Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Evelyn Gajowski

Second Committee Member

Philip Rusche

Third Committee Member

Vincent Perez

Fourth Committee Member

Lezlie Cross

Number of Pages



William Shakespeare's Ophelia, from his tragedy play Hamlet, has predominately been perceived and depicted as an objectified female with very little purpose other than to support Hamlet's role as protagonist. I explore the ways in which Ophelia was objectified by her brother, father, and Hamlet. I also analyze how Ophelia not only exhibits subjectivity, that is the ability to think, act, and speak for herself, but plays the part of Shakespearean fool. In her interactions with Hamlet specifically, Ophelia addresses Hamlet first, raises questions of the prince, and conducts herself in a way that is not always in keeping with the tenets of proper female decorum, that is silent, chaste, obedient. Likewise, in her madness, Ophelia is an autonomous being showcasing her subjectivity by thinking, acting, and speaking of her own accord. Throughout his comedies and romances, Shakespeare's court fools convey truth and honesty in a way that the audience recognizes, but the characters in the play fail to realize. It is in her madness that Ophelia adopts this role of Shakespearean fool and in so doing, articulates the quagmire of female subjectivity in Elizabethan England.


Clowns in literature; Fools and jesters in literature; Hamlet; Objectification; Ophelia (Fictitious character); Shakespeare; William; 1564-1616; Subjectivity; Women in literature


Arts and Humanities | Literature in English, British Isles | Women's Studies

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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