Dec 13, 2017 in Literature

Ophelia and Gertrude

While analyzing the works of William Shakespeare, we can see that most of the women in his plays are week and find themselves being influenced by men in their lives.

There are two heroines in Shakespeare’s play ‘Hamlet’. They are Ophelia and Gertrude. Gertrude is Hamlet’s mother and she seems to play a very important role, being the Queen of Denmark. She is married to a king Claudius whom Hamlet suspects to be the murderer of his father. The other heroine, Ophelia, is the daughter of the trusted councilor. The girl loves Hamlet with all of her heart. Both of these women have a really strong influence on Hamlet, but they are also strongly influenced by other men in their lives.

 They both care about protagonist and they are worried about his mental health and in some way they are trapped in his ill-will. However, despite of the fact that they both had known Hamlet for a long period of time, they still do not understand the true intentions of the character. From the very beginning, the readers can understand the true behavior of Hamlet toward both of the women. The first scene, when the audience gets acquainted with Hamlet, shows his anger toward his mother because of the fact that she got married to his uncle so quickly after his father’s death. Hamlet is sure that this marriage will not come to something good (Shakespeare 15). However, Gertrude is shown to be much stronger than Ophelia, as she only pretends that she doesn’t know what the reason of Hamlet’s anger is. She says that the main reason is the death of Hamlet’s father and she acknowledges that the decision to get married again is much too hasty (Shakespeare 42). Here Shakespeare actually contrasts the attitude of different women to love as such. He shows that Gertrude has never known the true love and she could not be faithful as she easily gets under the influence of another man. On the other side, Ophelia, being truly in love with Hamlet at the beginning of the play, is told by her father to sever any contact with Hamlet. She is not allowed to give words or to talk with Hamlet (Shakespeare 24). And again author shows us that women are constantly being under the influence of men. We do understand that Ophelia is different from Gertrude. She is innocent and naïve. She actually had no experience in live and she does not want to listen to anyone concerning her love, but she has no real willpower  to do things she wishes to do, as opposed to Gertrude. Even despite that fact that she obeyed her father, Hamlet was still a main focus in her entire life. She is too young and she can be easily influenced. And, as matter of fact, only because she can be so easily influenced by a stronger person, she becomes traumatized after Hamlet pays several visits to her after the ghost’s appearance (Shakespeare 39).

These two main heroines have different attitudes to attacks by Hamlet. Gertrude is much stronger and much more stubborn, as she never actually admitted to being wrong, despite any confrontations. Whereas Ophelia was never acting on her own and she never had a real strength to deny anything or argue with Hamlet. When Hamlet doubts her honesty and fairness, the only argument the girl can find is “My Lord?” (Shakespeare 64). Gertrude is more powerful and she shows her feelings and tries to accuse Hamlet somehow when he is being too aggressive. Once they had a heated argument and  after a lot of negative words she told him that if the words had been made on breath, she would not have had the life to breathe (Shakespeare 91). Generally speaking, Shakespeare uses Ophelia and Gertrude to show the two different sides of how a woman can be. Gertrude is shown to be comparatively strong, but fickle. Ophelia is depicted as totally dependent on men’s opinion and an absolutely innocent person.

In conclusion, we can say that Shakespeare did not dedicate a lot of time to women as characters on their own in his plays. Usually women are used to characterize men, as they are influenced by them and women are led by men throughout the whole play. We can see that even when the woman has some comparatively strong willpower, she is depicted as being the negative character in the play. Anyway, all of the female characters are passive and they are used only to disclose the nature of the men depicted in the play.   

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