Summary: Ophelia’s Character Development Throughout the Play

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In the play, “Hamlet,” by William Shakespeare, the characters are portrayed in various ways, each different from the last. Ophelia, who is Hamlet’s lover, is described as a young, sweet and innocent girl. Throughout the book, the audience observes how beautiful and happy Ophelia is, but overtime, her depression gets the best of her. Ophelia is a flower because flowers symbolize beauty and happiness, but slowly, they rot and die.

Ophelia is the daughter of Polonius, who is a close friend of King Claudius, but mainly, she is seen as Hamlet’s love interest. Their relationship started off normal, but when Hamlet began to lose his mind, he pushed Ophelia away, which affected her negatively and ultimately led to the tragedy of her death. She can be compared to a flower because a flower starts off as a seed and grows into something beautiful, but overtime, it slowly withers away and dies. Ophelia’s relationship started off as pure and natural, but it was due to that same relationship that she took her life away. In Act IV scene V, Ophelia sings strange songs and she seems to have gone mad. She is not in the right mindset because Hamlet abandoned her and her father died. These events add onto each other and lead to her demise. Ophelia can be compared to a flower because both Ophelia and a flower decay slowly. A flower, when taken care of properly, will last for a while, but when it is ignored and disregarded, it will die.

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Ophelia’s father’s death also impacted her greatly because when he died, she began acting more insane. She sings, “His beard as white as snow/ All flaxen was his poll”. When she says the second part of the quote, she is indicating a grayed or white head of hair, which proves she is speaking of her father. She is distraught at the fact that her own lover killed her father. She feels betrayed, hurt, and confused because two very important men in her life are gone, and with her brother overseas, she has no one to turn to. The combination of Hamlet’s actions and her father’s death sends Ophelia into a deeper greif. As these events pile onto each other, they are taking a toll on her slowly and eventually she kills herself. A typical bouquet of flowers would normally last up to two weeks, when taken care of, but when it is lacking something essential like water, for instance, it will only live for two to four days. Ophelia was missing two important things from her life: one which was her father and the other was Hamlet. If these did not impact her so roughly, she would have had a long life ahead of her, but because it did, she died like a flower without water.

When Ophelia dies, she dies gracefully, with flowers and garlands surrounding her in a river. Ophelia commits suicide but Gertrude reports that she fell into the stream as she was hanging pretty garlands on a flimsy branch and drowned. Even when she is dead, she is surrounded by the beauty of flowers, which represent her innocence. When flowers die, their beauty is always remembered, even though they have come a long way from where they started. This is just like Ophelia because at her funeral, no one brought up her madness, but instead they remembered her for being that once young, innocent and sweet girl who had fallen in love with hamlet. Gertrude even leans in and whispers that she wished it was her who would have wedded her son, Hamlet.

Throughout the play, the audience is shown Ophelia’s character development by how much she changed from the beginning of the book to the end. She started as an innocent young girl, but because of her father’s death and her broken heart, she is led to her own demise. Ophelia can be compared to a flower because overtime, her mindset withers and she slowly rots when she gets more depressed due to the current events taking place in her life.  

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