Throughout the play, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, Ophelia plays the role of a minor character. You don’t really get to see much of her feelings or thoughts, except for a few select passages. A Ophelia is faced the death of Polonius, Hamlet’s betrayal, and expressing her feelings we see all new aspects to Ophelia’s character like her spirituality and self expression through floral imagery.
Ophelia is distraught over the death of her father. She accepts the fact that he is dead, but still wishes for his salvation. “God ha’ mercy on his soul!” And of all /Christian souls, I pray God. God b’ wi’ you.” (4.5 193-94), in these lines we see Ophelia’s religious side and her belief in Christianity, because she compares Polonius to a Christian soul and asks for God to be with him in the afterlife. She is praying for him to go to heaven. Ophelia’s singing can be compared to the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation which is asking God for forgiveness. In Cabanel’s painting, Ophelia, Ophelia has her left arm raised up to the sky with the light shining down on her. This symbolizes her reaching out to God because it is commonly expressed as someone holy and angelic as having a bright light shining on them. In John Millais’s, Ophelia, Ophelia has both of her arms spread out and her hands are open. In the Catholic church, when you make that same sign as shown in the painting it means you are giving yourself up to God. Natalie Merchant describes Ophelia in her song as a, “A novice Carmelite”. A Carmelite is a Roman Catholic who supports others in their desire to live up to what God wants of them. Ophelia is supporting Polonius even after his death. With the death of Polonius we see Ophelia’s spirituality and belief in salvation.
Whenever Ophelia speaks with the other characters in the play, she expresses her feelings and thoughts of others through the use of floral imagery. When Ophelia is in the castle she shows Laertes, Gertrude, and Claudius the different flowers she has collected and which flower is for who. “There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays. You must wear your rue with a difference” (4.5 177-79). Rues represent repentance and Ophelia says that she has some for her and Claudius. This shows that she believes that they must both repent over there past wrongs. Ophelia repents over the not listening to Polonius about Hamlet not loving her and Claudius needs to repent over killing elder Hamlet, however he can’t and that is what makes his rue flower different from hers. In the painting, Ophelia, by Redon, Ophelia has gashes on her throat and coming out from them are different kind of flowers. Also, her mouth appears to be sealed shut. This shows that Ophelia doesn’t have a voice but instead her thoughts are said through her flowers.
Ophelia truly loved Hamlet and believed that Hamlet loved her. Hamlet’s betrayal causes a rift in Ophelia’s state of mind which leads to Ophelia’s madness. Ophelia is innocent and gullible so she believes and trust everything people say. “Then up he rose, and donned his clothes, And dupped the chamber door, Let in the maid, that out