"Hamlet thou has cleft my heart in twain"
Most productions present Gertrude and Ophelia as sympathetic victims of Hamlet's cruelty. As your starting point, refer to either the closet scene or the nunnery scene and, paying close attention to the language, show how it reveals the interaction between Hamlet and the women characters here and throughout the play.
Referring to Hamlet's portrayal of a cruel character, the major victims that first come to mind are Ophelia, his girlfriend possibly his future wife and Gertrude, his mother. The significance of Hamlets attitude and behaviour shows an important aspect of the play in the relationship with two women. It shows clearly intense relationships which cause Hamlet a certain amount of pain. He is trying' to portray madness in his character with Ophelia in the nunnery scene and with Gertrude in the closet scene. Perhaps the reason of madness towards Gertrude is the fact that she has married his uncle. The reason behind the cruelty towards Ophelia could also be the fact that it is a kind cruelty trying to push Ophelia away from him.
In the scene known as the closet scene we can see Hamlet and Gertrude alone altogether. He starts with an accusation "You are the queen, your husband's brother's wife..." Shakespeare uses such language in order to strengthen Hamlet's character, which tries to trap Gertrude, informing her of the incestuous performed by her with her husband's brother. This dialogue in its own sense creates the atmosphere and the theme of the scene. Gertrude in her own self does fear Hamlet "What will thou do? Thou will not murder me..." this emphasises on the fear held within Gertrude, maybe it is the body language or rather face expressions of Hamlet towards Gertrude which causes to outbreaks the fear within her. As Hamlet kills Polonius, the uncertainty in the atmosphere becomes as strong as Hamlets anger, in this case we can say that it's more of his madness which is portrayed. It shows to what extend he may go to take revenge, despite the fact that he is creating this commotion in the presence of his mother. Another factor is that he could be showing his power in order to prove a certain point to his mother, that he the dominant person of the conversation. Knowing the fact that he is holding a knife, yet he attempts to put the knife through the curtain, leading to the killing of his own love's father, Polonius. As he gets more aggressive and violent in the scene, it shows the sort of respect he actually does have for his mother. Hamlet is not just portraying the dominant character yet also victimising his own mother.
There have been many times in the scene where Gertrude has tried to confront Hamlet proving her innocence but Hamlet insults her leaving her in the state where she has nothing to say in defence of proving her innocence. When Gertrude says "what have I done, that thou dar'st wag thy tongue in noise so rude against me?" to what Hamlet replies, "Such an act, that blurs the grace and blush of modesty
" he accuses her of breaking the marriage with his father, due to adultery, and sexual desires, without even giving her a chance to speak her heart. Hamlet through his language which is not directly stating her into any category, but classes her as a desperate woman, who has no self respect, and has no mind to think for herself. But again this is quite typical of a man to think or say to a woman in Shakespeare's times. "You cannot call it love, for at your age
" hamlet clearly stereotypes her of her age, accusing her of this false marriage that she has had, with his father's brother. Shakespeare has tried to show a contradiction between a mother and son relationship with the status of a man and a woman in the 12th century.
After all the accusation Hamlet succeeds in provoking Gertrude's conscience into the guilt of the incest that she has performed, as the guilt is building up in Gertrude's heart Hamlet shows another vibe of his madness by...
Bibliography: • "HAMLET PRINCE OF DENMARK"
Edited by Philip Edwards
• Cambridge Student Guide
• Class Notes on Hamlet-English Literature
• Oxford Dictionary
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