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Social Research Essay: Analyzing and Exploring Ophelia’s Suicide


Task: Choose one of the following essay prompts and create a 1000 word, 5 paragraph essay. Type essay in MLA format. In-text citations and a Works Cited page must be included. Also, your essay must have a thesis, topic sentences, and strong support and details. Essay must be written in 3rd person only.

1. Starting with Hamlet’s advice to the players, discuss the art of acting on a stage with respect to action in the world of human affairs. How does the artifice of theater reveal truth?
2. Discuss the role and impact of madness in the play. Is Hamlet culpable for the death of Polonius? In playing madness, does Hamlet, in fact, become mad?
3. Discuss the role of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. To what extent does their goal to pluck out Hamlet’s mystery equate to the aims of literary criticism?
4. What language do Hamlet and other characters use to establish the world of Elsinore in the play’s opening three scenes?
5. Explore Ophelia’s suicide and its connection to conceptions of virginity and honor / shame.


The provided essay is about analyzing and exploring the Ophelia’s suicide and its connection to the conceptions of virginity and honor/shame.It aims to consider several viewpoints and perspectives on the suicide of Ophelia, with its correlation to the notion of honor, shame and virginity. The thesis statement of the essay is that Ophelia committed suicide due to male manipulation, her lost virginity and shame because of her father’s death.

Ophelia character
One of the most iconic and classic heroines of William Shakespeare is the catastrophic noblewomen ‘Ophelia’, whose dive into despair and insanity has become an archetypical portrayal of romantic suicide.Ophelia is known as the insane character of the title role. Beliefs have been made that she committed suicide by drowning herself in the river (Wong, 88).The understanding of character of Ophelia comprise of a women who became mentally ill because of her father, his death and the matters of hatred by Hamlet. On the other hand, regardless of her support for the play, her death has been subjected to various conceptions and criticism i.e. honor, shame and virginity (Heijes, 111-114). A one and only physical value and tradable asset of a female is her virginity. Being silent, sincere and chaste ensures a positive image of a female in a society. Behaving, speaking or acting in a manner that breaches these provided edicts were assessed abnormal and unaccepted, which is guarantee of blame as well as share. A virginity of women was her only commodity and by losing it, it means losing the overall power of trading, losing the ability of marriage and the likelihood to live a respectable life(Soto-Rincónet al, 828-831). By stating ‘you honor’, the responsibility has been placed by Polonius on the shoulders of Ophelia at the same time reminding her that she an object and is anticipated to behave as such.

Ophelia’s suicide connection to virginity
One of the major reasons behind the suicide of Ophelia is that she was buried in several symbolism layers in regards with her virginity. Moreover, there is a scale of uncertainty on if or if not she has sexual relation with Hamlet and besides they had or not, it completely affected their relationship. She lived in the patriarchal society which made conception that she subjugated herself to her brother and father and has fell in love with Hamlet (Nielsen, 8). Additionally, there was a powerful evidence that she and hamlet has sexual intercourse. Since, restricted by the manipulating society mores, she has involved in a willful act that ruined her family. It has been held that the world of Ophelia was been dominated by men, she was not able to adhere to their wills, and was not capable to assert her own. Therefore, she died as there was no existence of selfhood. In view of the same, Ophelia did not have any female alliance that might help her from the male warden’s blindness. She did not acted cleverly for rationalizing her conduct; her life became worthless, as she was accused of violating the code of ethics (Brataas, 3-21).

Ophelia’s suicide connection to honor/shame
It has been conceptualized that Ophelia did suicide for noble rationales which comes up with the dilemma of from whom is she defending her virginity. Further, this question results into various options; every option has its own undefined evidence (Perni, 503-514). There is one interpretation that honor was been protected by Ophelia from Hamlet, as murder of her father was done by Hamlet only and that integrated with the apparent insanity of Hamlet, suggesting that he is mentally not stable. She has a solid fear that the sexual intercourse would directly result into eventual despair and depression. She makes decision on suicide, and thought to destroy her polluted body, as a mere means to reproduce her lost honor. With Ophelia, her ultimate death is securing herself from this betrayal.

Ophelia death as a passive act
The death of Ophelia represent a passive life spent bearing the manipulation of Hamlet and the limitation enforced by those around her, at the same time having struggle to maintain the ending piece of her dignity. It can be stated that her perceptible suicide signify a desire of taking control of her life for once(Loomba and Sanchez, 181-200). She would have reasoned through her problem, however, caught as she is stuck between restrictive instructions of her father as well as brother and the devastating demands of Hamlet (Raffield, 179-181). She has no option but to jump into the river to drown till death. It can be asserted that living life with no honor is a misfortune, even more severe as compared to death. Further, this is true in the case of Ophelia, her apathetic response to her drowning reveals that she was never able to have control of her life, she was only expected to adhere to the expectation placed by others. Arguable, the death of Ophelia is more of an honorable one, classified by her desire to let herself go out of submission and end her life of a victim. The accidental drowning of Ophelia reflects that she was a sufferer of circumstances among individuals who tend to place dominance and manipulation over her (BevingtonandBevington, 329-348). Figuring out her death is seen as surrender to the gravity pull which also registers as a complete acceptance of all forces, significance, and happening via the means of her body. The main issue is the representation of changes of Ophelia on an independent basis, for it is based on conduct towards women and craziness (Hawkins, 1-7). The image of Ophelia has been deconstructed by Showalter as a sole perception and virginal ideals. Further, the action of killing oneself to secure virginity was recognized as a heroic deed, and action of martyrdom which was eventual sacrifice in the name of devotion (Walkling, 161-172).

At the core, the suicide of Ophelia is an act with several nuanced conceptions and consequences. The fact cannot be denied that the result of the entire play hangs her to the death. The drowning of Ophelia is seen as a passive action by a women being unable for her own distress..Therefore, the circulation of debate around the virginity and suicide of Ophelia is not considered as a meaningless cycle; however it requires that one does not feel into the similar trap as Laertes did, and creates conclusions on the basis of assumptions.

Bevington, David, and Stephen Bevington. "Sweet Swan of Avon: Rivers in Shakespeare." SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 59.2 (2019): 329-348.
Brataas, Delilah Bermudez. "The Shadow’s Shadow, or Gendered Ambition in Asta Nielsen’s 1921 Hamlet." Cahiers Élisabéthains 98.1 (2019): 3-21.
Hawkins, Rowena. "Review of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (directed by Joyce Branagh); Hamlet (directed by Damian Cruden); Henry V (directed by Gemma Fairlie); and The Tempest (directed by Philip Franks), for Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, at Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, York, 23 and 24 August 2019." Shakespeare (2019): 1-7.
Heijes, Coen. "Play review: Hamlet." (2018): 111-114.

Loomba, Ania, and Melissa E. Sanchez. "Gertrude/Ophelia: Feminist Intermediality, Ekphrasis, and Tenderness in Hamlet." Rethinking Feminism in Early Modern Studies.Routledge, 2016.181-200.

Nielsen, Jacob K. "Beyond Reason: Ophelia's Quest for Truth." Criterion: A Journal of Literary Criticism 9.2 (2016): 8.
Perni, Remedios. "Ana and Mia: Ophelia on the Web." Shakespeare Quarterly 67.4 (2016): 503-514.
Raffield, Paul. "Forensic Shakespeare, by Quentin Skinner." (2016): 179-181.
Soto-Rincón, Carlos A., et al. "The poor insane Ophelia: reconsidering Ophelia syndrome." Arquivos de Neuro-Psiquiatria 77.11 (2019): 828-831.
Walkling, Saffron Vickers. "Ophelia’s terror: Anatomising the figure of the female suicide bomber in The Al-Hamlet Summit." Cahiers Élisabéthains 99.1 (2019): 161-172.
Wong, Harley. "The Murder of Ophelia." Prized Writing (2016): 88.


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