Essay on Ophelia Suicide

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Hamlet has many common themes but one theme that is highlighted throughout this play and most Shakespearean tragedies is death. From the opening scene, we are guided into a world obsessed with death and its influence. From King Hamlet to Ophelia, all the way to a fencing match gone wrong, the appearance of death is always evident in the minds and lives of the characters.

King Hamlet dies when poisoned by his brother, Claudius. Polonius dies by being stabbed by Hamlet, who mistakenly thinks Polonius is Claudius. Ophelia dies, committing suicide by drowning herself. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are executed on Hamlet’s orders. Gertrude dies when she is accidentally poisoned by Claudius’ poisoned wine. Laertes is stabbed by Hamlet, with his own poisoned blade. Claudius is stabbed and poisoned by Hamlet, who dies immediately. Hamlet thereafter dies by being stabbed by Laertes. In Act Three, scene 1, line 1 Hamlet explains how he feels after he finds out that Claudius has murdered King Hamlet. Hamlet feels suicidal and no longer has a desire to live. Hamlet asks himself if it is in his best interest to keep living or to cut his life short. He fears death and the fear of the unknown and therefore, says he would rather go through pain in life than not know if there’s nothing/something afterward. Hamlet experiences sadness and despair, however, the other characters act nonchalantly about King Hamlet’s death. His death causes Hamlet to want to get revenge and it results in Claudius and Gertrude getting married. King Hamlet’s death I would say is the important one as the play is centered around his death and causes the strongest emotions from Hamlet.

Death and the afterlife are also brought up in Act 3: Scene 3 when Claudius prays and wants to be forgiven for his sins. Hamlet catches Claudius in the act but decides not to kill him as he wants to catch him in the act of sinning so that he can go to hell and not whilst he is repenting to go to heaven as his father did not get that option.

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When Laertes hears about his father’s death he feels angry and hatred towards Hamlet, which makes it easier for Laertes to go ahead with Claudius and his plan to kill Hamlet, without guilt. Even though Hamlet is the one who murdered Polonius, it is clear that Hamlet doesn't feel any remorse for what has happened. Gertrude, however, is horrified by the situation. With Ophelia, it is clear that she is upset about her father's murder. Polonius’s death caused Ophelia’s agency to come out because she wasn’t afraid of telling Gertrude and Claudius how she felt when she gave them symbolic flowers. Polonius’ death causes Ophelia to commit suicide, as well as makes Claudius aware of how dangerous Hamlet is since if he could easily kill Polonius and not show any remorse, he could easily do that to him as well.

Death is most featured in Act 5.1, the scene in the graveyard, which is appropriate seeing as it is the final place a dead person would go. Hamlet looks with wonder at the skulls that the gravediggers dig up. He asks the question of whom it may belong to and what occupation they might have had. The gravedigger replies that the grave belongs to no man nor woman as they are living things and the dead person is not. Hamlet picks up Yorick’s skull, which is a symbol of death and is appalled at what he is seeing. He then concludes that all men eventually become dust, even great men like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar.

At the same moment, the funeral for Ophelia begins. Ophelia’s death was a controversial one as she committed suicide and therefore, could not receive a proper Christian burial. This infuriates Laertes who then jumps into her grave. With Laertes’ and Hamlet’s emotions running high, they agree to the fencing match with a bloodbath fit for royalty along with the death of Gertrude, Claudius, Prince Hamlet, and Laertes.

Death plays a big role in affecting the characters and therefore, the events of the play. Even though ‘to be or not to be’ was contemplated throughout the play, for the majority of the characters in Hamlet, their fate was ‘to be.’

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Essay on Ophelia Suicide. (2024, April 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from
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