Ophelia is portrayed as an innocent victim in the play due to the specific attributes that she has. For instance everyone tries to coerce her into doing things that she may not wish to do by herself.
To begin with, the father tells her to refuse any letters and advances from Hamlet and she does refuse not because she wishes but because the father has said so. In addition, her family members are trying to manipulate her in every way that they find suitable for them. An example is the brother Laertes who keeps on telling Ophelia about the negative traits of Hamlet in an effort to lure her into refusing Hamlet and indeed Ophelia starts having second thoughts about the boyfriend because she is too innocent to assess the ill motives of the brother.
Due to her innocence, Ophelia is not able to differentiate good and bad .She is denied access to Hamlet's letters and to make matters worse she is forbidden from interacting with the boyfriend.
Later in Act 3 we are shown how Ophelia is used by others because of her innocence. This is exhibited when Polonius and the king place Ophelia in a room where Hamlet can find him in order to observe how he will react towards Ophelia.
To everyone's surprise, Hamlet is angered by that act and breaks the relationship furiously leaving everyone including Ophelia scared with the action that Hamlet takes. This is a clear indicator of how Ophelia is used by other people who want to achieve their selfish gains.
Ophelia's innocence is also exhibited when he is told to betray her love to enable the king and her father to assess the grief of her loved one. Later on because of her naivety, Hamlet promises to marry her but mistreats her, breaks her virginity and later on damps her. Ophelia is then left in this dilemma when the father dies and she becomes insane.
Ophelia is used by Shakespeare to show the innocence of certain characters in the world. Her character is greatly affected by outside forces which end up repressing the love she has for Hamlet. In addition; she does not have friends and is left to depend on outside forces in order to make decisions. As a result, her relationships revolves around the father, her brother and her love Hamlet .Her innocence impacts negatively on her when she is not able to cope up with the unfolding on tragedy after another, that is, the death of her father and the rejection by Hamlet.
As portrayed in the play, Ophelia is a representative of most innocent women who fall into the trap of uncaring men with selfish gains with the aim to use the unsuspecting women. In addition, because of her obedience and love she stops seeing Hamlet as directed by the father, and she is not able to detect something quire when Hamlet brings the actual tool that is used to the father.
William Shakespeare uses this play to show how a person who depends on others for decision making gets into dilemma when all the people who assist the individual are not around the person to assist in making serious stands. For instance Ophelia who used to depend on the father and brother for their ideas becomes confused and goes to the point of running mad because she was still a young and innocent girl who could not make certain decisions on her own .Madness remains as the only option for her since she could not hold the shock of losing the father and had lost the mother earlier on.
The fact that everyone is worried about the welfare of Ophelia is a clear indicator that the lady is innocent. For instance, the brother tries to keep her away from Hamlet because he wants the father to get a high bride price when she gets married as a virgin. The father, on the other hand controls the daughter because he wants her to be cautious of her actions because he knows pretty well that the daughter can not take care of herself well because she is very innocent.
This indicates that were it not for her naivety, nobody would be at her back all the time to see what she is doing.
According to R.S.White (1982) Ophelia's insufficiency is due to her immaturity and is therefore mainly preoccupied by her relationship with Hamlet and the consequences of this relationship. She is then got in a mix up of events like desire to have a sexual commitment, fear and the desire to also maintain the love relationship with Hamlet. She is then caught in a mix that is beyond her control.
Ophelia's innocence is addressed by other writers and poets who give their view about the treatment of Ophelia. For instance, Lawrence in his poem titled Ballad of another Ophelia in which he comments how the green apples will never ripen because of disappointment. The green apples here are Ophelia who never achieved her desire to love Hamlet and her dreams are then cut short when she dies.
Many artists and poets have in fact found an image of unfulfilled and wasted innocence in Ophelia.
According to Elaine Showalter, Ophelia is used by many writers to represent how the society views women as nothing for instance Elizabeth says that Hamlet viewed Ophelia as nothing and infact he goes further to tell Ophelia that what is in her legs is nothing because it is something merely for use by men. Due to her innocence, Ophelia is not able to read between lines and assess the words of her purported lover but she goes further and has sexual intercourse with her.
According to Bridger Lions Ophelia is used to symbolically represent feminine meaning. Her innocence is portrayed through her dressing, behavior, appearance which is frightened by some significant emblem. In this case she is used as an icon to represent women of her caliber.
The presentation of Ophelia carrying flowers is also an indication of some innocence. These flowers represent the images of female sexuality both as innocent blossoming and contamination because she is the green girl who is a virgin and religious and by giving the flowers it represents the act of deflowering herself when she eventually engages in sexual intercourse with Hamlet.
When she becomes mad and starts singing bawdy songs and starts singing the way she wishes, she becomes exposed to a new environment which is quite different from the one she is used to as the obedient daughter. This coupled with self-assertion offer a wonderful experience which is followed immediately by her death because she is not able to contain the tragedies that befall her and she actually dies a bitter death by drowning herself.
According to Charney M (1988), due to her innocence, Ophelia is a representation of nature because of her love for flower imagery and her concern for natural processes. In addition she has a childish speech in manner and matter and this earns her pity from the audience since her mood is too low .The fact that Ophelia is more confident singing than talking is a sign of fear .She is infact afraid of the brother and tells the king in Act 4 that the brother will hear her when she is singing
In Act 1 Scene 3 she is mostly a listener and she does not question anything she is told because she is too innocent to know the right and wrong thing. For instance when the father asks her his irritating question the only thing she can say is that she does not know what she should think. She even goes further to call her own father ""Lord" which gives the father total control of her. This is sign of fear and docility because she wants to be told how to do everything by someone who is more experienced than she is. This shows some weaknesses on the part of Ophelia because instead of allowing her ears and eyes to work, she listens entirely to the father and the brother who only tell her to keep away from Hamlet without giving a proper reason.
Ophelia is presented as the most innocent victim for Hamlet's revenge in the play by Shakespeare. Hamlet falls in love with Hamlet after the death of his father only to revenge after her mother's hurried remarriage but instead Ophelia restores the affection of Hamlet.
Moreover, Ophelia is initially presented as one who conforms to external demands in order to fulfill the desires of others (406).To the father she is a commodity, to the brother and angel and to Hamlet she is a specter of his fears (407-410).Because each of these individuals has conflicting interests, it damages Ophelia's psychological development and their absence leads to Ophelia's madness before her tragic death. In her madness she is able to discover her speech and even know her own identity. She talks about the tricky things in the world and how people can do terrible things to others with reference to how she was treated by the family members and her love Hamlet. However Gertrude terms her speech during insanity as nothing because it has unshaped use since it represents the horror of having nothing to say in public. Her story becomes zero because she is denied her desires which include language sexuality and thought.
The unfolding of most vents in the life of Ophelia is a clear indicator of her innocence. Considering her belief that a man cannot do anything harmful to her .She cannot even read the ill motives of Hamlet who claims to love her even after directly telling her that women are nothing, she gives in to his sexual offer and in the long run loses her virginity and to make matters worse the man of her dreams dumps her in a very awkward way. This may partly be blamed because of lack of motherly advice because the mother died when she was not of age and her life was mostly surrounded by men. In addition, Ophelia is a very young girl (fifteen years) who is not capable of making certain decisions on her own.
It can further be argued that due to her innocence Ophelia was not able to know what she really wanted in life because she falls in love at a very tender age when she can not even comprehend what love is all about. She can not even see that Hamlet was just out to play with her mind and use her because the father and the brother were controlling her. She is not even able to tell Hamlet off when he says that women are just nothing because of the fear she has for him. She then becomes a victim of circumstances because of lack of conviction and dies a poor death.
Her beauty, innocence and determination to love Hamlet as young as she was leads her to do things that she would not have done if she had clear knowledge of what was going on around her.
Ophelia's character is incomplete and critics of such a character are tempted to add aspects of inexperience which is shown by the immature pregnancy leaving behind a woman who is seen to be unchaste although very young
People have high expectations about her that is why she is left to do things the way she wishes because it is thought that she has the ability to succumb to Hamlet's conditions.
In conclusion, however, it can be said that people are taking advantage of Ophelia in terms of age and her innocence in order to get their selfish gains. Everyone surrounding has his desires which he wishes to fulfill. For instance the father just wants to make sure that she stays away from Hamlet while the brother is just after at they get the best dowry when she gets married as a virgin. Hamlet just wants to sexually abuse her and satisfy his sexual desires and also to prove to her that women are nothing.