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Who Is the More Tragic Figure in Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Hamlet or Ophelia?

  • Date Submitted: 11/23/2012 06:54 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 50 
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Who is the more tragic figure in Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Hamlet or Ophelia?



Ophelia is a simply depicted character whose main plot functions are to be Hamlet's long-standing girlfriend and to suffer greatly and eventually die because of the corruption in Denmark. The daughter of Polonius and brother of Laertes, she is also an obedient and tender-hearted young lady who willingly obeys her father even when it means being separated from Hamlet, her true love. Ophelia is characterized by simplicity, innocence, faithfulness, honesty, and a total lack of deceit. Furthermore, her purity is symbolized by flowers, especially by the violets, that are so much a part of her being that resonate her characteristics which yield to the reader. 
Ophelia is portrayed as a weak character. Although her love for Hamlet is genuine and absolute, when her father and brother demand that she separate herself from Hamlet, she does not have the strength of character to stand up to them. In turn, she becomes a helpless pawn, used by her foolish father and the scheming Claudius to test the truthfulness of Hamlet's madness. When Hamlet speaks rudely to her, she dissolves into tears, unable to control her emotion. After her father's death, she breaks down under the strain and becomes truly mad. She dies, probably through intentional suicide, when she falls into the river and drowns. 

      Through Ophelia we witness Hamlet's evolution, or de-evolution into a man convinced that all women are dishonest; that the women who seem most pure are inside black with corruption and sexual desire. And if women are harlots, then they must have their procurers. Gertrude has been made a whore by Claudius, and Ophelia has been made dishonest by her father. In Act II, Polonius makes arrangements to use the alluring Ophelia to discover why Hamlet is behaving so curiously. Hamlet is not in the room but it seems obvious from the following lines that he has overheard Polonius trying to use his daughter's...

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