Carolina Day School

Honors Papers 2021-22

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Shah 1 Kirina Shah Ms. Sims AP English Literature 17 December 2020 Ophelia as a Force of Female Opposition in Hamlet During the Elizabethan period, the role of women in society was extremely limited. Elizabethans had very clear expectations for gender roles and a woman went from her father's home to her husband's home and the rest of her life were dedicated to her husband, children, and domestic duties. Despite her high social class, Hamlet's Ophelia is no exception. Her main role in the play revolves around her relationship with three men. The male characters in Shakespeare have a limited perception of the female characters. To her father and brother, Ophelia is the eternal virgin, a dutiful young woman who will soon become a wife and mother. To Hamlet, she is a sexual object, someone he can easily manipulate and toy with. Ophelia, despite seeming like a one-dimensional character in Shakespeares' Hamlet, stands as a symbol of female opposition to male dominance as seen through the relationships with her father, Polonius, her brother, Laertes, and Hamlet, her lover. At the surface, there seems nothing dysfunctional about the relationship between Ophelia and her father, Polonius. Polonius is extremely protective of his daughter, oftentimes crossing the line between puppeteer and caring parent. For example, he uses his children as pawns to confirm his suspicions about Hamlet. Polonius sends Ophelia to spy on Hamlet, telling her to "Read on this book/that show of such an exercise may color/your loneliness" (3.1.43-45). He orders her to read a book in order to appear natural and to engage Hamlet in conversation. Polonius' stake in the Danish court is of utmost importance to him. He is constantly trying to advance his position

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