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Evaluate how the portrayal of Gertrude and Ophelia could be influenced by the sources available to Shakespeare.

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Evaluate how the portrayal of Gertrude and Ophelia could be influenced by the sources available to Shakespeare. In this day and age, for a play to be plausible and enjoyable, women have to be included substantially in the plot. Our society is no longer patriarchal or male driven, but in the Elizabethan era things were different. The role of women was radically changing as the public were beginning to realise the power of Elizabeth I and this directly affected English Literature which had began to also focus on women. Yet Shakespeare gave small and insignificant roles to Gertrude and Ophelia in Hamlet. As said by Judith Cook, they appear to be 'somewhat spiritless creatures' when likened to the major greats of Shakespearian theatre like Lady Macbeth, Cleopatra, Portia and Rosalind who at times show great strength of character and independence of spirit. However, it is quite certain from his plays that had Shakespeare wanted Gertrude and Ophelia to be more important in 'Hamlet', he would have given them much more substance and much more dialogue. However, for a modern director, it is important to understand what role Gertrude and Ophelia play; although Shakespeare may not have wanted them to be the protagonists, they are still essential to the plot. ...read more.


Her sexuality is again demonstrated in the closet scene. Barbara Jefford, who played Gertrude at the National Theatre said, 'I think that she is very, very sexy who desperately needs it and finds Claudius extremely attractive. Did she know about the murder? I think she did, yes...I don't think you could live in an enclosed atmosphere like the Danish court and not know there was something strange about it!' However, although many of the sources do tend to imply that Gertrude may have known about the King Hamlet's murder, Shakespeare refrains on revealing his own ideas about it. There is only one sentence in the whole of Hamlet that could possibly incriminate Gertrude and that is when the ghost calls Gertrude his 'most seeming-virtuous queen.' Although the ghost prohibits Hamlet from harming his mother, all of the ghost's anger and hatred seems to be directed at his wife as he urges Hamlet to let 'those thorns that in her bosom lodge, To prick and sting her. However, these lines are vague and it could be argued that King Hamlet says those words, as he is angry that Gertrude married in such great haste after his own death. ...read more.


In the inquest it was revealed that Katherine Hamlet had indeed been jilted by a lover and was pregnant when she drowned. Thus it is possible that Ophelia had been mistress to Hamlet as is in the case in all the sources. The original stories of Hamlet can give rise to different understandings and often contradicting interpretations of Gertrude and Ophelia, but the answer to their characters is hard to find. One thing that cannot be forgotten is that Hamlet is a play. It is one of those stories that each age interprets anew. It has been acted in many different ways and all of them seem to work. Each account and source assumes new life for each generation and offers different interpretations for different actors and producers. Word count :1406 Miss Walker, This is my first draft of the essay and I'm not sure if it's all right. The essay title may need a few changes and please tell me if I have to write more about language or if I need more quotes. I'm also not sure if I have set up my quotations correctly or if I have to underline a play when talking about it. If the essay is unsuitable I can completely change it if you think so. Thankyou Shruti ...read more.

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