“The relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia is doomed to failure because they are too similar.” Discuss.

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"The relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia is doomed to failure because they are too similar." Discuss.

There are lots of reasons for the failure of any relationship - poor communication, personality clashes, personal crisis and the so on. Couples often have the problem of 'being too alike' and find that they simply cannot get on. Although Hamlet and Ophelia share many similarities, they also have differences and there are a number of other factors that should be taken into account when one is looking at the failure of their relationship. Ophelia's brother, Laertes and her father, Polonuis, warn Ophelia of Hamlet. They try to tell her that Hamlets intentions are not good and Polonuis likens Hamlet to someone who is merely trying to snare a stupid animal: "springes to catch woodcocks" (1.4.115). Laertes tries to persuade his sister that Hamlets love is short lived and will not last: "The perfume and suppliance of a minute, No more" (1.3.9-10). In doing this, and also asking Ophelia not to speak to Hamlet, it would seem that Ophelia may be swayed into believing that Hamlets love is not true. But it is here that we see that she believes in his love, and that she must have some faith in him: " he hath importuned me with love in honourable fashion" (1.3.110-111). This suggests that Hamlet and Ophelia's relationship could be strong even through hard times and even though some characters try to split them up. But, with Ophelia's compliance to her father's wishes that she should not speak with Hamlet: "I shall obey, my Lord" (1.3.135), It seems that she is willing to deceive Hamlet, just to please her father. Hamlets visit to Ophelia in Act Two can be seen to imply two things about his character - that he is completely in love with Ophelia and that her refusal to his advances, under her fathers wishes, have driven him to appear mad. This seems to show that their relationship has been put under considerable stress since its very beginning. This is portrayed by Kenneth Branaghs interpretation of Hamlet in the film, where he acts the part in such a way to suggest that he really is in love with Ophelia and that they have known each other a very long time.

Shakespeare's suggestion of madness in the character of Hamlet is seemingly brought about by his indulgence in his grief for his father, and the sudden marriage of his mother, as well as Ophelia's behaviour towards him. It is difficult to know if Hamlet is actually mad or if it is an act to intelligently deceive those around him. Many of the view points concerning this come from film interpretations - Lawrence Olivier's Hamlet was clearly not mad, where as Kenneth Branaghs interpretation was slightly different. Roger Day of the Open University comments on Hamlet feigning his lunatic manner when Hamlet talks to Ophelia: "There is then a disjuction between the way he behaves and what he actually says". He is saying that although Hamlet behaves in a strange manner, what he actually says makes sense. Ophelia's grief for the loss of her father may also have caused her madness, leading to her death. Both of the characters are deeply feeling, and both are seemingly genuine in a false world. Hamlets apparent cruelty to Ophelia and Gertrude in action and words shows that although he can at times be rational and forgiving, he can also be over sensitive. An example of this is his visit to Ophelia: "He raised a sigh so piteous and profound as it did seem to shatter all his bulk" (2.1.95-96). When he is speaking to Ophelia in Act Three, Hamlet uses an abruptness and almost harshness in his speech: "I loved thee not"(3.1.118-119), "Get thee to a nunnery"(3.1.120). But it seems this harshness is honest and this is something at times they can share. Ophelia's honestly is shown when she describes her feelings for Hamlet and the upset that he has caused her. She compares his vows to her to music and she is hopeful: "the honey of his musicked vows"(3.1.159). She expresses her upset at his state of mind and acknowledges this: "Blasted with ecstasy"(3.1.163). Her sadness is expressed when she says: "O woe is me"(3.1.163). This shows that once Hamlet was perhaps a different person, before his fathers death had the effect it had on him. Although honesty can be seen as a very positive quality, too much honesty can turn into cruelty and become extremely hurtful. Both characters seem to have a weakness in them that means they can be at times lacking in courage or the ability to take action. Rather than take immediate action for the vengeance of his father's murder, Hamlet talks a lot about his thoughts and feelings to Ophelia. He also talks to her with disrespect, which she seems to try and dismiss as drunken behavior and vainly hopes it is not what he really means: "You are merry my lord" (3.2.122). This weakness of character is also seen in the deceit each uses; Ophelia's obedience to her father in which she immediately wanted to please him and disregard Hamlet, and the question of whether Hamlets madness is merely an act. In parts this seems so, for example when Hamlet is talking to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Act two. Hamlet may know that word of his apparent 'madness' will get back to his mother and the King, and much of what he says can have double meaning, so it is not known if there was intent or real confusion: "I am but mad north-north-west; when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw"(2.2.383-4). These extremes of character; sometimes so honest it becomes brutal and at other times extremely deceitful, are sure to shape a relationship, as although they are honest of their feelings, there is doubt as to whether a deeper motive is behind the words, such as to appear mad, or attempt to please your family. With any clash of personality there are bound to be times when these similarities become too much of a strain. The indulgence into grief that Hamlet is seen to succumb to and perhaps a madness caused by this, may also have been something that affected Ophelia, as it is suggests that the grief over her father's death may have caused her own madness.
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Bearing these traits of character in mind, we can also see many vast differences between Hamlet and Ophelia. Ophelia's sometimes naïve appearance, such as when she is listening to Hamlets sexual banter, is an obvious contrast to his intelligent and quick witted innuendoes: "That's a fair thought to lie between maid's legs"(3.2.119) , "What is, my lord?(3.2.120)" . This raises the question of whether or not she is being deliberately coy, in a way she would like to see as flirtatious. Ophelia also appears to be easily lead and not very strong willed, especially when it comes to ...

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