Hamlet

Ophelia Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Polonius’s daughter, Laertes’ sister, and Hamlet’s lover. Along with Gertrude, Ophelia is the only other female character in the play, Ophelia’s actions and trajectory are unfortunately defined by the men around her. At the start of the play, Ophelia—who has been in a relationship of undetermined seriousness with Hamlet for an unspecified amount of time—is used as a pawn in her father Polonius’s attempt to help Claudius and Gertrude ascertain the source of Hamlet’s madness. Polonius believes a burgeoning rift between Ophelia and Hamlet is the cause—in reality, Hamlet is, unbeknownst to the others at Elsinore, affecting madness in order to seem less suspicious or threatening as he investigates his father’s murder. Ophelia, however, is ignorant of Hamlet’s plan—and as she interacts with him in service of her father’s plot, Hamlet becomes so hurt by her transparent betrayal that he begins acting like even more of a lunatic towards Ophelia, cruelly suggesting she become a nun and making lewd sexual remarks towards her at every available opportunity. Between Hamlet’s abuses—and his murder of Polonius—Ophelia eventually loses her own mind, succumbing fully to the madness at which Hamlet has only been playing. Ophelia eventually commits suicide, and though Hamlet claims to grieve her, no one—least of all Ophelia’s furious brother, Laertes—believes him. A tragic figure whose life and death alike are coopted by the men around her, Ophelia is nonetheless able to do the one thing Hamlet, for all his musings on his desire to take his own life, is never able to do: she kills herself, reclaiming through a tragic action the only measure of agency she’s had over her own life for as long as she’s lived it.

Ophelia Quotes in Hamlet

The Hamlet quotes below are all either spoken by Ophelia or refer to Ophelia. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Hamlet published in 1992.
Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me…

Related Characters: Hamlet (speaker), Ophelia
Page Number: 3.1.131-134
Explanation and Analysis:
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Ophelia Character Timeline in Hamlet

The timeline below shows where the character Ophelia appears in Hamlet. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
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...Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother and the queen; Hamlet himself; Claudius’s councilor Polonius; Polonius’s children Laertes and Ophelia; and several members of court. Claudius delivers a long monologue in which he laments the... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
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As Laertes prepares to sail back to France, he bids goodbye to his sister, Ophelia, and warns her not to gamble her “honor” by falling in love with Hamlet—a broody... (full context)
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...own self be true.” Laertes bids his father and sister goodbye one final time, reminding Ophelia to remember the things he told her before heading down to the docks. (full context)
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After Laertes leaves, Polonius asks Ophelia what her brother told her. Ophelia tells him that Laertes gave her some advice about... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
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Just as Reynaldo exits to board a ship to France, Ophelia enters looking pale and in a state of fright. Polonius asks her what has happened,... (full context)
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Ophelia goes on to state that Hamlet grabbed her by the wrist and stared at her... (full context)
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Polonius asks if Ophelia has done anything to upset or offend Hamlet, and she replies that she took Polonius’s... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
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...daughter. In the letter written by Hamlet, the young prince professes his intense love for Ophelia. Polonius admits that when he discovered the affair between Hamlet and Ophelia he grew worried,... (full context)
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Claudius asks if there’s a way they can test Polonius’s theory. Polonius suggests “loos[ing]” Ophelia onto Hamlet during one of the prince’s long, pensive walks through the main hall of... (full context)
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...are symptoms of his madness. Polonius resolves to leave Hamlet, and go off to find Ophelia so that he can put the plan he formulated with Claudius earlier into action. Polonius... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
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Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern gather in the hall of Elsinore. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern tell Claudius that... (full context)
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...so that he and Polonius can enact their plan of getting Hamlet to meet with Ophelia while Claudius and Polonius hide to observe the young lovers. Gertrude bids the rest of... (full context)
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Polonius hands Ophelia a prayer book and orders her to pretend to read it while he and Claudius... (full context)
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...of death has made a “coward” of him. Hamlet stops himself, however, when he sees Ophelia. Observing her with her prayer book, he asks her to absolve him of his sins... (full context)
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Ophelia greets Hamlet and asks how he’s been doing. He tells her he’s been well. Ophelia... (full context)
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Ophelia retorts that beauty and purity are, in fact, intimately connected. Hamlet suggests that beauty can... (full context)
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Hamlet tells Ophelia she should get to a nunnery, or convent, quickly—she shouldn’t bring any more sinful people... (full context)
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Ophelia cries out for God and the “sweet heavens” to help Hamlet. Hamlet, in return, puts... (full context)
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Alone, Ophelia laments that Hamlet’s “noble mind is here o’erthrown.” All of Hamlet’s potential as a scholar,... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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Trumpets sound, and Claudius enters with Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and some other members of court. Claudius greets Hamlet and asks the prince... (full context)
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...during the performance, but Hamlet says he wants to sit next to the “more attractive” Ophelia. As he sidles in next to Ophelia, he begins taunting her with sexually explicit barbs,... (full context)
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...killer presents the queen with gifts, wooing her until she falls in love with him. Ophelia is put off by the pantomime, but Hamlet assures her he’s just making some “mischief.”... (full context)
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A player enters the stage, portraying a character called Lucianus. Hamlet tells Ophelia that Lucianus is nephew to the king. She remarks how much Hamlet seems to know... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 5
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...a member of court are in the hall of Elsinore. The courtier tells Gertrude that Ophelia is demanding to meet with her. Gertrude doesn’t want to speak to Ophelia, but the... (full context)
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Ophelia enters, singing a song about love. Gertrude politely asks Ophelia what her song means, but... (full context)
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Ophelia begins singing more songs about unrequited love and women being “tumbled” and mistreated by unfaithful... (full context)
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Another noise is heard offstage, and Ophelia enters. As Laertes sees what has become of his sister, he swears that he will... (full context)
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Claudius says he shares in Laertes’s grief over the disintegration of Ophelia’s mind. He offers to stand and be judged by Laertes and his wisest, closest friends,... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 7
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Gertrude enters and announces that she has even more woeful news: Ophelia has drowned in nearby brook. Her body was found covered in “fantastic garlands” of flowers... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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...walls of Elsinore. The first gravedigger asks the second if an unnamed woman—understood to be Ophelia—is going to receive a “Christian burial” even though she committed suicide. The second gravedigger says... (full context)
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...the service as he can for someone who committed suicide—but because the woman who died (Ophelia) was a noble, the priest has made sure she was allowed to be buried made... (full context)
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Hamlet, realizing that Ophelia is the one who has died, cries out in pain. He watches as Laertes, distraught,... (full context)