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Who Is Responsible for Ophelia’s Death?

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There are a variety of factors that can contribute to one’s demise. In the context of the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare many possibilities can be identified that pertain to Ophelia’s sudden death. Ophelia’s death was triggered by her mental breakdown due to the loss of her father. In the midst of her inner turmoil, her depression worsens as she learns that Hamlet, the man she loves departs to England. When she dies, Gertrude reports her death to Claudius and Laertes.

Gertrude, The Queen of Denmark, is responsible for Ophelia’s death.

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By looking at Gertrude’s over protective relationship with Hamlet, her lack of initiative on the situations around her in a time of tragedy, as well as her vivid account of Ophelia’s death, evidence that she is responsible for Ophelia’s death will be presented. Gertrude’s overprotective relationship with Hamlet serves as a motive to commit the crime against Ophelia. In the play, after a meeting with the state, Gertrude tells Hamlet to stop acting too dramatic, “Good Hamlet, cast thy knighted colour off,

And let thine eye look like a friend of Denmark; Do not for ever with thy vailed lids Seek for thy noble father in the dust; Thou know’st ‘tis common, all that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity.

” (Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 68-72) It is plausible to say that Gertrude likes taking control of her son’s life. She tells Hamlet to stop acting like a child and orders him to get over the tragedy of his father’s death. Since Gertrude is constantly controlling her son, it is likely that she is biased to the love affair between Hamlet and Ophelia.

As an overprotective mother, and current queen of Denmark at the time, it is possible that she disapproves of Ophelia simply because she is not of royal blood. As the plot of the play progresses, Ophelia eventually becomes deranged. A mother would disapprove of someone who is unstable to be her child’s lover. Likewise, Gertrude would disapprove of Ophelia to be her son’s lover because she is crazy. Gertrude could have caused Ophelia’s death to prevent her son to be with her. Her biased view on the love affair between Hamlet and Ophelia serves as her motive to commit the crime.

As well, when Polonius informs Claudius and Gertrude that he forbade his daughter to see Hamlet, they assumed that that is the real cause of Hamlet’s depression, “Which done, she took the fruits of my advice; And he, repelled, a short tale to make, Fell into sadness, then into a fast, Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness, Thence to lightness, and, by this declension, Into the madness wherein now he raves And all we mourn for. ” (Act II, Scene 2, Lines 145-151) Gertrude believes that Hamlet is depressed due to the fact that Polonius forbade Ophelia to see him.

However, love letters are still being sent between the two. As the mother of Hamlet, Gertrude’s legitimate motive would be to eliminate the bond between the two in order to cure his son’s depression. There is a famous saying that goes “Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned,” This being said, it is possible that Gertrude’s means of eliminating Ophelia is to a level of extreme due to the fact that she has faced tragedy. Since Gertrude is depressed and vulnerable due to the loss of her husband, it is possible that she killed Ophelia in an act of desperation to protect her son.

Gertrude is well aware that Polonius restricted Ophelia to see Hamlet. Given the tragic circumstances surrounding her, in order for her to alleviate Hamlet’s agony, she must break the bond between the two. Therefore, Gertrude is accusable for allegedly causing Ophelia’s death, even without criminal consciousness. Gertrude is also responsible for Hamlet’s departure to England when she informs Claudius about Polonius’ death, “To draw apart the body he hath killed, o’er whom his very madness, like some ore among a mineral of metals base, shows itself pure. He weeps for what is done. (Act IV, Scene 1, Lines 24-27) Polonius dies due to Hamlet’s deranged state of mind. Gertrude reports this to Claudius out of concern for her son. Therefore, Claudius sends Hamlet away to England. Hamlet’s departure is one of the main reasons of Ophellia’s break down. Gertrude’s decision to tell Claudius about her concern for her son allowed Claudius to take action and send Hamlet away. In turn, Ophelia, who is already depressed due to her father’s death, becomes even more heart broken when she is informed that her lover leaves town. Her unstable state of mind makes suicide a legitimate way to ease her burden.

If Gertrude was not too concerned for Hamlet, Hamlet could have stayed in Denmark, and Ophelia’s depression could have not worsened. Gertrude was also present during Polonius’ death. It is possible that her intention was to tell Claudius that Hamlet killed Polonius, knowing that he would take action by sending Hamlet away. Gertrude’s overprotective presence in her son’s life makes her motive to kill Ophelia clear and justifiable. Another example where Gertrude is responsible for Ophelia’s death is her lack of initiative on the situations surrounding her in the kingdom.

Before Claudius and Polonius spy on Hamlet and Ophelia, Claudius tells Gertrude to leave, “I shall obey you. And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish That your good beauties be the happy cause Of Hamlet’s wildness. So shall I hope your virtues Will bring him to his wonted way again, To both your honors. ” (Act III, Scene I, Lines37-42) Gertrude, who is well aware of Polonius and Claudius’ scheme to find out about Ophelia and Hamlet’s affair, did not interfere. In fact, by looking at her response, it is possible that she is faithful to Claudius, the man she married quickly after her husband died.

This suggests Gertrude’s timid and weak vulnerability on the presence of Claudius’ character in the play. If Gertrude was more skeptical and active about Claudius’ succession as King, she could have prevented a man, who is in fact a murderer, to have control over many social aspects in the kingdom such as nobles and courtiers. It is clear that Hamlet’s knowledge of the truth regarding the death of his father is what drives him to behave insanely. As a result of Gertrude’s reluctant effort to speculate Claudius’ rise to the throne, the death of her husband resulted to her son’s insanity. If Gertrude was more pessimistic on

Claudius, suspecting his motives to take the throne, then Hamlet could have avoided the irrational behavior that caused Polonius’ death and his departure to England. In turn, Ophelia could have avoided being depressed and suicidal. Since the scheme commenced without Gertrude’s interference, Ophelia became heart broken due to her conversation with Hamlet, where he insulted her. Heart break often leads to depression which eventually sums up to suicide. Gertrude is clearly responsible for Ophelia committing suicide because she could have prevented Polonius and Claudius’ scheme, or Claudius’ rise to king from the start.

Likewise, right before Hamlet kills Polonius, Gertrude tells Polonius to hide, “He will come straight. Look you lay home to him. Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with, and that your grace hath screened and stood between much heat and him. I’ll silence me even here. Pray you, be round with him. ”(Act III, Scene 4, Lines 1-4) Polonius tells Gertrude to take action towards her son in regards to his irrational behavior. It is clear that Gertrude has not been taking control of Hamlet. While Hamlet approaches the scene, she tells Polonius to hide in an act of desperation.

If Gertrude acts out of desperation, she clearly has no control over the current situations around her. As the penalty for her lack of initiative, Polonius dies. In turn, Polonius’ death is the start of Ophelia’s sorrow. Ophelia’s sorrow eventually leads to her death, which is suggested to be suicide. If Gertrude had more control over the situations around her, Polonius would have lived and Ophelia would have avoided the suffering of her father’s death. This would have prevented Ophelia from committing suicide. It is clear that Gertrude’s timid and weak nature is the cause of Ophelia’s death.

Gertrude’s interpretation of Ophelia’s death shows that she is responsible for her demise. When Claudius and Laertes plot their revenge against Hamlet, Gertrude enters, reporting Ophelia’s death, “There is a willow grows aslant a brook That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream. There with fantastic garlands did she come Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples, That liberal shepherds give a grosser name, But our cold maids do “dead men’s fingers” call them. There, on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke,

When down her weedy trophies and herself Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide, And mermaid-like a while they bore her up, Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds As one incapable of her own distress, Or like a creature native and indued Unto that element. But long it could not be Till that her garments, heavy with their drink, Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay To muddy death. ” (Act IV, Scene 7, Lines 167-184) Gertrude’s report on Ophelia’s death is very detailed and vivid. It is possible that she was even present in the occurrence when she describes the place.

In fact, she is very familiar with the setting of Ophelia’s death that she was able to describe every aspect of the place. Her detailed knowledge of the place where Ophelia died makes it plausible that she planned to kill Ophelia, knowing exactly where to do it. Moreover, she was very descriptive of Ophelia’s death when she knew every exact moment she was in danger. If Gertrude did not intend on committing the crime against Ophelia, then she is still responsible for her death due to the fact that she was merely an eyewitness.

She did not take the initiative to help Ophelia in her moment of peril. As well, during Hamlet’s encounter with the grave digger, Laertes orders the priest to lay Ophelia’s body in the grave, “Lay her i’ th’ earth, And from her fair and unpolluted flesh May violets spring! I tell thee, churlish priest, A ministering angel shall my sister be When thou liest howling. ” (Act V, Scene 1, Lines 239-243) A burial is set up in memory of Ophelia. However, the concept of a burial is that the body has to be present. This is hard to believe because Gertrude said that Ophelia drowned and was washed away.

It is very doubtful, in a time where technology is limited, that they were able to recover Ophelia’s corpse. If the body is present during the burial, then it is possible that Gertrude fabricated her report which stated that Ophelia drowned. If Gertrude lied, then it could be argued that she in fact had a motive to eliminate Ophelia. The fallacy of her report makes her accusable for the crime. Gertrude’s claim on Ophelia’s death due to the vividness of her report and the possibility of its fallacy creates many speculations on her character and solidifies her motive to commit the crime.

Gertrude is responsible for Ophelia’s death. Her overprotective relationship with her son, timid nature on the situations around her, as well as her descriptive account of Ophelia’s death makes her accusable for the crime. When looking at a situation through one point of view, it is possible for one to rely on inadequate factors that form the wrong verdict. It is when a situation is approached from all direction with an open mind that the right suspect can be rightfully accused so that the truth may be let out, and justice may prevail.

Cite this Who Is Responsible for Ophelia’s Death?

Who Is Responsible for Ophelia’s Death?. (2016, Oct 15). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/who-is-responsible-for-ophelias-death/

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