The True Tragedy

In class we were discussing how the tragedy seems to ultimately fall on Ophelia more so than Hamlet. I agree with this notion and think of Ophelia as a tragic hero, and her tragic flaw is loving too much. She loves her father and loves Hamlet and is constantly torn between what she should do, and her emotions are being played like a puppet. In 2.1.108, she says to her father, “No, my good lord. But as you did command/I did repel his fetters and denied/His access to me.” about Hamlet. Then she is basically blamed for causing Hamlet to go crazy.  We see the most memorable interaction between Hamlet and Ophelia in Act III where Hamlet proves his insanity by constantly contradicting himself. He has the nerve to say to her: “Or, if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool; for wise men/know well enough what monsters you make of them. To/a nunnery, go; and quickly too. Farewell. (3.1.138-40) probably because he is mad at her for denying him first, and is now denying her as well as just outright insulting her. He takes out his rage towards his mother on her and she still has so much love for him. I think that the idea that Ophelia “makes monsters out of men” is so ridiculous, and if anything the men in this play were the monsters already and they tried to change Ophelia, but she still had so much love for them. This line obviously suggests much more and has a multitude of meanings because Shakespeare is a master of double entendre. It suggests that Ophelia is capable of many things: giving birth and being a sexual person, and also influencing a man. Ophelia faces the loss of a parent just as Hamlet does and sings a crazy song, which is possibly about her sexuality, before choosing to take her own life. “Then up he rose, and donn’d his clothes,/And dupp’d the chamber-door; /Let in the maid, that out a maid/Never departed more. “(4.5.50-3) It seems like the true tragedy of this play is unfulfilled desire. We discussed how this line from Ophelia’s song could be in fact implying that she did have sex with Hamlet, but in my opinion she is talking about how he invaded her mind and her feelings and it was not actually literal. Ophelia dies with her love unfulfilled.


2 thoughts on “The True Tragedy

  1. Marie

    I enjoyed reading your words because they explored the ways in which Ophelia’s death was caused by her fatal flaw. Loving beyond compassion for herself led to her tragedy — and this helped me form a clearer series of questions…
    Does Ophelia kill herself because of her madness? Even if she did not kill herself and instead died thoughtlessly because her garlands happened to get stuck in the water… her death is a direct result of Hamlet’s actions… so then…
    Is she dead because of her love for Hamlet? Or dead because of his actions? In other words… did her love for him cause her death? Is she changed from JUST her father’s death… or her father’s death caused specifically by her lover?
    While writing my blog I thought about the underlying motif for Ophelia’s death and if it was the love Hamlet and Ophelia possibly had for each other. I now wonder if they really did love each other… her songs are an interesting point to bring up. Either way — if they did physically love or mentally love — the effect he had on her rages obvious through her words. The definition of REAL love is perhaps subjective, but in this play… the tragic ending of Ophelia is caused by a man who claimed to love her.

  2. Margaret Hack

    I agree that the tragic aspect of Ophelia’s death is that she and Hamlet actually did love each other, and yet they both denied each other. Ophelia, however, chose to show greater love for her father and brother by denying Hamlet – not that she is totally to blame because she probably would’ve been a complete outcast if she denied her father’s wishes in those days (we saw what happened to Desdemona). Even though she didn’t get to love Hamlet like she should have, she still died having been loved by her father and brother (who was still alive) – maybe a slightly more peaceful way than Hamlet died.


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