Opheli Women, Madness, And The Responsibilities Of Feminist Criticism

1202 Words Nov 21st, 2015 null Page
In Hamlet, Shakespeare portrays Ophelia as an innocent and pure young woman who is easily controlled by her father Polonius and lover Hamlet, before writing her into a downwards spiral of madness. Despite this, Ophelia is one of Shakespeare’s most well-known female characters since Hamlet was published. Showalter describes the varied interpretation of her character has been debated by critics through the ages, by men and women, through several different artistic movements that affect Ophelia’s portrayal on stage. Feminist criticism and discussion of Ophelia has been popular with writers, and Elaine Showalter discusses her portrayal in the face of feminist criticism in her essay “Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism.” Showalter displays a wide diversity of interpretations with Ophelia’s madness and femininity as a main focus. Indeed, during Ophelia’s final scene, femininity and madness are on their fullest display, and those two traits are the defining traits of Ophelia in her stage portrayals. Showalter argues that sexuality is an essential part of Ophelia’s character, but act four, scene five demonstrates that Shakespeare’s Ophelia is an innocent and virginal character who does not have the capacity to deal with Hamlet’s vulgarity, and thus is driven mad.
Elaine Showalter’s essay discusses how Ophelia is represented through several eras, focusing mostly on the themes of how insanity and sexuality are intertwined when it comes…

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