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Hamlet: Ophelia's Death

Hamlet: Ophelia's Death

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Published by Austen
An analysis of Ophelia's death in The Tragedy of Hamlet. Was it suicide?
An analysis of Ophelia's death in The Tragedy of Hamlet. Was it suicide?

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Published by: Austen on Apr 19, 2007
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/08/2014

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 Austen Squarepants3/11/07 
Ophelia’s Death – Suicide?
The
Tragedy of Hamlet 
is considered to be one of the greatest plays of all time,written by William Shakespeare. One of the subplots of the play is Hamlet’s love for Ophelia, the daughter of one of the King’s top advisors. Their relationship is a little rockyas the play progresses. Hamlet is actually away from Denmark when Ophelia dies.Ophelia’s father had recently been killed by Hamlet in a terrible accident, and she hasnow gone mad, singing nonsense songs and giving people flowers that she has pickedfrom the garden. The cause of Ophelia’s death has been debated over the years. Did shecommit suicide because she was mad, or was her death an accident? Although Opheliawas not entirely sane, details of how she drowned show that her death was an accident, if not a fortuitous one.Ophelia’s whole world is shattered after her father dies, because of her previousconflicting loyalties to her father (who had never approved of Hamlet’s relationship withOphelia) and Hamlet now having killed him. After her father’s murder she talks a lot of death, and her madness is apparent when she sings in a completely crazed way:
 He is dead and gone, lady, He is dead and gone; At his head a grass-green turf, At his heels a stoneWhite his shroud as the mountain snow–  Landed all with sweet flowers;Which bewept to the ground did not goWith true-love showers
- Act 4, Scene 5, line 37
 
Here Ophelia is mourning her father’s death. She’s put in a horrible situation – what doyou do when your boyfriend kills your father? One would think that the conflictingemotions and irrational behavior preceding her death would suggest that she committedsuicide.Ophelia’s father had been killed by Hamlet; anyone put in that situation wouldlikely have thoughts of suicide. Ophelia’s actions in the scenes leading up to her deathsuggest it, but in truth it was caused by a terrible accident. If Ophelia’s intentions were tokill herself, she would likely either poison or stab herself, as they are both quick andeasy; drowning is not usually the preferred method of suicide – it is long and painful.Looking closely at quotes from the text describing Ophelia’s death, it can be proved thatOphelia did not initially kill herself:
QUEEN:
There is a willow grows askant the brook…There on the pendant boughs her coronet weedsClamb’ring 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 lauds, As one incapable of her own distress…
- Act 4, Scene 7, line 190It says that “an envious sliver broke” which means a branch broke, which was the causeof Ophelia falling into the brook. Therefore, Ophelia did not jump. If Ophelia had for some odd reason decided to kill herself by jumping into the brook, she wouldn’t have brought the branch down with her.Although Ophelia’s death initially seems to be suicide, reading the text closelyshows us that it was not. It is likely that suicide may have crossed Ophelia’s mind, because of the state that she was in, and that given the chance she may have decided to

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I would count giving up to the currents as suicide
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