Shakespeare's Ophelia: Character & Quotes

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  • 0:00 Who Is Ophelia?
  • 0:20 Character
  • 1:55 Quotations
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shamekia Thomas

Shamekia has taught English at the secondary level and has her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Ophelia is one of the most important characters in William Shakespeare's play ''Hamlet.'' Learn more about Ophelia's character, learn about some of her most famous quotations from the play, and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Who Is Ophelia?

Ophelia is the daughter of Polonius, one of King Claudius' closest friends. She is described as a beautiful young woman, and she is also the love interest of the main character in the story Hamlet. Her love for Hamlet and her loyalty to her father creates friction and leads to tragedy in Ophelia's life.

Character

Ophelia is an important character in the play Hamlet because of her femininity and because she is a means for the main character of the play, Hamlet, to act out his aggression towards his mother. Ophelia is innocent and virtuous but is looked down upon by Hamlet, who had it in his mind that women pretended to be pure and good when they really were ruled by sexual desire and sexuality. At various points in the play, Hamlet is cruel and mean to Ophelia. Following the tragic death of her father, Ophelia is driven to insanity. After a series of odd statements and behaviors, she kills herself.

When Ophelia's father Polonius wants to help King Claudius discover what is wrong with Hamlet, he asks Ophelia to use her relationship with Hamlet to find out what is Hamlet's problem. Hamlet becomes very upset by Polonius's actions and Ophelia's willingness to have her nature and sexuality used for her father's purpose.

Contrary to Hamlet's view of her, Ophelia is good. She is a naïve girl who wants to please both her father and her boyfriend Hamlet. She behaves innocently and is not trying to use her feminine nature to deceive or control a man as Hamlet suspected. Ophelia is loyal to her father and brother who raised her. Both her father and her brother care for her deeply and try to protect her from harm. She believes that doing what they want her to do is in her best interest. Ophelia's father Polonius and her brother Laertes do not want her in a relationship with Hamlet, since they think he wants to use Ophelia for her body and has no desire to marry her.

Quotations

There are a few significant quotations in the play that represent Ophelia's character. The following quotations are some of the most popular spoken by or speaking to Ophelia.

Throughout the play, Ophelia does what her father asks of her without being disrespectful or disobedient. When her father asks her to end her relationship with Hamlet, she replies: 'I shall obey, my Lord.' She also obeys her father when he asks her to spy on Hamlet. Ophelia has no control over her own mind, body, or relationship; she trusts her father and respects and values his opinion. She does not think for herself, as represented in her statement: 'I do not know, my lord, what I should thinkā€¦'

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