Essay about Ophelia: Hamlet and Love Hamlet Displays

Submitted By hsmith829
Words: 1196
Pages: 5

Holly Smith Smith1
Ms. Skowronski
English 11 H
28 March 2014
Influence on Ophelia What runs through one’s head when making decisions? The naive teenage mind believes that one is simply invincible despite the harmful risks. As an adult, the mind balances consequences versus benefits almost equally. Their mind is wiser and has had more time to develop a stronger conscience. Often, peer pressure is a negative term solely associated with high school students. What one fails to forget, is that peer pressure is not just a phase. People will always have the opportunity to make decisions for you, if given the opportunity. In the play, Hamlet, one character’s influential ability on another’s desires and ambitions is prevalent. Polonius’ daughter, Ophelia, struggles between obeying her family’s mandates regarding Hamlet, and accepting her desire for love. In Hamlet, two sources of Ophelia’s madness are her brother and father, Laertes and Polonius. When Ophelia is first introduced, her brother is strictly warning her about Hamlet’s erratic behavior and naivety accompanied by his young age. The content of the speech is very shallow. Laertes is merely judging Hamlet based off his own prior actions. Laertes tells Ophelia that she must not consider Hamlet’s attentions toward her as more than a “violet in the youth of primy nature … the perfume and suppliance of a minute” (3.1.7-10). At this point, he has aroused what he sought to forbid. By constantly mentioning the topic of love, he has focused Ophelia’s mind on this sole topic. Ophelia’s response entails that she has not taken what he said very seriously. Ophelia says, “Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, whiles, a puffed and reckless libertine, himself the primrose path of dalliance treads and recks not his own rede” (1.3.51-54). She is bluntly telling Laertes to stop lecturing her. When Laertes leaves for his venture abroad, Polonius contributes to Laertes’ speech of warning towards Ophelia. Polonius focuses on the fact that youth are more vulnerable to love. Ophelia acts properly to her role, and obediently listens to her father’s commands. She acknowledges that she must obey his word to avoid all forms of social ostracism. This entails that Ophelia was indeed, her “father’s property.” All of Ophelia’s ambitions and desires are subdued by her incapability to speak her mind in the patriarchal society she lives in. Ophelia’s desire for love is the conflicting influence that is a result of her desires not being met. . David Lavernez, author of “The Women in Hamlet: An Interpersonal View”, said “no girl becomes insane when her father dies… least of all Ophelia.” Overall, Hamlet is mad for love. When Ophelia rejects his love Hamlet displays, he is not the only one affected. Ophelia believes that since she is unable to reciprocate the actions of love, she is the cause of his madness. Unlike Hamlet, her role as a woman does not allow her to act and speak as she wishes. She turns to madness as an outlet to express herself. This madness eventually leads to her sudden death. Hamlet’s “fake” madness is a prominent factor in the downfall of her sanity. During the Renaissance, Ophelia would have been categorized as a hysteric. In an essay analyzing madness, Erin Campbell states that, “Ophelia suffers from hysteria, a malady often ascribed to upper class women who bide their time in their fathers’ homes while awaiting fulfillment of their culturally mandated roles as wives. (53)” Hysteria was a common prognosis for women in this time period. An old wives tale stated that the cause was formed by the sudden movement of their wombs inside their bodies. Symptoms often associated with this were “choking and muteness.” Ophelia’s societal restriction on speaking her mind is a result of her muffled desires and a “wandering womb.” At the time, doctors prescribed marriage as the cure to this hysteria. People believed that the