"In the play Hamlet, Ophelia and Gerturde are both victims" How far do you agree with this view?

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“Ophelia and Gertrude are both victims” How far do you agree with this view?

Ophelia and Gertrude are the most prominent female characters in “Hamlet” and as a result they do seem quite susceptible and vulnerable in the patriarchal society of Denmark that the play is set in.

Many of the ideas and suggestions presented in the play are put forward by the dominant male characters. Since both women seem to have a loving attachment to Hamlet, when it comes to suggestions for establishing the cause of Hamlets madness, they are often used by the men as “bait” to lure him in. This in itself could testify for the idea that both Gertrude and Ophelia are collectively victimised. This is demonstrated in the scene just before Hamlet talks to Ophelia about his real feelings for her. Claudius declares he and Polonius will act as “lawful espials” and they then “may of their encounter frankly judge”. Ophelia does not voice her opinion of their plans, although she is present for the entire discussion. Through this, she is shown to be passive with no strength to defy the orders of others. This could be due to a weak character or the fact that Ophelia is forced to conform to the ideals of the time and doesn’t know any better. Through this repression, Ophelia is some what victimised as she feels and knows she must respect her elders wishes and obey her father. In one of the earlier scenes of the play, after Ophelia has been discussing her courtship with Hamlet to her brother Laertes, Ophelia attempts to express to her father these feelings that Hamlet has claimed to have for her. She says “He hath of late made many tenders of his affection to me.” To which Polonius replies “Affection? Puh! You speak like a green girl.” This makes the audience aware of Polonius’ attitude towards his daughter, he quickly dismisses all the claims she makes and by calling her a “green girl” he is emphasizing her young naivety. This attitude does not seem dissimilar to some held by other male characters, Laertes calls her “chariest maid” and there is definite emphasis on her innocence and purity throughout.  Polonius effectively exploits her to the other characters by commanding Ophelia not to respond to or read her love letters from Hamlet and then publicly humiliating her by reading extracts out to members of the royal court. The aim of this is quite self centred, they are merely trying to account for reasons for Hamlets madness. Polonius shows a lack of respect or consideration for his daughters feelings, which doesn’t help, what we could perhaps assume to be, her steadily deteriorating mental state.

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Ophelia’s character is effectively trapped by Hamlets decision to feign madness. His behaviours leave her distressed and confused and she is unwittingly victimised by him. He declares to her that “I did love you once” and in his next statement he says “I never loved you”. As a character with relatively little to say, the audience does not begin to understand Ophelia’s feelings towards Hamlet until she turns mad. These earlier statements not only seem to trigger the emotional turmoil that she suffers, but later on we are presented with a possibility that the statements were not true, and that ...

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