A list of all the characters in Hamlet
Your parents only wish they had a daughter like Ophelia. When her father orders her to quit seeing Hamlet, she agrees —"I shall obey my Lord" (1.3.145). Later, when Polonius uses her as bait to spy on Hamlet for King Claudius, she does exactly what she's told (3.1). As long as she's unmarried, she lives by her father's rules. (Of course, if she were to marry, she'd then have to live by her husband's rules.) Essentially, Ophelia has no control over her body, her relationships, or her choices.
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Hamlet's not the only one who defines Ophelia by her sexuality. Even her brother has something to say about it. In Act I, Laertes dispenses advice to Ophelia on the pitfalls of pre-marital sex (for women, not men) in a lengthy speech that's geared toward instilling a sense of "fear" into his sister. Just what you want to hear from your brother, right? In fact, he tells Ophelia three times that she should "fear" intimacy with Hamlet.
As A.C. Bradley points out, it all comes back to consequences. The consequence for Hamlet killing Claudius could very well be his own death. The consequence for taking his own life to escape his troubles could be even worse troubles in the next life. The irony of all this is that ultimately, the tragic consequences of Hamlet's inaction are the multiple unintended deaths he causes.
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To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of disprized love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
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Is Laertes just looking out for his little sister's best interests? Maybe, but his speech is also full of vivid innuendo, as when he compares intercourse to a "canker" worm invading and injuring a delicate flower before its buds, or "buttons" have had time to open (1.3.43; 44). This graphic allusion to the anatomy of female genitalia turns his sister into an erotic object while still insisting on Ophelia's chastity. Laertes takes a typically Elizabethan stance toward female sexuality —a "deflowered" woman was that no man would want to marry.
Compare and contrast Hamlet - Sample Essays - New York essay
But what's her recourse? ; she can't even go find herself In fact, her reputation depends on pretending that she never cared about his at all.