Ophelia's Life and the Role of Women in Shakespearean Literature

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Ophelia’s life and the role of women in Shakespearean Literature By Lucerito Nicol Farías Medina and María Elizabeth Villablanca Fuenzalida

Many people tend to standardize William Shakespeare as misogynist, a person whose hate towards women is incredibly high, but we tend to forget where he lived or how he was educated. Living in the era he lived, he could not understand what his words towards women mean today, though many experts have said that he was far from that. Shakespeare uses the ambivalence of women, they are both demon and angel, they are good and evil, they destroy the hero but at the same time they put them back together. One of the main examples of this is the reaction Hamlet has when he’s near Ophelia; he’s actually around her when he pronounces the famous “To be or not to be, that is the question” quotation, another example in this is the reaction Romeo has towards Juliet, in some point of view, she destroys him, if Romeo hadn’t met Juliet he wouldn’t have died, but at the same time she saved him, it they hadn’t met each other he wouldn’t have known what true passion and true love was. In Othello, Desdemona broke him when Lago told him she was being unfaithful, but at the very end when Othello killed her beloved one he realized she was innocent and he was set free of the ‘spell’ Lago put in him. In a winter’s tale we can see how Hermione’s unfaithfulness sent the King Leonte to ‘madness’ and at the very end, his daughter, Perdita, fixed his broken relationship and set him free from a promise he made to the gods. In further analysis of Hamlet, we see Ophelia as a secondary character, who has nearly no importance in Hamlet’s plot, however, we forget that she’s the sanity in Hamlet, when our hero is near her, he can be himself. He actually starts plotting revenge against his uncle in the presence of Ophelia.

When we first start reading Shakespeare, we see him as a man who kinds of adore women, but always puts them as a second best, nor Ophelia or Juliet or Beatrice, were the main characters in his plays, however he always portrayed them as strong and outspoken[1], one example of this, is Juliet whose love was stronger than her will of obedience towards her father, Shakespeare’s Juliet is a headstrong and intelligent character despite her young age. We also have Beatrice, a secondary character whose wit and candor, combined with her vulnerability makes her a very attractive and strong women. Some people may think that Ophelia is a weak an lame excuse of a woman, thanks to her madness and final ‘suicide’ what we don’t tend to see is how strong she is. In some point of the story she’s the bridge Hamlet has to real life. We see this, at the very end of the story, after Ophelia’s death, the prince of Denmark confronts Laertes, Ophelia’s brother when he forbids him holding her “I loved Ophelia: forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum”[2] From our point of view, the development of Ophelia’s character is what Hamlet could be if he was sane, but wasn’t, she’s a special symbol in Shakespeare’s play.

Ophelia’s Life

Ophelia’s first appearance in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, she’s seen with her brother, Laertes who’s leaving for France. He warns her that Hamlet, the one she loves cannot marry her. Polonius, her father listens to the siblings’ conversation and also forbids her to pursue the prince of Denmark, whom he thinks does not deserve the pureness of her daughter. In Ophelia’s next appearance she tells her husband that the prince rushed into her room looking crazy and Polonious concludes that it wasn’t right to forbid his daughter to see Hamlet. He goes immediately to speak to the king and they create a plan for Hamlet not to see Ophelia. The plan ends up when Hamlet enters the room, in a different world from the others, and says his "To be or not to be”[3] quote. Hamlet approaches Ophelia and talks to her. He tells her "get to a...
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