the way he creates a false persona. Kathleen Parkinson wrote: 'Jay Gatsby flaunts his wealth about through the parties that he holds and the lavish clothes that he wears.

  1. How far can a feminist reading be applied to The Yellow Wallpaper?

    The subordinated wife experiences short lived liberation from male domination, ironically before dying from shock upon realising that her presumably dead husband is alive. Misinformed, the wife looks out of the window seeing ?the tops of trees? all aquiver with new spring life? evoking her mistaken response of ?self-assertion?, ?Free!

  2. How is Madness presented through the protagonist in The Yellow Wallpaper compared to The ...

    is much more preoccupied with men and doesn?t think of the outcome, she acts very different from Esther ?Lenny stooped, and Doreen went flying up on to his shoulder? this is not something we would ever see Esther doing, the girls other than Esther seem more preoccupied with material life;

  1. Female characters in "The Kite Runner", "Hamlet" and the short story "A Lot to ...

    He seems to be referring, yet again, to material goods, to objects, as if Ophelia is simply another prize he can add to his trophy cabinet. He also uses a great deal of sexual innuendos when around Ophelia, but neither Ophelia or any other members of the court find it offensive or out of context.

  2. Examine Shakespeares presentation of women in Hamlet. Show how far your appreciation and understanding ...

    On the other hand, both Gertrude in Hamlet and The Duchess in TRT are portrayed as immoral and sexual characters that use the male character for their own benefit and to maintain their hold on power. Gertrude, after only a month of her late husband?s passing, marries Claudius, though in

  1. Compare & Contrast The Way Women Are Portrayed In Hamlet, Wuthering Heights and A ...

    Christine, Nora’s old school friend is also used as a tool to show how Nora’s façade towards her husband. The fact that Nora portrays herself as an ignorant little girl to her husband, and then a well-spoken woman to Christine shows the audience how Nora really is.

  2. Shakespeares Hamlet and Existentialism

    Hamlet says ?Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell / Why thy canoniz'd bones, hearsed in death, / Have burst their cerements . . . Say, why is this? wherefore? what should we do?? (I.iv.46-48,57). Hamlet is so confused by the sight of his father?s ghost that he is unsure of how to act.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work