Hamlet Speech Analysis: Ophelia's Madness

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Hamlet Speech Analysis: Ophelia’s Madness Shakespeare often uses the female characters in his tragedies to represent weak women who refrain from taking control over the aspects of their lives. Their inevitable ultimate demise sends a very clear message that the only power a woman holds is that which she takes for herself. However, in his play, Hamlet, Shakespeare presents a slightly different view of the female victim. Through the character Ophelia’s fall into madness, it can be inferred that in madness one loses all consideration of proper decorum and is resultantly unafraid to expose the unfortunate reality of those who are victimized by the royalty of the time.
Ophelia’s fit of insanity is the direct result of her emotional and mental
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Though she has been deemed ‘mad’, Ophelia is now free to speak her mind about the role the patriarchy has played in her life. She spares no room for speculation, singing, “Quoth she, ‘Before you tumbled me/ You promised me to wed.’/ ‘So would I ‘a’ done, by yonder sun/ And thou hadst not come to my bed.’” (Ham. 4.5.62-66). Although this would be a damning thing to say, as it could be construed as admitting to an affair with Hamlet, by having Ophelia sing these songs Shakespeare very bluntly conveys his disapproval of young men such as Hamlet’s heinous actions involving women. Ophelia blatantly expresses her frustration with Hamlet by exclaiming, “Young men will do’t, if they come to’t/ by Cock, they are to blame,” (Ham. 4.5.60-61). As Shakespeare often does, he has veiled extremely critical commentary with the ramblings of a mad woman who has been stricken by grief. Through Ophelia’s loss of sanity she also loses any care for keeping hush about the unfairness of her predicament, and she subsequently states the actions of her peers exactly as they are. At one moment she addresses Claudius in a simultaneously cryptic and straightforward comment: “Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be,” (Ham. 4.5.43-44). Ophelia is acknowledging that she has changed in ways she could not have predicted, but…show more content…
Once she slips into madness, her words become much bolder and charged with a point to make about her position. Shakespeare’s crafting of Ophelia’s psychosis challenges the audience to contemplate what is truly recognizable as ‘madness’, and what is actually the transformation through emotional trauma of a weak and complacent girl into a powerful woman who is willing to expose those who have wronged her, even at her own social

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