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Hamlet - One student said she sympathised most with Gertrude and Ophelia because they were women caught up in a man's world of politics, intrigue and violence. How far do you agree with her opinion?

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Introduction

Hamlet One student said she sympathised most with Gertrude and Ophelia because they were women caught up in a man's world of politics, intrigue and violence. How far do you agree with her opinion? The play 'Hamlet' written by William Shakespeare begins by establishing a mood of anxiety and dread. Broken rhythms generate an atmosphere of unease, apprehension and confusion. When the ghost of the old King Hamlet emerges we cannot tell whether it is good, bad or both. At one moment it appears to be 'majestical', "We did it wrong, being so majestical." And at another 'like a guilty thing', "And then it started like a guilty thing". All this uncertainty and anxiousness prepares us for Hamlets melancholy in the next scene. This whole play is based on violence, politics and intrigue and this is becomes apparent at the beginning of the play where Bernado and Fracisco are on guard. They appear nervous and worried because of the threat of invasion by Norway and also the recent death of the late King Hamlet. This first scene gives the audience an insight on the political situation that Denmark is in. The intrigue within the play begins when Fortinbras is given the opportunity to speak about the political situation of Denmark and the story of what happened between his father and Hamlets father. The guards also talk about the unheralded naval build-up commanded by the present king. This is in response to an expected military invasion by the Norwegian prince Fortinbras, who wishes to regain the territories lost by his father's death. When the guards are talking in Act I they tell us of the deal struck between the two warring Kings. "Against the which, a moiety competent Was gaged by our King," Ophelia Ophelia is an easily manipulated character and she is always eager to please others. Although most people see Ophelia as a minor character in the play she is actually a pale echo of what is happening to Hamlet. ...read more.

Middle

Ophelia begins to hand flowers around to people who are watching her. Each flower appears to be associated with some message. "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that's for thoughts." In this case the rosemary stands for remembrance, which she gives to Laertes, clearly mistaking him for her lover. Pansies are a symbol of sorrow and thought. Ophelia hands the King fennel and columbines which stands for flattery and columbines possibly for unfaithfulness in love. The Queen is handed rue, which is associated with sorrow and repentance. The daisy stands for deception in love affairs. It is quite symbolic that Ophelia didn't hand out the violets, as these are a symbol of faithfulness. The flower imagery used in this scene shows Ophelia's understanding of the intrigue but also of her helplessness to influence it. Because Hamlet is let down by his mother's marriage he feels betrayed and he cannot therefore trust Ophelia and she becomes taunted by the actions of Gertrude. Gertrude Gertrude emerges clearly in Hamlet as a woman defined by her desire for station and affection, as well as by her tendency to use men to fulfil her instinct for self-preservation. This makes her extremely dependent upon the men in her life. Hamlet expresses his outward opinion of Gertrude and of women in general in Act I Scene ii saying, "Frailty, thy name is woman!" He thinks that women are so weak that woman and frailty are two names for the same thing. This comment is as much symptomatic of Hamlets agonised state of mind as of anything else, but to a great extent Gertrude does seem morally frail. She never reveals the ability to think Hamlet critically about the situation, but seems merely to move instinctively toward seemingly safe choices, as when she immediately runs to Claudius after her confrontation with Hamlet. She is at her best in social situations when her natural grace and charm seem to indicate a rich, rounded personality. ...read more.

Conclusion

They are both victims of circumstance. They are both caught up in a mans world of politics, intrigue and violence. However, each character deals with this in different ways. Ophelia is a very submissive character that is frail and innocent and this can work against her, as she cannot cope with the unfolding of one traumatic event after another. Whereas Gertrude uses her sexuality to her own advantage to obtain what she wants. It seems that she can handle traumatic events much better than Ophelia. This is proven by her remarriage quickly after the death of her husband. This is also down to the fact that she is an opportunist who not only thinks of herself but people around her. I think that if Ophelia was put in a position like that then she couldn't handle it. That is where these two women differ. Ophelia is young and inexperienced in a world that is governed by men whereas Gertrude has lived this way for many years and has grown accustomed to it. Therefore Gertrude can use this to her advantage knowing exactly what to do and say to please the men in her life and get what she wants. Two men brought up Ophelia, her father and her brother. Neither of which treated her like a sister or a daughter so she knew no other way. Ophelia is an asset to Polonius and an angel to Laertes. She is constantly thriving to please the men in her life, which is similar to Gertrude. Both women are followers, easily led by the men they love, both are loyal to their families but now torn, both are sensual, confused and bothered by this whole affair. However, Ophelia is a lot more young, 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 does cause is completely un-intentional and staged by her father and the king without her knowledge. Gertrude, on the other hand, is "in" on her part. By Susie Walker ...read more.

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