How frail are ophelia and Gertrude? : LUSENET : Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet : One Thread

Frailty thy name is woman’, how accurately do you reckon that this can this be applied to Gertrude and Ophelia? I'm just wondering, do you reckon that their characters change at all as the play progresses?

-- Pippa Leylani (, February 17, 2004


It's difficult to see the agency of Ophelia- she is so often used as a pawn by the men around her. It seems that the only thing she can do is go crazy and drown herself (reminiscent in some ways of that Virginia Woolf strain of "The Hours").

I definitely think the Gertrude has some gumption, depending on how she is directed. Is she really a bad woman? Does she really love Claudius? Is she a woman who was afraid of losing the bit of power afforded to her because she was the Queen?

And then there's the final bit- which if you follow Olivier's direction can be quite empowering of Gertrude (even if in a too- little-too-late way): Claudius says of the poisoned cup, "Gertrude, do not drink." And she replies, "I will, my lord; I pray you, pardon me." knowing full well that the King intends to poison her only child. It's the ultimate self-sacrifice!

And hardly frail!

-- Alexandra Lopez (, February 23, 2004.

Disregard the comment made of Gertrude knowing Claudius is going to poison Hamlet. Gertrude only relizes Hamlet is about to be poisoned after she drinks from the cup, never before that time does she have any idea what is planned. She is never present for any of the discussions between Claudius and Laertes and so could not possibly know what was in store for Hamlet.

As for your question Pippa. Frailty of women is a major theme throughout the entire play, you can find numerous references to women being called whores, and even how people close to women used them, such as Polonius, Hamlet, and Laertes using Ophelia. And as for the characters changing, take a good look at ophelia in the beginning, she is quite innocent and confused, most of her replies are question showing she is bewildered, but after the death of her father you can study her lines and especially the flower scene and the songs she sings and you see she is much more aware of how people have been using her and what is going on in the state of Denmark. Ophelia becomes crazy, and Gertrude we don't know for sure whether or not she quit bedding the King and so she doesn't change at all, except become wise to the fact her late husband was murdered by her husband of now, and her son isn't crazy.

-- Shani (, April 01, 2004.

But Gertrude does lie to Claudius about Hamlet as Hamlet has asked her to at the end of III.iv. And she answers back to Claudius in V.ii about drinking from the cup, where she never ever did answer back or disagree with him in the early stages of the play. So we may make a fair estimation that in the later parts of the play Gertrude has ceased to follow Claudius's lead, agree with him and submit to him.

-- catherine england (, April 01, 2004.

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