Custom Term Papers: Hamlet’s Heroine, Ophelia

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Hamlet’s Heroine, Ophelia

In Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet there is, technically, no heroine. But the female character who comes closest to qualifying for the role is not Gertrude, whose sinful past precludes this, but rather Ophelia, the “universal victim” of the drama. She is truly a good, upright person although she is victimized by her father, brother and boyfriend.

Harry Levin, in the General Introduction to The Riverside Shakespeare, elaborates on the special kind of prose which the dramatist uses with Ophelia when she suffers her madness:

Though there is no invariable rule, the comic scenes are frequently in prose, whereas the tragic scenes are usually in verse. Yet some of the most tragic, notably Ophelia’s made scenes
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Hamlet laments the hasty remarriage of his mother to his father’s brother, an incestuous act; thus in his first soliloquy he cries out, “Frailty, thy name is woman!” Ophelia enters the play with her brother Laertes, who, in parting for school, bids her farewell and gives her advice regarding her relationship with Hamlet. Ophelia agrees to abide by the advice: “I shall the effect of this good lesson keep as watchman to my heart.” After Laertes’ departure, Polonius inquires of Ophelia concerning the “private time” which Hamlet spends with her. He dismisses Hamlet’s overtures as “Affection, puh!” Polonius considers Ophelia a “green girl,” incapable of recognizing true love: “These blazes . . . you must not take for fire.” He gets her assurance that she will not talk with Hamlet anymore.

When the ghost talks privately to Hamlet, he learns not only about the murder of his father, but also about the unfaithfulness and adultery of his mother. Gertrude was seduced by “that incestuous, that adulterate beast,/With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts” – Claudius himself – prior to his brother’s passing. “So lust, though to a radiant angel link'd,/Will sate itself in a celestial bed,/And prey on garbage.” In the mind of Hamlet, this drastically reduces the goodness of womankind generally. Hamlet chooses to use an “antic disposition” to disguise his actions as he maneuvers to

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