The Females’ Suffering in Males’ Conflicts An Analysis and Comparison of Gertrude and Ophelia in Hamlet

Topics: Characters in Hamlet, Hamlet, Gertrude Pages: 12 (3574 words) Published: October 28, 2014
The Females’ Suffering in Males’ Conflicts
An Analysis and Comparison of Gertrude and Ophelia in Hamlet

Prepared for
Assoc. Professor Dr. Andy Fung

Instructor and Advisor
Dr. Andy Fung

Prepared by
Xinyue Zhang
ID: 1130200166
Class Number: 11
May 20, 2014
Classical Works of Shakespearean and Chinese Tragedy

An Analysis and Comparison of Gertrude and Ophelia in Hamlet

1. Introduction
Tragedies have the magic that make people suffer from sorrow but they still addicted to the stories. The audience indulges in the charisma of tragedies, take the pleasuring with the pain, and purge the soul with tears1. Whenever mentioned is made to the most influential and prominent tragedy in the English literature Shakespeare’s Hamlet2would be one of the names that come to people’s minds. Although the play was written about 400 years ago, it has been captivating audiences until present day. The revenge of a noble Danish prince, Hamlet, is the theme of the play. While the majority of the play describes the men’s conflictions, the female characters, as the supporting roles, also play important parts and have the vivid and distinctive personalities in the play. Gertrude and Ophelia are the two female characters in Hamlet that reflects the political, ethical, philosophical, and aesthetic ideologies in that particular period in Britain (Lorand, 2000). This paper focuses on analyzing the effects and characteristics of the two characters in the play for several aspects.

2. Analysis
2.1 Promotion on Plots
Gertrude is the queen of the country, the widow of the dead king Hamlet, the mother of Hamlet, and also the new wife of Claudius. She seems a noble woman that obtains the love of the two kings; however, she is a weak character who is forced into the whirlpool of this political confliction. Gertrude’s behavior, intentional or unintentional, serves as the indirect “detonator” of the tragic ending of herself, Ophelia, Hamlet, and other victims. The marriage between Gertrude and Claudius is the start of the whole “chain reaction” that occurs in the following story (see Figure 1). This incestuous marriage is a shock to Hamlet. He feels that the world is contaminated like an "unweeded garden" that's "rank and gross in 1

Lecture Notes of the course Classical Works of Shakespearean and Chinese Tragedy, prepared by Andy Fung. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is the alternate name of Hamlet. The story is about the young prince Hamlet meets his father’s ghost, who claims that his brother, the new king, now married to his widow, murdered him. After testing the truth of the ghost’s words by a “play-within-the-play”, Hamlet determines to take revenge toward his uncle. Nearly all the main characters die in the end of the play. 2

1

An Analysis and Comparison of Gertrude and Ophelia in Hamlet

nature" (1.2.6)3, and is disappointed with women and says things that "frailty, thy name is woman" (1.2.6). Besides Claudius’s murdering, the disloyalty of Gertrude actually also significantly contributes to Hamlet’s hatred and hurt. After that, Gertrude plays a role in raising the level of the confliction when meeting with Hamlet because of the “play-within-the-play”4. Just like what Figure 1 shows, people die one after another like the

rolling waves of tragedy.
Ophelia is another feeble person, even weaker than Gertrude. She is wavering between two opposing parties, and has never been given a chance to make her own decision. She cannot be blamed for the occurring of tragedies, but her role is indispensable in pushing the power of revenges to the climax.

The life and death of Ophelia greatly influenced the main characters, particularly Hamlet. In Hamlet’s eyes, Ophelia is “the most beautified” woman (2.2.21); however, she rejects and spies on Hamlet as being asked by her father. Her actions, to some extent, further strengthen 3

The version of the Hamlet (Shakespeare, 1564 -1616) script is edited by Spencer, T. J. in...

References: Aristotle & Jowett, B. (2000). Politics (New translated). New York: Dover publications.
Campbell, E. E. (2004). "SAD GENERATIONS SEEKING WATER": THE SOCIAL
CONSTRUCTION OF MADNESS IN OPHELIA AND QUENTIN COMPSON.
Fung, A. (2014). L.2 Tragedy: Definition & Theories. Lecture Notes: Classical Works of
Shakespearean and Chinese Tragedy
Fung, A. (2014). Tg L9 NO3-Spark Notes T4 Hamlet. Lecture Notes: Classical Works of
Shakespearean and Chinese Tragedy
Kincaid, A. (1977). Hamlet 's Cue For Passion in the Nunnery Scene. Shakespeare Studies,
1099
Lorand, R. (2000). Aesthetic Order : A Philosophy of Order, Beauty and Art. London, GBR:
Routledge
Rasmussen, E. & Bate, J. (2007). "Much Ado About Nothing".The RSC Shakespeare: the
complete works
Savu, L. E. (2003). In desire 's grip: Gender, politics, and intertextal games in updike 's
gertrude and claudius
Shakespeare, W., & Spencer, T. J. (1980). Hamlet (New ed.). London: Penguin. ISBN
0-141-01307-9
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