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Research Papers on Ophelia in Hamlet

Research papers on Ophelia discuss this important character in Hamlet. Get literature help from our Master literary writers on Shakespeare and the themes within Hamlet that apply to Ophelia.

The character of Ophelia in the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare enters the play as an innocent sweet beauty.  Under the course of the tragedy’s events, Ophelia is transformed into a foolish game playing woman, no longer worthy of any man’s attentions.  Ophelia is controlled too much by her father.  When her father relays to Ophelia that Hamlet is only interested in her for seduction, she accepts his notion and refuses his professions of love.  It is only reinforced when her brother seconds his beliefs.  This ultimately causes Ophelia’s tragic fate.

Ophelia in HamletLike Hamlet, Ophelia is motivated, at least in part, by the wrongful death of her father. 

  • Polonius, in death, plays no direct role in the drama – no ghost comes visiting. 
  • And while Ophelia’s suicide is not part of the supernatural elements in Hamlet in the sense of involving visitors from beyond the grave, it is far from naturalistic. 
  • In both action and language, Ophelia’s descent into madness and eventual suicide are, in a way, as supernatural as Hamlet’s experience with the ghost of his father.

Ophelia is quite clearly mad after her father’s murder and her eventual suicide. She cannot communicate clearly, and must do so almost exclusively in metaphor and song.  In this we can see an extreme case of the incoherence of expression that is also reflected in Hamlet’s reaction to the spirit of his father.  And while we do not witness Ophelia’s suicide, its otherworldly nature is made clear in Gertrude’s description of it.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare more or less drops various hints at the tragedy that is yet to befall Ophelia. By revealing that Hamlet is consumed by revenge for any person who wrongs him, it is conceivable to the audience that Ophelia will be no different. The love triangle involving Ophelia in Hamlet is characterized by the clash between the protective, sheltering love of her brother Laertes and the romantic but conflicted love of Hamlet. Early on Laertes warns Ophelia about the insincerity of Hamlet’s attentions. There is some controversy over the interpretation, but a convincing case has been made that the warning is essentially “that as a young man’s body . . . grows stronger, the ability of his mind and soul to control the body and its desires becomes less strong,”. Laertes may have been wrong about Hamlet’s sincerity, though his description of psychological weakness is apt.

The relationship of Ophelia and Hamlet comes to a tragic end, though not directly as a result of their love. Hamlet’s killing her father Polonius by mistake, thinking him Claudius, drives her mad and leads to her death. The story of their love is tragic, though in a sense it is not a tragic love given that other, preexisting factors are implicated in the ruin to which it comes

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