The Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet features two female characters in main roles, Ophelia and Gertrude. They are similar in a surprising number of ways. This essay proposes to elucidate the reader on their likeness or similarity.
It is quite obvious that both Gertrude and Ophelia are both motivated by love and a desire for quiet familial harmony among the members of their society in Elsinore. Out of love for her son does Gertrude advise:
Dear Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust. (1.2)
Likewise does she ask that the prince remain with the family: “Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet, / I pray thee stay with us, go not to Wittenberg.” Later, when the hero’s supposed “madness” is the big concern, Gertrude lovingly sides with her husband in the analysis of her son’s condition: “I doubt it is no other but the main, / His father’s death and our o’erhasty marriage.” She confides her family-supporting thoughts to Ophelia: “And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish / That your good beauties be the happy cause / Of Hamlet’s wildness,” thereby attempting to keep a loving relationship with the young lady of the court, even though the latter is of a lower social stratum. When Claudius requests of Gertrude, “Sweet Gertrude, leave us too; / For we have closely sent for Hamlet hither,” Gertrude responds submissively, “I shall obey you.”
Familial love is first among Gertrude’s priorities. When, at the presentation of The Mousetrap, she makes a request of her son, “Come hither, my dear Hamlet, sit by me,” and he...
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...ossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.
Boklund, Gunnar. “Hamlet.” Essays on Shakespeare. Ed. Gerald Chapman. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965.
Burton, Philip. “Hamlet.” The Sole Voice. New York: The Dial Press, 1970. N. pag. http://www.freehomepages.com/hamlet/other/burton-hamlet.htm
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Lectures and Notes on Shakspere and Other English Poets. London : George Bell and Sons, 1904. p. 342-368. http://ds.dial.pipex.com/thomas_larque/ham1-col.htm
Kermode, Frank. “Hamlet.” The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974.
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.
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