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Hamlet - Although They Have Few Words, Is It The Women Who Drive The Action Of The Play?

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19/12/04 Hamlet - Although They Have Few Words, Is It The Women Who Drive The Action Of The Play? The female characters of the play - Gertrude and Ophelia - are each given unique personalities which influence the conclusion of the story. I think that both women play important roles and while each character is different in individual ways, they share similar qualities. Ophelia is the daughter of Polonius (a chief advisor to King Claudius). Shakespeare does very little to develop her character: she has very little stage time and few lines. I think that this is partly because women were not allowed to act on stage in Shakespeare's time. Female roles had to be played by men, therefore, there were always limitations and restrictions for female characters. In the case of Ophelia, a young and lovely woman, Shakespeare would have been writing for a boy. This might have prevented the playwright from developing the character more fully. Nevertheless, Ophelia plays a significant role which helps determine the outcome of the play. Ophelia is greatly influenced and controlled by those around her. She represents the traditional obedient and passive woman and is a victim in the play. She is unable to express her deep emotions because of their control and eventually this leads to her madness. It is her crazed reaction to her father's death, ultimately resulting in her suicide, which most strongly affects the plays ending. ...read more.


Ophelia describes his look as: 'so piteous in purport As if he had been loosed out of hell To speak of horrors' (2:1:82-4) He left the room with a 'piteous and profound' sigh but without saying anything. When he hears, Polonius is certain that Ophelia is responsible, having made Hamlet lovesick. Polonius believes that Hamlet's madness is the result of Ophelia rejecting him and hurries to tell the King: 'I will go seek the King. This is the very ecstasy of love, Whose violent property fordoes itself And leads the will to desperate undertakings' (2:1:101-4) In Act 2 Scene 2 Claudius and Polonius, eager to find the reason for Hamlet's odd behaviour, contrive a plan to listen in on an arranged meeting between Hamlet and Ophelia. They are sure that it has something to do with the young couple's relationship but Gertrude also believes that the cause of her son's 'distemper' is his father's death and her 'o'er-hasty marriage'. Though loved by Hamlet, Ophelia ultimately betrays him by spying on him for King Claudius in Act 3 Scene 1. Hamlet's immediate reaction to seeing Ophelia again suggests that he is glad to see her: 'The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons' (3:1:89) However, when Ophelia gives him back the 'remembrances', he begins to doubt her honesty and behaves in an intimidating manner. Hamlet asks where Polonius is and knows that Ophelia is lying when she answers feebly, 'At home, my lord'. ...read more.


O my dear Hamlet! The drink, the drink! I am poison'd' (5:2:315-6) Gertrude and Ophelia are followers, easily led by the men they love, both are loyal to their families but now torn and both are confused and bothered by this whole affair. However, Ophelia is a lot more innocent and naive than Gertrude and is much more of a victim because unlike Gertrude, she is really completely free from purposeful wrongdoing throughout the play. Any harm she causes is completely un-intentional and staged by her father and the King without her knowledge. To conclude, Gertrude helps drive the action of the play as she is a character that sits in the middle of the conflict, and seems intent in resolving it at every turn. She is both mother and peacemaker in a family that has come into an unstable way of life. Gertrude is thoughtful and sensitive in her attempts to intervene. She is not simply an ignorant victim of her situation. Ophelia's also has an important role in driving the action of the play as madness and suicide has a huge affect on the other main characters. She has a major influence on Hamlet, and his return to sanity. Her madness influences the Queen - upon learning of Ophelia's death, Gertrude seems to be in a state of confusion over the loss of this innocent girl. She also influences Laertes - his grief at her death leads to his alliance with King Claudius to kill Hamlet and avenge Polonius's death. ?? ?? ?? ?? Emma Foley Page 1 02/05/20074 ...read more.

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