Ophelia’s Road to Madness
Thesis Statement: The origin of Ophelia’s madness is rendered through examination of her relationships with her father Polonius, her brother, Laertes, and her lover Hamlet.
I. Polonius is self seeking and callous.
A. Polonius uses her to further his own agenda.
B. Ophelia obediently and dutifully refuses Hamlet at her father’s request.
II. Laertes overshadows Ophelia’s hope.
A. Laertes brotherly advice is demanding.
B. Ophelia loses her friend and confidant in her brother’s absence.
III. Ophelia goes from happy to devastated in her love life.
A. Hamlet humiliates her verbally.
B. Hamlet kills her father.
IV. Ophelia goes mad.
A. Betrayed by Hamlet
B. Used by father.
C. Death of father.
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His character plays an affectionate and tender role in Ophelia’s life. It is upon leaving for France that he gives his last bit of brotherly advice to Ophelia regarding her life. Once he is in France, Ophelia no longer has a genuine support system in place or anyone in which she can confide or seek answers. This loss is an important element in Ophelia’s life, especially after the death of her father, because she has no one to turn to with her deep sorrow. Hamlet generates emotional torture for Ophelia by professing his love for her on one day and verbally humiliating her on another. He plays mind games with her by denying that he has written love letters to her on her attempt to return them. Meanwhile, her father and his uncle watch this unfold by looking on in secret, yet he knows she is their pawn. Hamlet knows Ophelia is a honorable girl and to purposefully and deeply hurt her he begins shouting hurtful insinuations and humiliating insults about her character stating “… if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them: to a nunnery go, and quickly too, farewell.”(3.1.37-40) His actions discredit his love for Ophelia and hearing him say he never loved her, devastates her. His true concern with Ophelia’s well being is reduced as the play develops from here and increasingly so as he feigns his own madness. In this feigned madness, he accidentally kills