Gertrude and Ophelia occupy the leading roles for females in the Shakespearean drama Hamlet. As women they share many things in common: attitudes from others, shallow or simple minds and outlooks, etc. This essay will delve into the various facets of what they hold in common.
John Dover Wilson explains in What Happens in Hamlet how the prince holds both of the women in disgust:
The exclamation “Frailty thy name is woman!” in the first soliloquy, we come to feel later, embraces Ophelia as well as Gertrude, while in the bedroom scene he as good as taxes his mother with destroying his capacity for affection, when he accuses her of
such an act
That blurs the grace and blush of modesty,
Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose
From the fir forehead of an innocent love
And sets a blister there.
Moreover, it is clear that in the tirades of the nunnery scene he is thinking almost as much of his mother as of Ophelia (101).
Hamlet’s disgust for his mother is so great that it even “envelops and exceeds her” (Elliot 25). In the closet scene he attacks her with “the indulgence of an obsessive passion” (Knight 70). Such aggressiveness is contrary to the natural direction of both Ophelia and Gertrude. They are both “tender of heart,” and “to Hamlet, Ophelia is no better than another Gertrude” (Bevington 9). Both are motivated by love and a desire for quiet familial harmony among the members of their courtly society in Elsinore. At the first social function in the play, Gertrude advises out of love:
Dear Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever...
... middle of paper ...
.... “Hamlet and His Problems.” Selected Essays. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1950. Rpt. in Twentieth Century Interpretations of Hamlet. Ed. David Bevington. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.
Kermode, Frank. “Hamlet.” The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974.
Knight, L.C. “An Approach to Hamlet.” Twentieth Century Interpretations of Hamlet. Ed. David Bevington. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968. Rpt. from An Approach to Hamlet. Stanford, CT: Stanford University Press, 1961.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html No line nos.
Wilson, John Dover. What Happens in Hamlet. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
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