The Silent voice of women in "Hamlet" Gertrude and Ophelia . How would you compare and contrast their role of women in Hamlet, their purpose, the statement they make or lack of statement they make. What do their portrayals say about women politically, intellectually, socially, emotionally and economically? : LUSENET : Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet : One Thread

The Silent voice of women in "Hamlet" Gertrude and Ophelia . How would you compare and contrast their role of women in Hamlet, their purpose, the statement they make or lack of statement they make. What do their portrayals say about women politically, intellectually, socially, emotionally and economically?

-- Christine A Diaz (, November 16, 2002


Christine, this is huge, (as well as confusingly worded - did you type it quite right?) and it sounds suspiciously like a homework essay question we shouldn't be writing in totality for you. I strongly suggest you read through responses to other questions on Ophelia and Gertrude in the forum (and any questions which seem related). Just take an afternoon and browse. Then come back to us with any specific problems or doubts you may have about some of the responses or any scenes or lines in the play, or even with this question itself.

But just something you might or might not know, which you could bear in mind: in Shakespeare's day women were not allowed too perform on stage, which meant that female characters were always played by boys dressed up as women. The boys were, of course, young, without the years of acting training or experience of fully-fledged adult actors. So female parts are almost always relatively small. And some of the female characters might be less developed than Shakespeare might ideally have wanted to make them, and they might be more silent and make less of a statement than he might have wanted. More than this, Gertrude and Ophelia are only two female characters of all the ones Shakespeare did create. They are not necessarily a fully accurate reflection of women's political, intellectual, social, emotional and economic lives across the board.

-- catherine england (, November 17, 2002.

Yes indeed, I am currently a Highschool student, and out English teacher is aking us write a compare and contrast essay on Hamlet. I never really could get into Shakespeare, because it doesn't seem to have any particular place to where women can relate to. I think that it is a great story but, women seemed to be degraded in a lot of ways.

-- jojo williams (, November 20, 2002.

On the contrary, in contrast to the usual concept of the lives of women in the time, Shakespeare's women generally seem remarkably independent, free spirited, inventive, strong, enduring, capable, witty, and assertive. It's just that their sphere of activity is different to that of men. And Shakespeare ponts out that if men look down on them, that's men's loss. Given this, Gertrude and Ophelia start as exceptions to Shakespeare's more usual portrayal of women. They are weaker and more submissive than his usual. But I think they both gain strength and independence and assertiveness as their experiences through the play progress.

-- catherine england (, November 22, 2002.

This is quite a complicated question to ask. A person could write a 20 page paper on this easily. My quick answer to this would be one that tends to disagree with Catherine England's opinion. Ophelia and Gertrude never had any independence. One notices this when realizing they were never even given their own monologues so we could see, introspectively, on their emotions and thoughts. How can one argue that they gained any sort of personal autonomy besides their own deaths? Gertrude refused to listen to King Claudius one solitary time and was poisoned in consequence. Ophelia's death may not even been from her own doing; it may have been accidental. They were completely controlled by the males throughout the entire play. Hamlet, who murders twice, is quite quick to criticize his mother who's only crime was to remarry too quickly. What does this say about our "tragic hero"? Ophelia, who undeniably went mad, only did so after losing all her "guidance" from Hamlet's love and her father. Even the player queen draws many unmistakable parallels to Queen Gertrude and is portrayed as a cunniving, cold, and "pernicious" woman. So, where exactly do these female characters gain independence...I'm not sure i see. What i do see are two submissive women who are stifled because of the male's controlling contumely.

-- Snorts (, March 05, 2003.

Contrary to your answer, Ophelia is in fact given a short "soliloque"/solitary monologue, what you will, after the "nunnery scene". Secondly you wrote: "...Hamlet, who murders twice, is quite quick to criticize his mother who's only crime was to remarry too quickly..." That is not the reason at all. Not the only reason, by any means. Greater reasons would be the incestuous and utterly sinful nature of Gertrude's remarriage to her brother in law, and Hamlet's disgust at his "own stock", so to speak.

-- Patrick Walker (, March 06, 2003.

hhhmmmm.....thanks dudes u saved my english grade!!! you have been a great help and thanks for the brains!!!

-- pixie (, April 07, 2003.

I am writing a paper on this topic currently and to me it seems that these women in Shakespeare all poorly portrayed as a result of Hamlet's, and perhaps Shakespeare's, misogyny. Hamlet refers to Gertrude as a whore many times, even though all of her sexual acts are apparently committed in the sanctity of marriage. Also, Hamlet's famous, "Get thee to a nunnery" to Ophelia has quite often been interpretted as "Go to a whorehouse" because nunnery was Elizabethan slang for a whorehouse. In truth it may be that neither Ophelia or Gertrude are actually the whores that Hamlet accuses them of being, but that Hamlet's accusation makes them such; "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

-- Lee C (, April 16, 2003.

Would just like to point out that despite old Bill's horrid treatment of women in Hamlet, they do actually exist, and have voices, unlike some of his contemporaries most successful plays.

Life for women in elizabethan England was utter hell...that's what is reflected in Shakespeare's work.

-- Sarah Tittlemouse (, July 16, 2003.

Well, when we actually take a deeper insight into Ophelia and Gertrude has anyone ever actually kicked back to think? Have you ever considered why Gertrude remarried so quickly?? Was there a possible affair amoungst her and this intruder? Also when we look at Ophelia we can see so clearly that her character is parallel to that of Desdemona in Shakespeare's Othello. BOTH are virtuous and obedient, but are both subjected to thier own fate due to their own innocence. Look at the way Hamlet uses the metaphor "frailty, thy name is woman". And the ways in which he uses the play The Mouse Trap, he uses this with much thought, not just to get a response from the new king, no no no. He has cleverly produced the player Queen to have reacted in the ways in which he had expected the real Queen Gertrude to. She even says "me thinks the lady protests too much", what does that tell you? Now please mistake me if I am wrong, but I am only 17 and doing my last year of A levels, but I have relitivly pointed out some key factors that many of you have missed. I would love to here more comments as I love Shakespeare, so please email me.

-- Kayleigh Miah (, November 21, 2003.

i would like to point out that Hamlet did not only refer to Gertrude and Ophelia as whores. There are actually many instances in which prostitution was brought up while not speaking about ophelia and gertrude. He even mentions men in the play to be like whores... his comparison with whores to anyone in the play do not necesarilly have a sexual meaning, the over all meaning of prostitution in the play was based on shame and selling out by going allong with the malicious intents of others.

-- Ana Q (, January 14, 2004.

When I saw someone say that Ophelia became more strong and assertive and independent with the progression of the play... I HAD to laugh. the woman KILLS herself, because she can't DEAL with Hamlet going hot- and-cold and then killing her father.

As to women in Hamlet... The women characters are weak. It's important to note that Shakespeare's relationship with his wife wasn't a good one. He also apparently had a deep love for a 'dark woman' whom he hated because he was in love with her. That kind of perversity lends itself to the works he puts out.

Another note is that it was written soon after his own son Hamlet's death. That sets the tone for the whole play. It's likely that he placed blame on his wife, since Shakespeare himself wasn't there to care for his son while his son was ill. That would help explain the abuse towards Gertrude.

-- Savannah M. (, January 14, 2004.

The Ghost pretty much tells hamlet that Gertude and Claudius were having an affair while he was still alive. Hamlet then takes this information coupled with the fact that it is incest to hurt his mother as much as possible because he feels that she has betrayed him and the memory of his father.

It is true that Hamlet uses the term whore to refer to almost everybody in the play but the very fact that he is using it is in itself a misogynistic act. Whore/Drab are both very degrading terms and hamlets use of them regardless of the object shows that he does not think highly of them.

You might want to consider Hamlets Oedipus Complex, and view his attacks on Gertrude and Ophelia in that light. He abuses the women he loves because he cannot have the contact with them that he wants. Sort of like when you beat up the person you like on the playground in grade school.

-- Leigh Hartman (, January 18, 2004.

Many people take Hamlets side when he is annoyed with his mother for remarring but many people seem to forget that KIng Hamlet and Gertrudes marriage was probably set up so she may never have loved him. We also get no insight into what king Hamlet was like when he was alive and how he acted towards women. I know that Hamlet would be hurt but you have to think about how Gertrude feels.

-- Larry Flint (, January 20, 2004.

I go away for a month and come back to 47 new posts - including about 40 on whether or not Hamlet was mad. Still. Sigh. I suppose I'll read through them all eventually.

However. Some thoughts for Savannah the Laugher of a few posts back here. Gertrude splits with Claudius, taking decision, and her own course of action, for the first time in Act IV. She answers back and even disobeys him for the first time in V.ii. Ophelia becomes more assertive in, and perhaps because of, her madness. She takes control of scenes and of their dialogue, leading them, in Act IV. The other characters simply follow her moods and actions. She shocks the other characters, makes them listen to her songs and the meanings in them, forces them to take flowers with meanings, and contradicts them, even the King. In the end she arguably takes control of her own life at last, by ending it. I see these sorts of things as increases in self-assertion in Gertrude and Ophelia.

-- catherine england (, January 27, 2004.

I can see how it appears Ophelia does become more assertive towards the end of the play, but I think that's just one interpretation. I don't think that Shakespeare actually intended for her to come across in that way at all. She has spent her life being controlled by the men in the play (Polonius and Hamlet) and she is sent mad without their stability in her life. When her father dies and is no longer there to give her orders, and Hamlet appears to lose interest in her, Ophelia can no longer cope. Although she does become a slightly stronger character near the end of the play, I would never describe her as assertive. If she is, I certainly don't think that is was shakespeare's intention.

-- Ruth (, January 27, 2004.

But there's alse III.ii, during the playlet performance, when she argues back to Hamlet, corrects him, and rebukes him. I think WS meant Gertrude and Ophelia to have strength. It is a more subtle, feminine, even maternal strength than the in-your-face, war-like, masculine strength of the blokes. But it is there and meant to be there.

-- catherine england (, January 27, 2004.

I understand the interpretation that Ophelia and Gertrude became more assertive towards the end of the play. However, I think there is a much stronger way of looking at the situation. The two women are dependent on men. They are shadows of masculinity. Gertrude used to be a much stronger and more independent woman. She was married to a highly respected king. In addition, if she was not previously a stronger woman, then her marriage to Claudius would not have been as disappointing to Hamlet as it was. Plus, Gertrude receives no respect from Claudius. He commands her and says to her "Come, away" several times in the play. Furthermore, Ophelia depends on the King, Hamlet, and her father. Without those three men, Ophelia loses her sanity. First, Hamlet rejects her love. Second, the King becomes so entangled with worrying about Hamlet that he does not have time to guide her. Finally, her father dies. I realize that her father's death is the main reason she loses her sanity, but the other two men play an important role.

-- Mike Stevenson (, February 09, 2004.

I think you're right that the two were dependent on men, but I don't understand how that is a stronger way of looking at the situation.

There is no evidence that Gertrude was previously a stronger woman. Her remarriage is disappointing to Hamlet because (as he himself says) it is incestuous, and because it happened so soon after the death of King Hamlet on whom she had appeared to dote and depend. It is likely Gertrude was much the same, since King Hamlet, it seems, was a more commanding, admirable king, whilst being so loving to her, and since she had no need or cause to be assertive, such as she gets during the play. I think she might have married Claudius in part precisely because she felt she needed a man for security and leadership.

I don't think Polonius's death is the main reason for Ophelia's madness. It is just the reason that the other characters understand and therefore talk about. What she says and sings indicates that her loss of Hamlet is at least as important.

-- catherine england (, February 11, 2004.

I believe it was neither the loss of Hamlets love or her father that drove Ophelia to madness. It was the death of her beloved puppy that really pushed her over the edge. I mean wouldn't you be a bit crazed if your beloved pet died, more so than the death of a pompus and manipulating windbag such as Polonius.

-- Steve Florey (, February 22, 2004.

Ophelia has a pet? I'm not too sure about this, as I've read Hamlet at least 6 times over during the past 2 years. I could have skipped it so you may have made an outstanding, valid statement. In that case, it must be a mouse then, as they were delicacies during the Elizabethan period.

-- An Expert In Hamlet (, March 16, 2004.

I believe that women are portrayed as the weaker sex. They are trated terribly and they jest accept it as part of their lives. The male gender thret them women as animals perhaps slaves in hamlet and this upsets me! Why do men think that they are better than women? it's a mockery!

-- karen karen (, March 27, 2004.

hello to the good people on this forum. im doin a little work if my own and need to find criticism from recognised critics illustrating Gertrude and Ophelia to be either weak or strong characters. now i know this will not cause an arguement between people on here but i would very much appreciate any help.

p.s. the women in "hamlet" and other Shakespeare plays are weak, Lady Macbeth dies from her own undoings does she not!?

-- michael freeman (, March 28, 2004.

I loved reading all the discussions on Hamlet, I too am writing a paper on Hamlet, and so happens to be on the frailty of women. Some people had very valid points and I'll have to study those further, but I beleive most of you are either forgetting or not even realizing one of the most key men in Ophelia's life, Leartes. I've heard about Polonius, and how he guided her, but do not forget Ophelia was pushed around by her brother, and she does assert herself a little there, but by the end of the scene she complies to Polonius' command which parallels the one Leartes gave. And by the way if you have to write an essay on this and almost any aspect of the play, include the flowers that Ophelia hands out in her crazy state, and their meanings, it usually makes for a good arguement, of starting point.

-- Shani Kellam (, April 01, 2004.

That is an interesting idea i have thought about. However, i tended to ignore this as contextual evidence of Laertes overpowering her, to the extent of Polonius, is not in abundance.

One idea that i have come up with is this: A patriarchal society in which Shakespeare lived in and that the text is based upon is used. Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne at the same time "Hamlet" was written. Queen Gertrude in "Hamlet" does not have the power of Queen Elizabeth I, yet a correlation between a Queen who could do nothing and a Queen who chose not to do anything might be made?

-- michael (, April 02, 2004.

Are you saying that Elizabeth I chose to do nothing in her fifty five year reign?

-- catherine england (, April 03, 2004.

I am sorry, but Queen Elizabeth has been in reign since 1952. That is around fifty-four years, not fifty-five. Yes, she has most certainly done some magnificent things during her reign so far.

-- An Expert In Hamlet (, April 07, 2004.

That would be Elizabeth II. We were talking about Elizabeth I (1558-1603).

-- catherine england (, April 07, 2004.

hahaha, some "expert in Shakespeare" you are, ajstyles. haha, i laughed my ass of at your um, rather 'blonde' comments. i'd say if you want a different view of the women in hamlet, read earnest Jones' essay about the oedipus complex. in summary it sounds like complete bunk, but if you actually take time to read and understand his logic, it will make a lot of sense. Do take it with a grain of salt though; after all, Hamlet is only fictional, and jones tries to psycho- analyse him.

-- (, April 25, 2004.

I sat here and listened to all of your criticisms and arguments towards eachother and after all of the opinions you all still have not come up with an agreement on whether or not the women in this play were weak individuals.

-- d v (, April 25, 2004.

Of course not. We all have different views and opinions and don't have to come to a single agreement. That's what makes it interesting.

-- catherine england (, April 26, 2004.

I think that it's quite obvious that Gertrude is put in the unfair position of being ridiculed for her actions by Hamlet, who is no hero himself, while she is not given the opportunity to justify herself with her own monologue.

Just to add on someone's already said comment of Ophelia killing herself because of her father's death and Hamlet's flucutating moods, I disagree. She too was put in a difficult position of having to chose her father or the man she loved, Hamlet. She chose her father, but there's no question that she wasn't still in love with Hamlet. I believe that was the primary reason to why she killed herself. Hamlet's way of dealing with her decision and the death of her father merely pushed her over the edge.

-- rebecca. (, May 11, 2004.

There's one scene that particularly influences the way that people view Ophelia- the nunnery scene, and her lie to Hamlet, when he asks for the whereabouts of her father. Her reply is 'At home, my lord', when indeed, everyone knows that the old busybody is eavesdropping. A lot of critics have used her one falsehood in the play against her, claiming that it causes a lot of Hamlet's problems, including his tragic downfall. However, there is another way of viewing this scene. I have read one interpretation, which claims that Ophelia feared for her father, and did not want H's perceived 'madness' to rain down on him, as it could be quite deadly (well, it was actually.. Polonius gets stabbed). So, instead, she takes it upon herself to protect him, and thus lies to Hamlet. At this point H goes psycho (there seems to be a pattern of this with anyone he mistrusts, just look at Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Claudius, Gertrude, and note the exception of Horatio, whom Hamlet confides in) and Ophelia receives the brunt of his stormy temper. I don't know if she's weak as such, i think you have to look much deeper. Many have said that the men in her life control this point I'd like to point out that there aren't any women in her life, other than Gertrude. What happened to Ophelia's mother? Who knows? It's a silence. But it does mean that Ophelia was brought up by males, that is, Laertes and Polonius. Laertes, who 'treads the primrose path of dalliance' and Polonius, who must have had some talent (he got the part of Julius Caesar in Caesar, as he mentions to Hamlet) but he's a windbag and his wisdom is earthly. She's brought up to obey her father, and i'd have to ask if she's done anything wrong in doing that. It takes a strength to go against what your desires and obey the advice of your elder. It must have broken her heart to have to deny her access to Hamlet when Polonius instructed her to. But she did it. It was virtuous.. but most people can't understand why you'd do that. Then again, much of Ophelia's virtue is seen as a weakness in a 'if it feels good, do it' world.

As for Gertrude, her marriage to Claudius may have been purely practical. Fortinbras of Norway looked ready to attack, and she may have felt that it would have been safer to get a King in charge, to let Fortinbras know that just because King Hamlet died didn't mean that they could take over the country. I'd also note that Gertrude and Claudius never appear intimate in the play.. Shakespeare has made the language between them quite formal. And, yes, the closet scene does contradict this idea, because Hamlet does succeed in making Gertrude feel guilty over what she's done.

WEll, that's my two cents. If anyone has any ideas on Ophelia, please tell me, because I am required to fill in a gap or silence, and i'm writing in Elizabethan. The gap i've made up is going to be between Horatio and Ophelia, and it will be Horatio delivering the news of Polonius' death. How will Ophelia act? She will also have a soliloquy before Horatio tells her this news. I'm most interested in ideas for that. Thanks everyone.. i've enjoyed reading all your's been very stimulating...

-- Meg Dot (, August 07, 2004.

can i just say that i HATE shakespeare! sorry had to be said!

-- camilla gold (, November 11, 2004.

Hmmmm..........Onvioulsy not so silent, if there is whole page devoted to the subject. Anyway it's 12:20 pm and i'm wrting an assignment on the above and thought the above has been really usefull Thank You

-- Harriet Roberts (, November 14, 2004.

ive just got an essay to really but its: Consider the view that both female characters in the play are weak,characterless victims.

this is what ive got so far.... The play ‘Hamlet’ is a predominately male one, with only two female characters, however these women can be seen as weak and characterless.

Gertrude, the Queen of Denmark is seen as week by Hamlet, even early on in the play, when he exclaims “Frailty, thy name is woman!” It can be said that she is morally weak as she clearly does not give much mourning time to Old Hamlet before marrying his brother, Claudius. She goes along with Claudius’ and Polonius’ plan to catch Hamlet out by using Ophelia. Gertrude gives no objections to this even though she would know the effect it may have on Ophelia. Claudius commands her and says to her "Come, away" several times in the play, this shows her obedience and her lower status. She can also be seen as a weak and characterless as she is a victim of circumstance and is poisoned in the end of the play. She seems to be terribly reliant on the men in her life to keep her station in society however this can be seen as a sign of strength and character as this can be seen as Gertrude using the men around her to keep her status and authority. In social scenes, Gertrude seems a gracious host and her grace and charm seem to show a rounded personality, this can be seen when she is speaking to Guildenstern and Rosencrantz in Act Two, Scene Two and says that their “visitation shall receive such thanks as fits a king’s remembrance.” She also shows at least some emotion in the play, when telling Laertes of Ophelia’s death and how her heavy clothes “pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay to muddy death.” Gertrude can be seen as weak and strong, characterless and interesting depending on who is reading the play.

Ophelia, the daughter of Polonius, and Hamlet’s love interest can be seen a weak as throughout the play she is told what to do by her father and her brother. She is dependent on men to tell her how to behave and takes their advice even if going against her own heart. This can be seen when her father bids her to not “slander any moments leisure as to give words or talk with Lord Hamlet.” She willingly obeys this and even allows herself to be used by her father as a pawn to get to the bottom of Hamlet’s ‘madness’. She can also be considered weak as she falls easily into madness halfway through the play. Ophelia may be seen as characterless as she represents the traditional obedient and submissive woman and she is clearly a victim in the play. However this view can be seen as wrong as Ophelia’s feelings for Hamlet and her madness are clearly signs of character. Her opinion of herself as “of ladies most deject and wretched, that sucked the honey of his music vows is a sign of her character.

The fact that neither women have their own soliloquies like Hamlet and Claudius do, reveals that they are not as developed as the other characters however it does not mean that they are characterless. The women in Hamlet can be seen as weak victims however they can also be seen as strong one’s too.

a bit awful i know but for half an hours work it ain't half bad!

-- Bethany Ling (, November 17, 2004.

It might just be possible that as the plot develops the two roles of Gertrude and Ophelia change... Ophelia starts off as weak and obedient.. but becomes rather in charge and an -in your face- character due to her madness...Maybe.. Ophelia started off as a strong character.. finding her own love before the actual play started -because we all very well know that ophelia/hamlet's relationship was not fresh [knowing her father/brother would not approve]and then because of Hamlet rejection.. and her father's death .. and no laertes to comfort her.. she became weak and had mad... Gertrude may have started off listening to Claudius and remarrying [or married through her own strength -whichever you like] and ended up stronger and not listening to Claudium resulting in her drinking the wine and dying.. [OR.. if you think she started off strong.. she became weak and let him control her on the basis of sending hamlet to his death and telling the king of hamlet's murder of polonium...]

-- Just Trying To Make Everyone Happy... (, December 12, 2004.

I have a Question for you all... i stumbled on this page looking for some answers to an essay question i have .....all of your points have been important and valid... this is my question How important is Gertrude and Ophelia in hamlet? i know that many have you have discussed this throughout but the answer isnt quite clear... how politically are they important and are they important through influences they have on men if they have n e at all? and in continuence of an ealrier note... it hink hamlet has a case of the oedipus complex and is pissed off cos he didnt get to shag his mother before his uncle did......i also think that the ghost is not his father but his subconcious....what are your views ..?

-- Joanne warburton (, December 13, 2004.

The Role of Women in Hamlet sure is a messed up topis as there ar so many ways to interpret all of the circumstances in the play. My views on things are that the women in hamlet are shown to be weak and are primarily used as pawns to do aid in the master plan of things, of course this is a man's master plan. They are seen as lower than the men and both end up dying. To sum it up, they loved , they got used, then they both died. if anyone has any input on other points about the role of women in Hamlet me and my essay could use another body paragraph! thank you all for your input, I have thoroughly enjoyed the debating and different perspectives.

-- Chelsea Heather (, December 13, 2004.

i feel that the women of hamlet give a view of two paths in which a woman can take to view life Gertrude prehapes because of her position in life has taken the stronger stand in using her eve like maner to get her way while she still apeared vonerable Ophelia took another way in which she became ummm easiy to be used both women took differnt paths however both stood together united in well being the only two women in the play and therefore both came to an end by i belive there own means but thats a differnt matter

-- Sarah (, December 28, 2004.

everones comments are very helpful to those who are writting essays on the subject, my personal opinion is that Hamlet is very derogatory towards the women and the women are representative of the women in Elizabethen time. Gertrude is a stronger character with her ability to manipulate men “Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet. I pray thee stay with us; go not to Wittenberg” she manipulates all the male characters, but Ophelia is dominated by the men in her life, and is weaker, eventually failing to accept the tradegy and turning mad. I also think that Hamlet slept with ophelia, i just wrote a paragraph on why, but mainly through her songs. Keep posting people, GCSE and A level students everywhere are grateful... (if they happen to be studying hamlet) :)

-- cant be bothered (, January 06, 2005.

hey its great to read such a variety of answers like this. i have to do an eassy on "shakes portrayal of women is not very flattering. discuss refering to opelia and gertrude" i`d love some help i`v also got my mocks coming up in 5 weeks and am not so good at hamlet. kind of feeling a bit paniky as i dont even no where to start so if anyone has tips on how to study and whats the best way of getting familar with the text and all its plots and stuff please let me no i`d be really grateful!!! i was thinking that you could say that it is undoubtabley true that shakes portrayal of women is unflatering as when compared with the men in the play they are inactive and meek. this could be down to the era hamlet is set in but i think shake choose to portray women like this as it helped along the plot. if gertrude was not meek and weak then hamlet would not find it so easy to be so disgusted with him. her weakness means she never attempts to dicuss her "incestuous" behaviour with hamlet as she is not strong enough to defend herself against his anger. she may well have had good reason to marry claud like for the state but she doesnt have the intelligence or couarge to discuss it with hamlet. bcuz she ignores this huge issus hamlets gets more and more disgusted with her suddenly his mother does this terrible thing (in his mind) and never apolijies or ackowalges it. he begins to loose faith in all women and even in love. when it comes to opelia i think she too is weak and all to dependant on the men in her life. i think she is slighly more capable than gertrude perhaps bcuz she is younger. she is treated badly by hamlet, probaley bcuz of his own confusion surrounding women and love, and is shown no respect by her father and brother. however she does not seem to expect any and agrees to act as her fathers spy when talking with hamlet. i think that more than anything this shows she is naive. we no that she is not doing this out of hate as she clearly loves hamlet, but out of obediance to her father. like i said her youth may make her more capable and so give way to times when she can be strong like when she refuses hamlets advances at the play but her youth also means she is naive and innocent. and i think that is the main characteristic that these women share and contribute to the play their innoncence. they are not corrupt like their counterparts but unaware and sometimes even pathically helpless. opelias death seems very fitting when we think of her like. controlled by men her father is murdered by her love intrest who has turned mad. its no wonder her inocent idealistic mind cant handle all of this. suicde or not opelias drowning was the only suitible ending for her, to me it was the ultimate tradidy. although these the weakness and meakness portrayed by the women may cause annoyance in modern day women i think that says more about todays world than anything eles. gertrude and opelia were basicllly good peolpe although gertrudes marraige may cause some to dissagree. however their goodness is lost against the backdrop of manipulation and cunningness and sin caused by the men. their weakness and frality may have been the cause of their own downfall and led them to eternal victums but these same qualitys are amoung the most sincere and genuine things in the play. its pretty stechy and probley ill informed any help at all wod be great xxxxxx

-- jane mc (, January 19, 2005.

The portrayal of Gert and Ophelia in Hamlet (in my extremely inexperienced and uneducated view) is a very conventional one for the writings of that time. Look at other Elizabethan playwrights in England during this era...Marlowe, Beaumont, Fletcher, Midlleton, Kyd, etc all chose to make their female characters relatively small and weak. Shakespeare's female leads are normally very powerful, independant women. So why, (and I don't really understand any of your answers to this so far...they're all not entirely convincing for me) did Shakespeare choose to make his main female characters so weak and pathetic in one of his most philosophical and far reaching plays yet?

-- Hamlet AS student (, March 13, 2005.

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