In William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, we see a complex relationship between the titular character and Ophelia, the daughter of Polonius. Throughout the play, Ophelia is often referred to by metaphor, and in particular, Hamlet often refers to her as a nymph. In this article, we will discuss what it means when Hamlet refers to Ophelia as a nymph and how it is an example of a literary device.
Understanding the Metaphor
When Hamlet refers to Ophelia as a nymph, this is an example of personification. Personification is a literary device in which a non-human thing or abstract concept is given human characteristics. In this case, Hamlet is giving a human, namely Ophelia, the characteristics of a mythical creature, namely a nymph. By doing this, Hamlet is not only expressing his love for Ophelia, but also elevating her and her beauty to the level of a mythical creature.
Nymphs were often associated with the beauty and purity of nature in Greek and Roman mythology, so referring to Ophelia as a nymph also reflects Hamlet’s belief in the innocence and beauty of Ophelia. Personifying Ophelia as a nymph also reflects Hamlet’s own delusions and yearning for a pure and true love.
The Final Line
The metaphor of Ophelia as a nymph is ultimately reinforced in the final line of the play, when Hamlet acknowledges Ophelia’s presence with the phrase “Nymph, in thy orisons / Be all my sins remembered”. Here, with the use of personification, Hamlet is expressing his guilt and sorrow over his harsh treatment of Ophelia in a poignant and heartfelt way.
When Hamlet refers to Ophelia as a nymph, this is an example of personification. Personifying Ophelia as a nymph helps to convey Hamlet’s view of her innocence, beauty, and purity. It also demonstrates Hamlet’s longing for true and pure love, as well as his feelings of guilt and sorrow for his treatment of her. By understanding the metaphor of Ophelia as a nymph, we can gain a better understanding of Hamlet’s complex and emotional relationship with Ophelia.