Ophelia and Gertrude. Two different women who seem to be trapped in the same circumstances in relation to Hamlet.
Gertrude, Hamlet's mother and the Queen of Denmark. She is married to the present King, Claudius, who is suspected by Hamlet to have killed his father, King Hamlet, who also happens to be Claudius's brother. Gerturde has somehow ended up in the plot of King Hamlet's death and in the eyes of her son, seems to be a monster and an aide to an adulterating deed.
Ophelia, the daughter of Polonius who is the King's trusted councilor and is later killed in the play and he forbids his daughter to see Hamlet because of the possibility that he beseech her name and her virginity. She truly loves Hamlet and is devastated when he shuns her and pretends to be mad.
Hamlet's treatment towards these two women shapes and brings life to their characters and eventually bring s an end to their characters as well.
Gertrude is a kind and loving mother. The kind that guards after her son through thick and through thin and loves unconditionally. Hamlet had suspected her of aiding in the killing of King Hamlet. That will be discussed later.
Her character is the one character in the play that I believe does not develop but rather stays identical to the scene in which she is introduced(Act I, scene II). She is shown to be a quiet, "stand by your man" type individual who is easily influenced.
This is my belief because in the second scene of the play, Hamlet is shown to be crushed by his mother's hasty remarriage. If marriage within the family was common in the days of Shakespeare, then this is understandable, but, in any other case, this would be considered an act of betrayal that was obviously brought on by some outside pressure, probably from Claudius.
There is, however, a slight change in her personality that is not quite noticeable. At the end of the play, the King and Laertes(Polonius's son) have plotted to kill Hamlet for reasons that are irrelevant to my point. One part of the plot was to have Hamlet drink out of a poisoned cup. It so happens that, in some confusion, the Queen ends up with the cup in her hand. Even after the King's warnings not to drink from the cup(she is unaware of the plot), she does. She does in complete defiance of her husband's wishes. I have interpreted this in this way because of the line the Queen speaks before she drinks from the cup. "I will, my lord, I pray you pardon me."1
This shows that in the case that she might have lived on and not died from the poison in her cup, we(the readers) would see a completely different woman had she found out about the plot by Claudius to not only kill King Hamlet, but young Hamlet as well.
The one thing, I believe, that she would have stood up for is her son, if only she had had a chance.
There is a large part of this play that seems to be lacking in information to provide reason to this attitude.
Hamlet meets with a ghost(seemingly that of his father) who tells him of Claudius's plot to kill him. After the ghost is done telling the story of his death, he specifically tell s Hamlet to punish only Claudius for his foul deed, but "Taint not thy mind nor let thy soul contrive against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven,".2 Generally, he's trying to tell him to punish Claudius and only Claudius. I don't understand this since earlier in the play he refers to the Queen as a "most seeming-virtuous queen".3
Either I have misinterpreted the previous passage or there is a major flaw in the attitude toward Gertrude.
The one other time in the play that we see the Queen standing up for herself or actually giving some sort of argument is when she and Polonius decide to confront Hamlet on his behavior toward the King. Since the revealing of Claudius's involvement in Hamlet's father's death, Hamlet has been putting on an act of madness.
After some very rude gestures on the part of Hamlet, Polonius and the Queen decide to...