Who Is Responsible for Ophelia's Death?

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There are a variety of factors that can contribute to one’s demise. In the context of the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare many possibilities can be identified that pertain to Ophelia’s sudden death. Ophelia’s death was triggered by her mental breakdown due to the loss of her father. In the midst of her inner turmoil, her depression worsens as she learns that Hamlet, the man she loves departs to England. When she dies, Gertrude reports her death to Claudius and Laertes. Gertrude, The Queen of Denmark, is responsible for Ophelia’s death. By looking at Gertrude’s over protective relationship with Hamlet, her lack of initiative on the situations around her in a time of tragedy, as well as her vivid account of Ophelia’s death, evidence that she is responsible for Ophelia’s death will be presented.

Gertrude’s overprotective relationship with Hamlet serves as a motive to commit the crime against Ophelia. In the play, after a meeting with the state, Gertrude tells Hamlet to stop acting too dramatic, “Good Hamlet, cast thy knighted colour off,

And let thine eye look like a friend of Denmark;
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust;
Thou know’st ‘tis common, all that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity.”
(Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 68-72)

It is plausible to say that Gertrude likes taking control of her son’s life. She tells Hamlet to stop acting like a child and orders him to get over the tragedy of his father’s death. Since Gertrude is constantly controlling her son, it is likely that she is biased to the love affair between Hamlet and Ophelia. As an overprotective mother, and current queen of Denmark at the time, it is possible that she disapproves of Ophelia simply because she is not of royal blood. As the plot of the play progresses, Ophelia eventually becomes deranged. A mother would disapprove of someone who is unstable to be her child’s lover. Likewise, Gertrude would disapprove of Ophelia to be her son’s lover because she is crazy. Gertrude could have caused Ophelia’s death to prevent her son to be with her. Her biased view on the love affair between Hamlet and Ophelia serves as her motive to commit the crime. As well, when Polonius informs Claudius and Gertrude that he forbade his daughter to see Hamlet, they assumed that that is the real cause of Hamlet’s depression, “Which done, she took the fruits of my advice;

And he, repelled, a short tale to make,
Fell into sadness, then into a fast,
Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness,
Thence to lightness, and, by this declension,
Into the madness wherein now he raves
And all we mourn for.”
(Act II, Scene 2, Lines 145-151)

Gertrude believes that Hamlet is depressed due to the fact that Polonius forbade Ophelia to see him. However, love letters are still being sent between the two. As the mother of Hamlet, Gertrude’s legitimate motive would be to eliminate the bond between the two in order to cure his son’s depression. There is a famous saying that goes “Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned,” This being said, it is possible that Gertrude’s means of eliminating Ophelia is to a level of extreme due to the fact that she has faced tragedy. Since Gertrude is depressed and vulnerable due to the loss of her husband, it is possible that she killed Ophelia in an act of desperation to protect her son. Gertrude is well aware that Polonius restricted Ophelia to see Hamlet. Given the tragic circumstances surrounding her, in order for her to alleviate Hamlet’s agony, she must break the bond between the two. Therefore, Gertrude is accusable for allegedly causing Ophelia’s death, even without criminal consciousness. Gertrude is also responsible for Hamlet’s departure to England when she informs Claudius about Polonius’ death, “To draw apart the body he...
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