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"Hamlet, Prince of Denmark" by William Shakespeare and "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams both introduce two characters that are identical to each other through their way of life and feelings toward men. Laura Wingfield from "The Glass Menagerie" and Ophelia from the "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark" are both unique characters that require the reader to think beyond their reason to understand why the author's portray them as they do. In their similarities, Laura and Ophelia are both sweet and innocent young girls, so sweet that most would look at them as if they were weird. They are both very dependent on their families and look at men to determine their behavior and ways of life. As readers compare and contrast Laura and Ophelia, they realize that the two characters are very much identical.
Laura Wingfield has very little dialogue in "The Glass Menagerie". However, even though she is physical handicap and has a definite problem with social awkwardness, these characteristics are not enough to qualify her as tragic - her situation as a whole person contains tragedy.
In many ways, she is tragic because she seems to assume and feel every emotion thrown at her. The boy that she had a childish crush on through high school ended up kissing her and then told her that he was engaged and soon to be married, which by the end we believe she lives out her life as the "old maid" her mother feared she would become. For Laura, escape seemed to be impossible and it is tragic that in the end she is not even a beautiful rare glass figurine, but a "unicorn with a broken horn." Aside from the scene in "The Glass Menagerie" during which the reader pictures Laura wandering the streets alone with a crippled leg in the cold, just to get out of her typing class, one of the most tragic scenes in the play is when she is alone with Jim. It is this scene that we see the complete tragedy of her dilemma, especially since Jim seems to present a picture of the "real world" making Laura contrast with it. Just as her brother says, Laura lives in "a world of her own - a world of little glass ornaments" and when Jim asks her, "Unicorns - aren't they extinct in the modern world" it is clear that Laura has no place in what Jim defines as the "modern world" and which the reader is led to believe that she is like the unicorn, both before and after the horn is broken off. The reader learns that the unicorn should not be touched, since she breaks so easily. She seems to realize this when she tells Jim, "if you breatheâ€¦it breaks." It is tragic to think that her one chance at being handled has become shattered and nearly impossible. It is tragic enough to think of a shy, caring person with a bad leg, this does not turn out to be the real tragedy - the true tragic scene is the play portrays her as the broken unicorn that is fated to become a regular horse.
Laura and Ophelia are both very innocent, neither one of them did anything to hurt anyone else. Both are compassionate towards their "lover". Ophelia is compassionate towards Hamlet, even when everyone thinks he's going insane. Laura is compassionate about her brother being unhappy. Both are delicate. Ophelia is driven insane by Hamlet because she thinks she has driven him insane. Laura is considered delicate like the glass unicorn, but she is stronger than Ophelia. Laura chooses to not go to typing class, so she shows that she can go against her mother's wishes, so Laura has a stronger self-identity than Ophelia, who allows her father to use her and does what she's told.
When it comes to men, Laura has a more childlike version of live. School girl crush type of love. Ophelia is very passive, and allows her father and brother to use her, but it appears that she and Hamlet may have had sex, whereas the reader is led to believe Laura never moved beyond an immature girlish crush. The sexual relations or lack thereof between Hamlet and Ophelia are debatable. Other scholars may disagree, but I am in mind to think they did have sex.
Smith, Nicole. "Laura in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams." The Tragic Figure of Laura in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. Nicole Smith, 2010. Web. 23 Oct 2010. <http://www.articlemyriad.com/110.htm>.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. 3rd ed. Boston, MA: Bedford St. Martins, 2009. 777-898. Print.