Despite the fact that few women of Shakespeare’s age had rights or social power, Shakespeare gravitated towards writing strong, developed, and empowered women, the writer seemingly having a modern opinion of the female sex. However, Ophelia from Hamlet, is often criticized for not being able to think for herself and her eventual decline into madness. Critics generally perceive her as weak and baseless. The criticism of Ophelia is so strong that there’s even a condition named after her called the Ophelia Syndrome, where a person relies upon another’s thoughts and opinions to form their own action.
Based strictly on the script, her role in the story and relationship with other characters, particularly Hamlet, come off as ambiguous. Her obedience to her father makes her seem passive, and whether or not Hamlet truly cares for her is unclear. Truly, the text is open for interpretation on Ophelia’s function and character.
What do you think Ophelia’s role in the story of Hamlet is? Do you think she is a strong, independent character or a weak one who solely does what she is told? Did Hamlet just string her along or did he truly care for her?
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