In Shakespeare’s tragedies, the characters all have flaws that eventually lead to
their undoing. In the play Hamlet, the character of Ophelia is ultimately killed by her flaw.
It is apparent that Ophelia is an obedient person but, upon closer inspection, the audience
can see that she is not merely obedient. Ophelia’s thoughts and actions go beyond
obedience to show that she is a weak and entirely dependent character. Nothing that she
says or does is a representation of herself but mostly that of her father.
Ophelia’s cruel actions towards Hamlet, which go against her feelings for him,
demonstrate her obedience to her father. In the beginning of the play, Ophelia tells her
father that she likes Hamlet but her later actions sacrifice these personal feelings under the
order of her father. She does as her father says regardless of how it could affect her own
life. In particular, Ophelia agrees not to see Hamlet anymore after the request from her
father: “I shall obey, my lord…”(act 1, scene 4). Ophelia’s actions show that Polonius has
complete control over her because she sacrifices her personal feelings to please him.
Ophelia’s obedience goes deeper than her trying to please her father and shows
what a weak character she is. When Hamlet harasses her and tells her to go to a nunnery
where she can no longer harm anyone, she does not try to defend herself. Instead, she just
feels sorry for herself. Ophelia could not survive without someone constantly telling her
what to do. Hence, when Polonius dies, Ophelia loses her primary guidance and, instead
of attempting to go on with her own life, she calls on her brother for help in resolving her
problems: “My brother shall know of it / and so I thank you for your good counsel…” (act
4, scene 5).
Ophelia’s obedience and weakness as a character can be traced to her complete
dependence on other people. Her dependence on others is evident in the very beginning:
“I do not know, my lord, what I should think. POL: Marry, I will teach you. Think
yourself a baby…” (act 1, scene 3). This shows how Ophelia depends on her father to
determine what she should think and feel. Ophelia’s complete dependence, or lack of
independence, is what leads to her demise. Still, Ophelia’s dependence on others was not
entirely her fault. It could have been caused by her father and brother’s protection over
Polonius and Laertes were always there for Ophelia, whether she needed it or not,
causing her to develop a major character flaw. Her flaw was her complete dependence on
others, which can also be shown through her obedience and overall weakness as a
character. Ophelia’s dependence on others is, sadly, what lead to her death. She could not
cope with the events in her life because she was so adapted to being told how to think and
act that she went mad. When she was forced to take care of herself, she could not handle
it and ended up committing suicide to keep from facing her problems alone.