The Roles of Minor Characters in Hamlet

Published: 2021-07-12 02:10:05
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Category: Hamlet

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For approximately over four centuries, William Shakespeare has been identified as a genius because of his ability to develop themes and plots that, for a long time, have served as an inspiration for very many writers and poets across the globe. When looking at Hamlet, it is evident that when Shakespeare was creating his characters, he focused on the various vices and virtues that exist in the society today. The two minor characters worth reviewing are Ophelia and Polonius.
Ophelia’s Role and Character Analysis
Although Ophelia is a minor character in the play Hamlet, the character she plays is fundamental in the development of the plot and thematic ideas in the play. Besides, her importance, Ophelia is presented as a very complicated character that can be read in various ways. However, it is through Ophelia’s nature that the reader develops a deeper understanding of the plot and thematic ideas in the play including “Love, Loyalty, and Madness.”
Despite her beauty, Ophelia has been portrayed as a weak, frail, and controlled human being. Reason being, due to the lack of self-confidence, she becomes an easy target for Hamlet’s abuse. Further, even though she related well with Laertes and Polonius, she has given them so much power to the extent that they dictate how she lived. For example, in act one scene three her brother, Laertes, stops her from seeing Hamlet. “For Hamlet, and the trifling of his favor, hold it a fashion and a toy in blood, a violent in the youth, of primary nature, forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting, the perfume and suppliance of a minute, no more” (Shakespeare, Act 1 Scene3). In that scene, I am compelled to believe that Laertes is suggesting to Ophelia that Hamlet only wanted to be with her because it was fashionable during that period.
In another scenario, Laertes convinces Ophelia that they were raised in a noble family and her decision to go with Hamlet would affect the lives of other family members. The two scenarios demonstrate love and loyalty because Ophelia is torn between her love for Hamlet and commitment to the family. Even more, it is evident that she lacks an identity and depends on the opinion of her brother and father. The character is demonstrated in act three scene two where Ophelia affirms that “I think nothing, my Lord.”
As time goes on, the conflict between love and loyalty causes Ophelia to go into a state of madness, and the theme of madness follows throughout the text. I believe that Ophelia, being raised in a patriarchal world allowed the feelings of love to overcome her. That said, the cause of her madness, therefore, can be associated with frustrations of the erotic passion that existed between herself and Hamlet. Alternatively, Ophelia’s insanity may be attributed to the removal of the male connection in the hierarchy when her father died. As such, due to her frail and weak nature, she could not cope because she relied on his advice and direction.
Polonius Role and Character Analysis
While Ophelia is displayed as a weak, controlled, and frail human being, Polonius is portrayed as a foolish character who was often identified as a source of ridicule in the play. Throughout the play, Polonius stands out as a wretched and intruding fool, who besides being an incompetent adviser; he is full of clichés and loves intruding in the private affairs of his children. In act one scene three, when the play begins the reader perceives Polonius as a very decent man who cares about his daughter. However, a closer examination of the language that he uses when scolding Ophelia makes the reader question his character because he appears to be a man who lacks ethical substance and sensitivity. “Consider yourself a green girl.” Even more, he is a father who is self-obsessed and not interested in the views of others because he expects his daughter to obey his every command “I have a daughter, while she is mine, who in her duty and obedience, mark, hath given me this, now gather and surmise” (Shakespeare, Act 2 Scene 2). In another scenario, he mocks her using words like “I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth, have you as slander and moments leisure, as to give words or talk with lord Hamlet ” (Shakespeare, Act 1 Scene 3) when he warns her against the relationship with Hamlet.
However, as with all the characters that are presented in William Shakespeare’s plays, Polonius is identified as an individual who has more to him than what meets the reader’s eyes. While he may appear insensitive, their various instances when he had an admirable trait. For example, when Laertes left for England, he encourages him to be true to himself, “To thine own self-be true,” Even more, he advises Laertes to abstain from borrowing money and engaging in silly talks that result to fights. Using that scenario, Polonius stands out as a father who loves his son. Also, a close examination of the play shows that his children Ophelia and Laertes admired him and that is why upon his death, Ophelia went mad because he relied on his advice. Laertes on the other hand, swears vengeance against Hamlet.
Conclusively, to some scholars and literary critics, Ophelia can be defined as nothing more than a weak and frail human being. However, there is the need to consider the fact that during that period, Ophelia’s character is limited by the fact that women were denied equal rights and fair treatment. Even more, living in a patriarchy society, women did not have a voice, and that is why it was tough for Ophelia to pose as the main character because her place was to stay at home and look at the family. Polonius, on the other hand, is as an insensitive and manipulative individual because he was living in an era where women were not valued.

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