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October 20, 2005

Loving Brother & Father? I don't think so.

(sorry it is so long!)

Laertes:...Perhaps he loves you now,
...but you must fear,
His greatness weighed, his will not his own,
For he himself is subject to his birth.
He may not, as unvalued persons do,
Carve for himself, for on his choice depends
The sanctity and health of this whole state,...

Ophelia: He hath my lord of late made many tenders
Of his affection to me.
Polonius: Affection? Puh! You speak like a green girl,
Unshifted in such perilous circumstance.
Do you believe his tenders as you call them?
Ophelia: I do not know my lord what I should think.
Polonius: Marry I'll teach you. Think yourself a baby...

Ophelia is always being told what to do, she is always told to listen to other people, and she always obliges. It is as if she can't think for herself and she even states that she doesn't know what to think. Laertes and Polonius are not really sensitive of her feelings, they are not being a loving brother and father.

In his lines Laertes is basically telling Ophelia that because Hamlet is the prince, his position requires that he marry in the interest of the state. He says Hamlet has this obligation. And in these lines Laertes makes it sound as though Ophelia is not fit to marry Hamlet. What kind of brother does that?

Polonius is just as bad. He tells her Hamlet doesn't really love her and that she must reject his affections. Both father and brother suppress her thoughts and feelings and mold her into what they want her to be. What kind of daughter calls her father "my lord." Not one who is truly loved and cared about.

Posted by LorinSchumacher at October 20, 2005 7:51 PM


Lorin, thank you for the kind disagreement. I do see your point however I don't totally agree with it. You're right about Ophelia not standing up for herself. She does listen to others and what they tell her to do. For example, I know that she loves her father more than she loves Hamlet. It's shown when Polonius and King Hamlet set up the meeting between Ophelia and Hamlet in the hallway.

Laertes may not be "sensative" to Ophelia's feelings. However, I feel that at this point in the play (where I took the quote on my blog from) Laertes really and truly is looking out for his little sister. He knows that something is wrong with Hamlet. Being a big brother I can relate to how he feels. I have two younger sisters and I know when they talk to guys, my ears perk up and I start peeking over my shoulder.

Okay Polonius may be trying to make her stop loving Hamlet for some other reason. But I really think that Laertes is showing some concern for her. And for her to listen to him and respect what he has to say is pretty cool. Yeah, she needs to stick up for herself a little more, but it's better than not listening to anyone.

Thanks for the discussion.

Posted by: Andy LoNigro at October 20, 2005 11:57 PM

If anyone wants to read more from a Feminist Theory Lit Crit on the treatment of Ophelia click on this link:


Posted by: Lorin Schumacher at November 6, 2005 10:03 PM

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