Discuss the nature of hamlet and Ophelias relationship and how it could be displayed to an audience The relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia is extremely hard to read, they are seldom together and when they are, they are acting under the influence of others. In this essay I will discuss Hamlet and Ophelias relationship and the fact that I believe from the beginning of the play that there was no hope for the relationship to flourish. I think that the main downfall of their relationship was the outside influences that acted upon them and their union.
I also think that there were smaller contributing factors that I will also take into account. Hamlet and Ophelias relationship, to me, didn’t seem predominantly sexual, i think they had a genuine love for one another and making love is just a natural part of any healthy relationship. During discussion in class a lot of my peers thought that the relationship was completely sexual, I think that by watching the production we saw in Birmingham this was an easy assessment to make, as the director had Hamlet rape Ophelia in the scene in which Ophelia returns Hamlets letters.
I didn’t agree with this because Ophelia seems to me to be a very nai?? ve and innocent character, I believe this because Ophelia seems to need men to make all her decisions for her, the rape scene does emphasise the fact that men make all her decisions for her but I do not think that Hamlet would commit such an act. The way In which Ophelia is presented to the audience is very important to the way in which she is thought of by the audience, and indeed, how the relationship is thought of.
In each of the different productions we watched Ophelia was given very different characters, I thought that the mosy effective representation was in Zefferellis film, where Ophelia is presented to the audience as a shy young girl, I think this character fits in well with the lines she has, saying only things such as, ‘yes my lord’ showing that Ophelia rarely makes her own decisions. In the production we saw in Birmingham Ophelia was represented as a more modern woman I don’t think that a strong modern woman would let a man make her choices.
Branagh’s version worked to an extent, Ophelia seemed strong and silent out of choice, however when she was mad her actions didn’t really suit the character. Ophelia is not the only submissive woman in the play gurtrude is also, she does what Claudius tells her to, Hamlet sees this “Frailty, thy name is woman! ” he sees women as weak and maliable. I think one of the most influential things that broke down the relationship was Hamlets change in relationship with his mother.
This is because I didn’t only change the way he saw his mother, but the way he thought of women in general. Hamlet has been serverely disappointed by his mother. I think that this can be compared with modern divorces, hamlet probably took for granted the stability of his parents relationship, now that it has broken his philosophical nature begins to challenge not only how he views his mother and her attitudes towards love but women in general. This has a devastating effect on his relationship, and maybe his love, for Ophelia.
I think that Hamlet believes his mother is only interested in sex, her relationship with Claudius is presented as mainly sexual to an audience, this was highlighted in the Birmingham production where Gertrude and Claudius were presented gyrating on the floor and only stopped when walked in on by Polonius, I don’t think that they minded being walked in on, or perhaps even wanted to be seen. I think also part of hamlets newfound dislike for his mother has something to do with the eaidopus complex, I think this is intended as one of the themes running through the play is that of incest.
Hamlet highlights his thoughts about womens attitudes to sex when talking to Ophelia during the play scene he says, ‘did you think I meant country matters? ‘ in branaghs version he speaks unnecessarily loudly to Ophelia trying to draw as much attention as possible to the two of them, Ophelia seems to be trying to shut Hamlet up but to no avail. Hamlet looks to be trying to draw attention to women in general. I think this partularly effective because it shows a lot of how hamlet is feeling about his mother and it begins to show the turmoil in Ophelia’s mind.
Ophelia’s vulnerability and fact that she is easily influenced adds to the break down of their relationship, because she doesn’t seem to be able to make decisions for herself, when her brother is leaving for paris he warns her that hamlet is too high above her birth to give her honorability, this is referring to the difference in status between hamlet and Ophelia, this is another reason why the relationship could never work, Hamlet is a prince and Ophelia is only the daughter of the kings advisor, this in itself could have been the downfall of the relationship because Ophelia and Hamlet could never have been married, Ophelia, being duty bound to her family agrees to obey what her brother tells her. Polonius echoes this advice but in a much more sternly.
This interference inhibits the relationship from developing any further than it has, because she doesn’t want to embarrass her father (‘or you’ll render me a fool’ implying that they have consummated their relationship with sex) she is loyal to her family and perhaps in her heart even knows that she could never be married to Hamlet because of their differences in social class.
In act II scene 1 when hamlet accosts Ophelia, I think it seems that he is looking hard at Ophelia as if to see under her skin at her personality rather than at what she looks like, almost looking in desperate hope for some shred of decency in women. This obviously unnerves Ophelia, Hamlet perhaps does this because he’s trying so hard to pretend that he is mad, but also could possibly be because he genuinely is shocked to see her after she has stopped her relationship with him. This scene also shows Ophelias dependence on her father and that she has obeyed him and broken off their relationship.
I think the scene in which Ophelia returns Hamlets things is important, Hamlet tells Ophelia that he loved her once and also that he never loved her. I think this shows that Hamlets act of going mad is infecting him, actually slowly turning him mad. If I were directing this scene I would have Hamlet acting up to Polonius and Claudius, I think this scene is trying to prove to outsiders that they have done their job and ruined the relationship. Hamlet tells Ophelia to, ‘get thee to a nunnary’ this is referring to the impurity of women, but again how they are easily influenced by the men that are in their lives. Also that if she is in a nunnary she would have no chance to have sons.
This line, to me, refers more to Claudius, and perhaps that Hamlet blames his uncle for the corruption of his mother. If in this scene Hamlet is saying the opposite of what means, it is unnecessarily self destructive, he is ruining his relationship with Ophelia, but if he is being truthful then it makes him seem fickle and emotionally withdrawn.
Act III scene iv is significant to Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship because his attitude towards his mother is part of the breaking of their relationship, in Zeferellis version hamlet looks as if he is raping his mother, this again fits in with the theme of incest, he seems to be testing his mother, or even trying to prove her sin. When Ophelia is mad, a lot about her and Hamlets relationship comes to light.
It is only when Ophelia is mad that she really talks and is noticed round the castle, I think the best interpretation of Ophelia’s madness is in Zeferelis film, I find it the most touching way that she is presented to the audience and the way that she looks and acts makes a strong impact upon me. Ophelia says , ‘you promised me to wed… if I had not come to thy bed’ this shows that they have consummated their relationship, and also the way that Ophelia acts with the guard shows that she has sexual knowledge.
Because Ophelia has been abandoned by all the men that she depends on in her life, she truly has been driven mad, not only this but also the fact that Hamlet has killed her father. In conclusion I think that the way that zepherelli portrayed the relationship was the most effective, as Hamlet and Ophelia’s characters remained faithful the the Shakespearean text, and the time context working in the films favor.