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Hamlet: An Examination of A Troubled Mind Part II

Updated on November 5, 2014

Ophelia and Hamlet

Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet and Kate Winslet as Ophelia in the 1996 film rendition of Hamlet
Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet and Kate Winslet as Ophelia in the 1996 film rendition of Hamlet | Source

This is a continuation of an examination essay of the mental character of Hamlet of William Shakespeare's famous tragedy Hamlet. You can read Part I Here

Characters of Hamlet

King Hamlet - the murdered King and young Hamlet's father
Queen Gertrude - King Hamlet's widow and mother to young Hamlet
King Claudius - the brother of King Hamlet who marries Gertrude
Hamlet - Prince of Denmark and "tragic hero"
Horatio - Hamlet's friend
Polonius - friend to the royal family, mostly Claudius
Ophelia - daughter of Polonius and Hamlet's lover
Laertes - son of Polonius

“More Matter with Less Art.” (II.ii.103)

As mentioned before, Hamlet had courted Ophelia, and she the object of his affections, thusly it was all too predictable that it would be her chambers to which he would find himself running after such a disturbing moment with the alleged spirit of his father. However, she recounted Hamlet’s visit to her chambers to her father, quite distressed. She said he acted oddly, all disheveled and without words, yet eying her longingly as he left.

Some speculate this as the premier of his act, while others consider that this is witness to the shaky nature which took hold of him after such a supernatural experience. Either way, the moment expresses particular peculiarity.

It had already been established in Act I that neither Polonius, Ophelia’s father, nor Laertes, her brother, approved of Hamlet’s interest in the maiden. This in itself holds true to a stranger nature.

Examining Ophelia’s character, she was a girl of noble birth, or so suggested by the close friendship her father held with King Claudius. It would seem to be the height of desire for a man to want his only daughter to marry into the royal family. With a father as conspiring as Polonius, who manipulates both of his children even while they travel to other countries, pushing her towards a prominent union would not seem out of character for him in the slightest. Yet, these desires, too, were retrograde to Polonius.

Why would Prince Hamlet not be an optimum suitor? Laertes warns Ophelia that the freedom of choosing his own bride is not up to Hamlet, yet with Polonius’s political standing with Claudius, had Polonius wanted it so, a marriage would have been granted. Even in Act V, at Ophelia’s funeral, Gertrude confesses that she should have liked to have had Ophelia as a daughter.

“I hoped though shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife;
I thought they bride-bed to have decked, sweet maid,
And not have strewed they grave.”

Given the blatantly close relationship Polonius had with the King and Queen, no doubt should have been in his mind that the marriage between his daughter and the prince would have been approved. It might be suspect that Polonius did not find Hamlet mentally sound enough to wed his daughter. Though, with only implications of the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia, we, the audience cannot know for how long their waltz lasted before it was halted, thus such speculations regarding whether the courting was condoned from the get-go by the family must remain vague musings.

Laertes Warns Ophelia

This continues on - Read Part III

Have a quick re-cap - Read Part I


Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Editor Mowat, Barbara A. and Werstine, Paul. New York, NY. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. 2012. Print.

Gerlach, Peter K. MSW. 30 April 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2014

Chen, Yi-Chi. Pregnant with Madness: Ophelia’s Struggle With Madness in Hamlet. Web. 15 Oct. 2014

Montgomery Byles, Joanna. Shakespeare and Psychoanalysis: Tragic Alternatives: Eros and the Superego Revenge in Hamlet. 25 Aug 2005. Web. 15 Oct 2014.

Noel, Brook. The Physical and Emotional Steps of Grief. 2003. Web. 15 Oct. 2014

Freud, Sigmund. On Repression in Hamlet. 1900. Web. 15 Oct 2014

Shakespeare and Freudian Theory Hamlet and Titus.

Clarke, Richard L. W.. Sigmund Freud: “Psychopathic Characteristics on Stage”.,PsychopathicCharactersontheStage.pdf. Web. 15 Oct 2014


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