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Compare different possible readings of the characters of Gertrude and Ophelia. What impact would different interpretations have on the play as a whole? You might like in particular to consider what difference would be made to a production of the play if t

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Introduction

Compare different possible readings of the characters of Gertrude and Ophelia. What impact would different interpretations have on the play as a whole? You might like in particular to consider what difference would be made to a production of the play if the female characters were presented as strong in themselves, or as weak and in the control of others. What would be your preferred reading? Why? It is inarguable that the two females with most influence throughout 'Hamlet' are Ophelia and Gertrude, they are, after all, the only females! Their position as the only two women in the play immediately marks them out as non-typical characters; 'Hamlet' is a play centred around a struggle for the throne of Denmark, and the fact that the strength and influence of these characters is a matter of some debate adds to the complexities that make 'Hamlet' the play that it is. Two fairly major characters within the play posses a seemingly small influence upon the eventual outcome. The characters have, at first glance, little effect upon the major events of the play, and it is only through their interaction with the male cast that they have any real influence. ...read more.

Middle

as a very definitely weak character, if the historical context of the play is considered, it leaves the debate over her strength open; it was expected for a female character to suffer a certain degree of oppression, it is the manner in which Ophelia deals with this which defines her character. Shakespeare's trait of using minimal stage directions throughout the play leads to a largely open-ended character, which can be manipulated by the director to either extreme. An example of this open-ended approach towards Ophelia is when Claudius and Polonius plot to expose Hamlet's madness, using Ophelia to do so. They plan to overhear Hamlet's reaction when Ophelia returns some trinkets that were of importance to them, as a couple. This scene is particularly open to interpretation, in that it is never made clear as to whether or not Ophelia and Hamlet are involved together or not. If it is assumed that they were involved, and Ophelia was being portrayed as weak, it would be yet another example of her sheer feebleness in the face of a man; being bewildered by his reaction to her rejection. "...What means your lordship?..." ...read more.

Conclusion

Gertrude would be making yet another personal sacrifice in order to maintain the fragile state of harmony that she and Claudius had created. This sacrifice would not only serve to demonstrate her strength, but also to enhance it further, showing that she was prepared and able to isolate herself even from her own son, in order to maintain order and harmony. There is little evidence to support this in the text, it is merely a suggestion, and no strong argument against it was presented in the discussion. Personally, I feel that a strong interpretation of Gertrude represents the script to its fullest. The series of sacrifices made by Gertrude, in order to obtain her goals, portray her as a woman of immense conviction, one who is willing to sacrifice her marriage, family, and even her life, in order to obtain her goals, and uphold her principals. I feel it is unrealistic to portray Gertrude as little more than a prize, coveted by Claudius, and manipulated in a manner suitable for such a character. I feel that, while perhaps not the most entertaining of choices, the weak Ophelia, and strong Gertrude are the interpretations that seem most appropriate to the text, fulfilling what seems like the demands laid out by the script. ...read more.

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