Aphelion’s struggles in the patriarchal society in which she lives and the loss of her identity as a whole, by not only her father, but other authorial males in her life. Throughout the beginning of the play, Aphelia, is used as somewhat of a pawn by all the male figures in her life, emotionally, physically, and even for sheer politics.
Her lack of a mother figure and severe dependence on her father and brother, as well as other males, has literally taken away who she really is, her opportunity to make and act on her own decisions. Aphelia is treated by her father as if she is not only his daughter, but his possession. When Aphelia first speaks to her father about Hamlet, he states “l do not know, my lord, what I should think,” (1. 2). Polonium responds in an authoritative way, basically attesting himself as the decision maker. When he states “You do not understand yourself so clearly.. “(l . 3), he attacks her competence to handle herself. He goes on to say ‘…Order now
As it behooves my daughter and your honor”(l . 3), making it clear that it would be in her best interest to behave according to the “set” standards and how she acts and presents herself, reflects onto him as her father and as a member of the kings court. It is clear he doesn’t care for Hamlet and ants his daughter to have nothing to do with him, convincing her that she is nothing to him.. But, after hearing more about Hamlet acted towards her by grabbing her and just staring into her, he takes full advantage of the situation and instructs his daughter to behave according to his best interests, to get closer to the king, Claudia.
Aphelia, living in a male dominated world, has over the years, lost herself as a person, as a woman, doing things that she wouldn’t normally do, such as be a part of her fathers plan to expose Hamlets reason for his “madness. ” During the time when the play was written, women were marginalia, often dewed as property, even with fathers and daughters. In that society a woman would be required to be a dutiful daughter, wife, and mother, and dare not stray away from those approved roles that were placed upon them. Aphelia, growing up always being the dutiful daughter, obeys her fathers wishes and follows through with the plan.
The pitfalls to being a dutiful daughter, in her case, is that she lost the one man that made her happy, her lover, not only says horrid remarks to her, but breaks her down, and any little bit of “reality’ she had was lost forever. The hazards of being a dutiful daughter/mother/wife, are always present. There is the immediate consequences, then there are the ones that over time, as her character “screams” out to the audience, being oneself becomes obsolete. Her brother, Alerter, who is going back to France, also “advises” his sister to keep away from Hamlet.
Expressing that Hamlet being a prince, would marry for the good of the state and due to the differences in class, Hamlet would not marry Aphelia. Alerter also believes that Hamlet cares for her but “loves” her only for sexual need. “Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting. ” (1. 3). Unfortunately, exposing another “role” a woman would face in a patriarchal society, sexual roles. He is also concerned with her good name and family reputation, possibly implying that she could get pregnant and he would leave her, thus putting herself in a “unacceptable” role of a woman; a woman with a past, forever branding her and the family name.
Hamlet plays on her emotional strings. He has expressed his love for her and has given her gifts. The sudden death of his father and finding out the reasons behind his death, as well as the disgust of his mother marrying so quickly afterwards, molds Hamlet too man he has never been before; untrusting, and very paranoid about others close to him, and for very good reason. He took out his anger with his mother on all who loved him. His only life line was Aphelia, the only one he thought of as true, or tried to make himself believe that she was, by grabbing her and observing her closely, as if he could see right through her.
After her ultimate betrayal, by setting him up and lying to him about where her father was, she, cut off his life line. By doing so, he insults her, tells her that he loved her once, and belittles her to no end, until she is ambushed by so many emotions, that she is left in total confusion and heartbreak. With her brother in France, Hamlet rejecting their relationship, Aphelia finds out ere father has been killed by Hamlet. She in a sense, is left “alone,” and cannot handle herself, without the direction of her father , brother and Hamlet.
At this point its clear, Aphelia has gone totally mad, Speaking very little, and if anything it is about her deceased father in chants and song. Now with the males in her life are gone, she has served her purpose in the story. She starts going down a downward spiral and shortly thereafter, she commits suicide, or at least it was implied that she did, by drowning. In conclusion, although a small, seemingly insignificant character, Aphelia, not only provides the reader to the philanthropic ideals and patriarchal attitudes towards women.
But also serves to be somewhat like a mirror to the audience, one by one, “reflecting” the characters true self/intentions. Maybe being her ONLY purpose in the story to unveil her co-characters motive and who they really are in general. Polonium, her father, uses his daughter as some sort for property, for political gain and interest. Her brother, Alerter, again uses her for political reasons, somewhat, and to protect his name, uses her for the sake of his pride, and introduces sex, as Hamlets true goal with Aphelia.
Then Hamlet himself, takes her on a reallocates of love/hate and confusion, labeling her as untrustworthy and corrupt, he destroys her emotional being, rendering her completely helpless and incompetent to handle life on her own. This view was the norm at the time, that many men saw as being true, that a woman will be nothing without a man but also fail to realize that without women men would hardly be anything as well, they need women, as shown in the play, to succeed in their own personal goals, whether financial, political or other.