Ophelia is introduced to the audience as naive young girl hopelessly submerged in affection for her beloved Hamlet, the son of the former king. She is the daughter of the current king’s most trust advisor, Polonius. Ophelia’s first plank of madness is laid with the departure of her brother for France. This early “loss” of a loved one is similar in many ways that Hamlet’s father is also gone. However both Laertes and Hamlet Sr. inevitably return.
Ophelia is a crutch to Hamlet, a living symbolic representation of Hamlet’s emotions much in the same way that ancient Greek stories used a chorus. Ophelia is the one woman chorus of Hamlet (the play and character both), a fact which makes her one of the most elementally affluent of Shakespeare’s characters in a literary sense. In his play, Hamlet, William Shakespeare uses his character Ophelia’s descent into madness as a parallel guiding complement to the main character’s own insanity; a form of “railroad track” for the train wreck that is Hamlet.
Ophelia: “O, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown! The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s, eye, tongue, sword, The expectancy and rose of the fair state, The glass of fashion and the mould of form, The observed of all observers, quite, quite down! ” (55) Ophelia is distraught to the state to which Hamlet has become. She decries upon him that he, as the prince, was the role model for all of Denmark, someone to look up. The fact that that person has in her mind gone psycho, obsessed with a mad revenge whose carrier she cannot love, destroys her.
Her collapse because of an idol she once cherished is a mirror reflection of the dependency of Hamlet upon Ophelia herself, as well as his own idealistic worship of his father in a similar manner. Ophelia and Hamlet’s love for each other represents the solid elasticity that holds all of the other characters and all of Denmark together. When this love starts to wither, so does situation. They are together a double edged sword, with Ophelia dragging down Hamlet with her while he is a lead anchor, suffocating and drowning her. I loved Ophelia, forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, Make up my sum. ” (108) Hamlet’s obsession for understanding is matched only Ophelia’s desire to understand him. Ophelia plays a key role in being the main point holding together his vast array of emotions. With her loss, he succumbs to those emotions and quite literally explodes. Ophelia is in many ways the reflection of Hamlet’s emotions, she also is the embodiment of his contrasts. These contrasts are Hamlet’s desires, the things that he desperately needs and what keeps him living.
Ophelia is the coal to his train (of thought), something which Ophelia does not always feel the same about him. “Hamlet: Lady, shall I lie in your lap? Ophelia: No, my lord. Hamlet: I mean, my head upon your lap? Ophelia: Ay, my lord. Hamlet: Do you think I meant country matters? ” (60) As the story progresses Ophelia realizes that the man she loved has gone through a transformation. He is no the longer the same person. In frustration and despair, she effectively puts her foot down, a brake, by what most readers believe to be suicide.
As she, the tracks, tear themselves apart, the train that is Hamlets goes careening off down the middle to destruction, a ten pounder flying down the bowling lane determined to knock down all pins: his adversaries and friends. Ophelia was the crucial point that held together all that was Hamlet; with her death, so was sealed the fate of every other character. From the beginning of the play it was evident that Ophelia wore the metaphorical “pants” of their relationship.
Hamlet, in his despair over his mother’s betrayal and his father’s death, cared little to dispute Ophelia’s strong willed personality as well her comfort with getting what she desires. All this changed with the coming of his father’s ghost, changing Hamlet into a medium of hatred and envy. Ophelia could not adapt to this change and thus she, as the foundation, crumbled. Hamlet became entirely consumed by these ravages, a whirlwind of death-wielding cunning that ended the play in a way that lives up to Shakespeare’s infamous range of conclusions.