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Published: 04-09-2019

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What is the significance of Ophelia's madness?

The play, The Tragedy of Hamlet The Prince of Denmark, follows the story of Hamlet shortly right after his beloved father’s murder. Hamlet learns that Claudius, his stepfather and uncle, poisoned his brother and the ghost of his father desires his death to be avenged. Claudius makes use of Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Polonius, and Polonius’s daughter Ophelia to spy on the young prince. This triggered Hamlet to drop his trust in his lover, Ophelia, and pretends to be insane to throw the spies off his strategy to murder his uncle and the new king. Hamlet accidentally murders Polonius throughout his first attempt to kill Claudius which leads to Ophelia to turn out to be mad herself. Ophelai is seen as “…a cult figure embodying their own turbulent hopes,” (Romanska 485). The significance of Ophelia’s madness is to signify her losing two of the most crucial men in her life, Polonius and Hamlet. It is clear that Ophelia is grieving more than the death of her father, Polonius, when Horatio says “She speaks much of her father, says she hears…” (Shakespeare IV 4-five), but a secondary cause of Ophelia’s madness could be due to her failed relationship with Hamlet as effectively.

The proof suggesting that she is just mourning her father is clear in lines from her numerous songs and prove she is grieving over her father like in the lines, “His beard as white as snow…” (Shakespeare IV 190-191). This line references her father simply because he was an older man and due to the fact of this detail it shows that Polonius’s death has taken its toll on Ophelia’s psyche causing her to sing bitter songs. There are further references to Ophelia’s father, such as “I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died,” show Ophelia’s shattered mental state, as she is constantly fixating on the death of Polonius, so significantly that every little thing reminds her of his passing (Shakespeare IV 180-181). Ophelia’s madness is overtaking her so considerably so that she does not even recognize whom she is speaking to like her brother, Laertes. Polonius was such a important figure in her life, she is insane beyond support and hence does not recognize her own brother nor any individual else she speaks to.

Even so, the sexual references in Ophelia’s songs account for her obsession with the now mad Hamlet, as in “promising his love” to her earlier in the play and then getting scorned, she is doubly heartbroken by his absence alongside the death of her father. With lines like “Young males will do’t if they come to’t…” might signify an oblique reference to a promiscuous man who promises really like but backs out following a brief time (Shakespeare IV 59-60). The line shortly soon after is, “You promised me to wed…” which may claim Hamlet to be a lead to of her deteriorating mental state (Shakespeare IV 62-64). Though the man in the song has promised the speaker that they will quickly wed, he has left her for no apparent reason and like Hamlet’s alleged claims of love and marriage to Ophelia, has also Hamlet broken those vows for causes unknown to Ophelia. It is likely that Ophelia fixated upon Hamlet’s oath breaking so much that in not requiting her adore, Hamlet had broken both her heart and her poor thoughts. Ophelia exists as a tragic character in Hamlet and one that is entirely pitiable because of unfortunate circumstances that she has been place via.
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