Hamlet, Analysis by P.H.,
Act IV, Ophelia's death


One woe doth tread upon another's heel,

So fast they follow; your sister's drown'd, Laertes.


Drown'd! O, where?


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 crow-flowers, 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 pendent 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, awhile they bore her up:

Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;

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,

Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay

To muddy death.

Ophelia's character is nebulous at best. This quality was evident in the nature of her death. Gertrude, when reporting her death, said that she appeared at home in the water in which she drowned, as if it was where she belonged. She is fluid, intangible, insubstantial. Ophelia, like water, is without definite shape. Although the audience never experiences it, there must be a reason why Hamlet considers her a worthwhile companion, assuming that he does in fact have genuine feelings for her. We don't have a clear idea of who she is. Water takes the shape of its container. Polonius and Claudius are her first and foremost containers. She is under their authority and so takes the shape of their bidding, spurning Hamlet at their command. As is visible, she has difficulty not shifting her loyalty when with Hamlet and therefore in his container. It may then be assumed that if she were to be alone with him, her loyalty would switch over to Hamlet. However, it's difficult to assume anything about Ophelia or the nature of her relationship with Hamlet. Being a less-than-solid character, Ophelia, like water, slips through analytical fingers and eludes interpretation

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