William Shakespeare

The Psychological Pain of Laertes and Ophelia

You see, Hamlet is not a totally good guy in his play. He had done some strange things which had stranger repercussions.

hamletYou see, Hamlet is not a totally good guy in his play. He'd done some strange things which had stranger repercussions. Granted he was a man more sinned against than sinning, he was not the only walking wounded. He was offended and he in turn, willingly or unwillingly, offended.

His pain was unmatched, and he suffered most, being the only one to carry his own peculiar burden. But we'll discuss Hamlet's pain in another place.



“A Burden Shared is a Burden Halved and Doubled”



Beautiful OpheliaOphelia and Laertes, children of the greatest tweeter and radio talk-show host in history, Polonius, have to jointly and disjointly bear the loss of their dear father. Remember that this Herculean task was once performed by an only child, Hamlet. 

Now, with less art and more matter, let's come to the point. I do not think that Ophelia and Laertes helped one another in the least, well they couldn't! So each had to bear the loss of their father fully, and what's worse, one another's own pain.

The death of Polonius enfeebles and crushes Ophelia's highest faculty. Speak of suffering! As a good sister, she worries about her brother too,"my brother shall know of it". Before her mind's citadel was burnt by grief, she was aware that her brother was in France, but sorry to say, there is no indication to me from the text that she would ever recognize him again. So, in her mind, she is alone, and bears it all.


Laertes suffers a thing, you must pray God never to experience. His father died in his absence and there is a great deal of deliberate hugger-mugger to hush up the circumstances of his death. Once again, Hamlet bore the like before him. The pain of undue ignorance: what is amiss? Somebody please tell me what is going on! This indeed is a great intellectual affliction, given that the mind was made to know.
Mad Ophelia
Laertes is half mad with rage. You see madness comes in different shades and senses, Hamlet had his share too. Laertes might also be tortured by the thought that Ophelia had to undergo all this alone while he was away from Denmark. As a good brother, he'll dent his chest with his mea culpas. So he rages on like a wild fire, like a rebel with too many causes!

He might even console himself with : ah! as I return to Denmark at least I have my darling sister to see and embrace. Like I said earlier, pray God never to experience this in your family, those of you who already have, will understand me clearly. He returns home and meets a young lady who does not seem to know him.

She is mad! Not with the madness that fake eccentrics put on to attract attention, or your angry colleagues or schoolmates use in slamming doors at work, no! against her wishes, she has lost the regular control of her mental network. If this is not suffering, what is?

Yet, is true madness bliss? A condition in which you don't even know you are mad - where you do not know you or your suffering. Is this what energetic Constance (in King John) was hoping for, since she saw her suffering would find respite in madness? 

Dead OpheliaLike Hamlet, Laertes came back to Denmark to avenge his father's death, but unlike Hamlet, he has to bury his dearest dove, his sister who commits suicide, rather innocently. Did Laertes then suffer more, more than Ophelia, more than even Hamlet? Enough with the comparison!

At birth we cry; at death we see why. We were born to draw our breath in pain to suffer for a Good Reason, let's find that reason and give empty despair to the eagles to dump in Mount Doom.

Remember, remember the words of Edgar: I am worse than e'er I was. And worse I may be yet: the worst is not, so long as we can say 'This is the worst.'

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