Ophelia's Weakness

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In classic works of literature, all characters have certain flaws, and Shakespeare's tragedies' characters in particular have faults that ultimately lead to their ruination. In Hamlet, Ophelia's flaws eventually kill her. In the beginning of the play, it is clear through her thoughts and actions that that Ophelia is an obedient person. But upon closer inspection, the audience can see that she is not merely an obedient, but completely dependent and weak character. In fact, her needy nature is unmistakable from the beginning. OPH: "I do not know, my lord, what I should think." POL: "Marry, I will teach you. Think yourself a baby…" (Act I, Scene III, lines 105-106) Her cruel clashings with Hamlet, which go against her feelings for him, demonstrate her absolute obedience to her father. For example, from the start Ophelia told her father that she is fond of Hamlet: "My lord, he hath importuned me with love / In honorable fashion." (Act I, Scene IV, lines 111-112) In relating this to Polonius, she implies that Hamlet is a decent and honorable man, and that she does have feelings for him. Ophelia's later actions sacrifice these personal feelings by order of her father, proving her total submission to his authority. Ophelia specifically agrees with her father not to see Hamlet again: "I shall obey, my lord…" (Act I, Scene IV, line 136) This shows that Polonius has complete control over his daughter, with her desire to please her father as the direct cause. Ophelia has an innate desire to please others, even if it means forfeiting her own feelings, and her obedience apparently springs from this. However, I wonder if Ophelia's drastic actions stem from something other than obedience-- such as her character. Her compliance seems to go deeper than her trying to please her father, and her thoughts and actions show what a weak character she really is. For instance, when Hamlet bullies her and tells her to retreat to a nunnery where she could no...
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