When a Flower Blossoms

When a Flower Blossoms
William Shakespeare addresses the question of identity in The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark through the characters of Hamlet and Ophelia. Although the play is centered on Hamlet’s struggle for identity, a more important issue is addressed through Ophelias’ struggle. She is ignored and left alone to find the truth about what it means to become a woman, while Hamlet receives constant concern while struggling with his identity issues as an adult. Her struggle of identity may be similar to his, but it is different in that she is not a man, but an adolescent girl who lives in a society that revolves around men. The dysfunction of her family, deterioration of her intimate relationship, ultimate death of her father, and absence of a mother figure worsen her internal struggles. She is an adolescent facing the internal conflicts of acceptance, identity, and self-worth, which commonly plague pubescent girls. Puberty for a young girl is perhaps the most difficult time of life, and is often misunderstood by adults. In society, men receive more concern than women do as they struggle to adulthood, which is demonstrated through the character of Hamlet. Adolescent girls often feel confused about their bodies and identity in that they are becoming different from boys for the first time. In Ophelia’s case, she is left completely alone to figure out what is happening to her body and to understand her emotions. If Ophelia were a man or a pubescent boy struggling with identity as is seen in Hamlet throughout the play, she possibly would have survived these tragic situations.
The most devastating moment for her was when Hamlet no longer appeared to be her safe haven. She thought that she could trust him and some how he would help her get through her confusion of adolescence, and therefore, make her way to adulthood. She proves her naivete in the way she reacts to him when he attacks her in her room and she does not fight back, but instead runs to her father, Polonius, for comfort and safety. His motives as a father are not what they need to be to help her understand what has just happened to her. Instead of comforting or explaining to her what has happened, he feels that he needs to defend the idea of her being a whore, and more importantly his ability to raise an upstanding young woman. In Polonius’ eyes, Hamlet’s attack represents his opinion of her being a whore, which he feels must be avenged, conveying to her that she has done something wrong. From his effort in avenging her honor, he creates more turmoil in her life when he forces her to allow him and the King to spy on her with Hamlet. Hamlet tells her in ears shot of them:
Ay, truly, for the power of beauty will
Sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd
Than the force of honesty can translate beauty into
His likeness. This was sometime a paradox, but now
The time gives proof. I did love you once. (III.i.110-14)
He loved her innocence as a girl and the fact that she was not a woman, but now that she is appearing more like one, he does not love her anymore. The more important message is that men are not thought of as beautiful, therefore they have no reason to mislead others. He is relaying to her that it is bad to become a woman because her becoming beauty will make her dishonest. He is saying that women use their beauty to deceive men. His mother has imbedded this thought in his mind through her actions of marrying his uncle too soon after his father’s death. Hamlet feels like he has been deceived, in that his mother is not virtuous like he imagined when his father was still alive. His father was a man, and therefore, has been decieved by a woman who he thought to be virtuous, his own mother. He now is punishing Ophelia for being a woman because of his mother’s actions. For a young girl who is dealing with identity issues, it is devastating to find out that she is going to grow-up to be a whore like the Queen and has no control