At the beginning of the play, Polonius (Ophelia's father), Laertes (Ophelia's brother), and Hamlet (Ophelia's lover) made up Ophelia's entire life. Polonius and Laertes gave her advice constantly, and she only ever did one thing outside of their control: being with Hamlet. Other than that, Ophelia rarely made any decisions of her own. When Polonius tells her to give Hamlet up, Ophelia's entire life is under Polonius' power and influence. To make matters worse, Hamlet in his pretended madness rejects Ophelia and greatly frightens her. Then Hamlet kills Polonius. Now for better or for worse, nobody is there to give Ophelia constant advice; not even Laertes, who is in France. She simply doesn't know where her life is going. Also, Hamlet being the one who killed Polonius, Ophelia partially blames herself for her father's death: it is as though by originally going outside of her father's rules she has caused his death. It doesn't help that Polonius seems to think Ophelia is the one who drove Hamlet mad. And so, simply put, Ophelia went mad because of Hamlet's insanity and her own bit of guilt for her father's death.
answered 01 Apr '12, 19:31
"...Hamlet in his pretended madness rejects Ophelia and greatly frightens her."
--Let us not forget that before Hamlet rejects Ophelia, Ophelia has rejected him, totally, at the command of her father, now dead at the hands of Hamlet. More confusion--did she do the right thing there or should she have followed her own heart?
That said, and agreeing with what you wrote: To crystallize it might be to say that Ophelia is mightily confused, full of regret--for what, she can't be entirely sure--so she blames herself for all of it and, most importantly, is TOTALLY ALONE with this monumental weight of tragic sadness .
side note: Ironically, a perfect recipe for what Polonius earlier delineates re: his surety as to Hamlet's madness, one supposedly brought on by his command to his daughter.
answered 26 May '13, 13:21