How are Gertrude and Ophelia strong characters in Hamlet?I need 2 solid arguments proving that Gertrude and Ophelia are not frail but rather seen as frail because of the male conception of self. It...

How are Gertrude and Ophelia strong characters in Hamlet?

I need 2 solid arguments proving that Gertrude and Ophelia are not frail but rather seen as frail because of the male conception of self. It would really help if you can also provide some examples of quotes to help explain and support the 2 arguments.

Thanks.

Asked on by cobyco

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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There is evidence that both Gertrude and Ophelia are stronger characters than they might be given credit for if one only gives their character roles a cursery reading.  If you look at Gertrude, it is easy to assume, like Hamlet and King Hamlet do, that she was too easily won over to Claudius by "the witchcraft of his wit... that has the power so to seduce."  But that logic assumes that Gertrude doesn't have anything to gain from the marriage.  While it is not stated directly in the text, it is possible that Gertrude married Claudius to maintain herself as Queen of Denmark -- a position I would assume she loved having.  She may have married Claudius because it was a good political move, preserving the throne for her son to take over eventually, while maintaining the power of Denmark with a smooth transition of leadership.  Perhaps she married Claudius because she still felt like a sexual, sensual woman who wasn't ready to wear widow's clothes and be cast aside into a lonely room in the castle for the rest of her life.  All of these possibilities suggest a powerful woman, not a weakling.  If you read Gertrude's character with that sense of self-determination and putting Hamlet as a foremost concern, then you can see another side of her.

As for Ophelia, she is in a slightly more tenuous position in society.  She is an unmarried lady who should protect her reputation, and must remember that she is a unmarried woman still living in her father's home.  She obeys her father's command to put aside Hamlet's affections, but she doesn't have much of a choice.  During his questioning of her she does her very best to defend and explain her relationship with Hamlet, but he cuts her off at every chance and insults her intelligence and her feelings.  Even though she acquiesces to her father, she still tries to be there for Hamlet.  She is devastated at his seeming craziness.  She seems to play into (or she staunchly rejects) his bawdy flirting at the play-within-a-play (depending on how you read it.)  She does end up committing suicide, but she has been through so much senseless tragedy.  With Ophelia, you must remember that her position in society makes her weak -- not her personality alone.

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