The Effects Of Ophelia's Suicide In Hamlet

Decent Essays
Ophelia’s suicide in Hamlet influences the play as a whole. There are many different causes for her death, an important one being madness. Her madness is a major factor; it resulted from various griefs and stressors caused by men that influenced her and Hamlet’s rejection of her. In Hamlet, Ophelia’s suicide and its effects on the plot are consistent with the beliefs of Shakespeare’s day and reflect religious inconsistencies and contradictions of the newly Protestant England. It demonstrates the effects insanity can have. Ophelia’s suicide results directly from madness and indirectly from Hamlet and other characters; she seems simple on the surface, but Shakespeare gave her a very complex, emotional downfall.

Ultimately, Ophelia’s suicide
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Shakespeare acknowledges that her cause of death was only overlooked because of her station. Had she been poor, she would not have been allowed a Christian funeral or proper burial. Ophelia shows “a complex awareness of England’s medieval Catholic past” (Chapman 1) even after she goes mad, showing the influence religion has on the plot. The irony in Ophelia raving about medieval Catholic beliefs is that Renaissance England had been Protestant for about forty years when Hamlet was written. Shakespeare represents Ophelia with “allusions to medieval Catholic forms of piety” (Chapman 1) to further emphasize the idea of her insanity because his audience would have seen the Catholic faith as corrupt. In illustrating her insanity, Shakespeare makes sure that “Ophelia’s religious references are sometimes contradictory and cannot be assembled into a coherent, stable whole” (Chapman 2). The contradiction is complete when Ophelia commits suicide, which was seen as morally wrong by most faiths. She is a very complex character which is highlighted by all of the inconsistences in her morality. Though she seems simple, even Shakespeare’s audience would have been able to see the more complex side to her …show more content…
Hamlet, who had been contemplating suicide since the beginning of the play, introduces the topic of suicide. When he makes his famous “To be, or not to be” (Shakespeare 76) speech, he analyzes suicide. She may not have heard it, but Ophelia most likely got a sense of Hamlet’s emotions towards suicide, and they could be seen as having an effect on Ophelia, encouraging her self-destruction. Although Ophelia’s circumstances are somewhat different because she has gone mad, her death is still a definitive suicide. Suicide is self-inflicted and therefore cannot be caused by another person. Some say that Hamlet played the “part of Death

by unleashing the chain of deaths whose corpses litter the play” (Ghose 1004), and that Ophelia’s death is not actually suicide but was caused by Hamlet. Even though Ophelia’s madness was partly caused by Hamlet’s rejection and his debate over suicide, it had many factors. Hamlet did not actually hold Ophelia under the water. It was her decision in the end. A lot of the grief Ophelia felt came from Hamlet, who had such a major effect on her that he was a factor in her madness. Ultimately, he was an indirect, not direct cause of Ophelia’s

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