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Identify and discuss different interpretations of Ophelia. Choose a particular scene to discuss in detail and then connect this with Ophelia's appearance in the rest of the play.

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Introduction

Identify and discuss different interpretations of Ophelia. Choose a particular scene to discuss in detail and then connect this with Ophelia's appearance in the rest of the play. Hamlet is the story of a Danish prince who's father, the late king whom he loved passionately, has recently been murdered. Hamlet's mourning is unnaturally deep as he suspects the murderer to be his fathers brother, now king, Claudius, who has also just married Hamlets mother, Gertrude. Hamlet seeks to avenge his fathers murder and is constantly seeking to find out the truth behind the suspicious death. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet in early 17th century, with the first print being dated back to 1603, he incorporated ideas from other sources such as Saxo Grammaticus and the history of Denmark. Various themes run throughout the play, the most significant being revenge, as well as death, insanity and suicide. Shakespeare borrows ideas for Hamlet from the story of Saxo Grammaticus, which was written in early 12th century, the outline of both plots are almost one and the same. The protagonist in Saxo Grammaticus is Amleth, also a Danish prince, who again seeks to avenge his fathers murder, it can be said that Hamlet is a contemporary version of this same character. However in Hamlet, Shakespeare goes to great lengths to achieve in-depth characterisation for each protagonist. All the characters are developed and have their own place in the play whereas in Saxo, the characters have small roles to play and have little dramatic purpose, it can be said that they are merely used as devices to help build the bigger picture. ...read more.

Middle

Here she is portrayed as being extremely passive as she apparently agrees with all her brother and father have to say to her and is obedient to their wishes. She is sexually inexperienced and innocent when it comes to that subject, as her relationship with Hamlet is of respectable nature and her chastity is never in question. From when we first see her in Act 1, Scene 3, Ophelia is a kind; affectionate and loyal to her family she is respectful towards both her father and elder brother and shows much love towards them. Leartes asks her to keep in touch with him once he has left for Paris, she replies by saying 'do you doubt that?' This shows her love for her brother, as she has no doubt in her mind that she will stay in touch with him. In act 1 scene 3, both Laertes and Polonius advise Ophelia to stay away from Hamlet, as the love he declares for her is not true and being obedient she replies by saying "I shall th'effect keep watchman to my heart". Polonius warns her of the intentions of Hamlet not being dignified and that instead of carrying on her liaison with him she should take on the role of dignified young woman. Polonius then advises her against any form of relationship with Hamlet due to his disreputable motives. ...read more.

Conclusion

Each portrayal of Ophelia closely relates to the view of women in society at that particular time. These depiction stretch from the 17th century to present day and during that time period there have been many differing views of Ophelia's character traits. Productions before the 20th century depict Ophelia as being the passive, na�ve and sexually inexperienced woman that the sir John Millias' pre Raphealite image represents. Elaine Showalter supports the view that women were seen as being innocent and having little status in society and were merely objects for male lust, she says that this is why Ophelia was portrayed in this light during that period. The change in portrayal happened post feminist movement, after which woman were seen to be of equal standing with men in society. Showalter states that the fact that attitudes towards woman have changed has allowed for an intelligent and sexually knowledgeable Ophelia to be portrayed. The most notable example being Kate Winslet's portrayal in the Brannagh production. Also, the fact that Shakespeare did not add any stage directions to the play helps the director portray the protagonists in the light they see fit. This has granted directors the licence to portray Ophelia as either virginal or sexually knowledgeable. Brannagh uses the device of flashbacks to perfectly show his audience that he sees Ophelia as being less than innocent and that she and Hamlet have previously been sexually active. He does this without taking anything away from the script and gets his point across using a dialogue-less scene. ...read more.

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