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Ophelia can be viewed as an insignificant minor character in the play through the way she is used as an unwitting pawn in schemes of those who have control over her, as revealed in Act 2 Scene 2 where Polonius says I will loose my daughter to him

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Introduction

Ophelia Ophelia can be viewed as an insignificant minor character in the play through the way she is used as an unwitting pawn in schemes of those who have control over her, as revealed in Act 2 Scene 2 where Polonius says "I will loose my daughter to him" when he and Claudius plan how they will 'test' Hamlet's madness. The word loose objectifies Ophelia, portraying her as an animal used as bait for Claudius's own objectives; spying on Hamlet. Ophelia's character does not have a say in the matter, and through her absence in this particular scene, Shakespeare is able to emphasise her insignificance in the play. Ophelia's lack of appearance in the play also portrays her character as minor and insignificant, as Shakespeare only uses her character in 5 scenes. For the majority of these scenes, Ophelia has little contribution to the dialogue and her spoken lines are often responses to questions and commands by others who dominate the play, for example in Act 1 Scene 3 Ophelia's responses are short in comparison to her father's and brother's dialogue, most of which contains instructions on how Ophelia is expected to act; "Do not believe his vows... Look to't I charge you. Come your ways". The use of imperatives in this scene show how Ophelia is dominated by others and is therefore highlight her insignificance in the play. ...read more.

Middle

The death of Polonius may be a cause of Ophelia's madness and this is evident when Claudius says "Oh this is the poison of deep grief; it springs all from her father's death". This may suggest that Ophelia becomes weak without the presence of the dominant male authority. Her father is dead, her brother is absent from the country and she has been rejected by Hamlet; without them Ophelia collapses. Shakespeare presents Ophelia as weak in Act 4 Scene 7 where she is unable to save herself: "As one incapable of her own distress". The suggestion that Ophelia has committed suicide may have been used by Shakespeare to imply that Ophelia's weak state did not allow her to go on living. Shakespeare uses Ophelia's character to portray many aspects of Hamlet's character, for example Shakespeare is able to reveal Hamlet's capability of staggering cruelty through his treatment of Ophelia in the nunnery scene. Shakespeare presents this cruelty through the use of brutal commands and insults such as "Get thee to a nunnery". In Act 2 Scene 1 Ophelia presents herself as a victim of Hamlet's rough treatment; "He took me by the wrist, and held me hard", revealing Hamlet's capability of cruelty. There is also evidence of Hamlet's cruelty when he embarrasses Ophelia in public, asking her "Do you think I meant country matters?" Hamlet's wit enables him to belittle or mock other characters and the fact that there is little sign of Ophelia's character reinforces the idea that she is a minor character. ...read more.

Conclusion

The fact that Ophelia is being used as a pawn in men's political affairs is also a sign that she is being oppressed. When Polonius offers to "loose" Ophelia, he is taking advantage of her by offering her as a service without her consent. This also portrays Ophelia as a possession that belongs to Polonius. On the other hand, it could be argued that Ophelia's character is not oppressed, but in fact in need of male control. In Act 1 Scene 3 Ophelia says "I shall th'effect of this good lesson keep as watchman to my heart". The use of "good" implies that the advice is necessary for Ophelia's well being and is taken on by her with a positive attitude. When asked by Laertes to remember what she has been told, Ophelia responds by saying "'Tis in my memory locked, and you yourself shall keep the key of it." This statement also shows Ophelia is willing to take on her brother's advice. This argument can be supported by the idea that Ophelia collapses without her father or brother, and that she in fact benefits by being in their command. Ophelia is also significant as her character is crucial for the plot and setting the scene in the play, for example, in part it is her death that motivates Laertes to take revenge on Hamlet. Another example of the importance of Ophelia in the plot is that her death is used by Shakespeare as a catalyst for confrontation between Hamlet and Laertes. ...read more.

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