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Comparing Hamlet’s Treatment of Ophelia and Gertrude

Hamlet’s Treatment of Ophelia and Gertrude

Modern folklore suggests women look at a man’s relationship with his mother

to predict how they will treat other women in their life. Hamlet is a good

example of a son’s treatment of his mother reflecting how he will treat the

woman he loves because when considering Hamlet’s attitude and treatment of the

Ophelia in William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, one must first consider how

Hamlet treated his mother. A characteristic of Hamlet’s personality is to make

broad, sweeping generalizations and nowhere is this more evident than in his

treatment toward women. Very early in the play, while discussing his mother’s

transgressions, he comments, “Frailty, thy name is woman. (Hoy, 11).” Hamlet

appears to believe all women act in the same manner as his mother.

The first time the audience meets Hamlet, he is angry and upset at Queen

Gertrude, his mother, for remarrying his uncle so soon after the death of his

father. In his first soliloquy he comments on the speed of her remarriage

Within a month,

Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears

Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,

She married. O, most wicked speed, to post

With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!

It is not, nor it cannot come to good. (Hoy, 11)

It is understandable Hamlet is upset with his mother for forgetting about his

father and marrying his uncle, Claudius. In Hamlet’s eyes, his father deserves

more than one month of mourning and by remarrying so quickly, the queen has

sullied King Hamlet’s memory. This remarriage is a sin and illegal, however

special dispensation was made because she is queen.

Hamlet’s opinion of his mother worsens as the play progresses because

his father, who appears as a ghost, tells him of his mother’s adulterous

behavior and his uncle’s shrewd and unconscionable murder. Although Hamlet

promises to seek revenge on King Claudius for murdering his father, he is

initially more concerned with the ghost’s revelations regarding his mother.

King Hamlet tells Hamlet not to be concerned with his mother but after the

apparition leaves, it is the first thing Hamlet speaks of. Before vowing to

avenge his father’s death, he comments on the sins his mother committed.

Although Hamlet decides to pretend to be insane in order to plot against

the King, it is clear, he really does go mad. His madness seems to amplify his

anger toward his mother. During the play scene, he openly embarrasses her and

acted terribly toward her in the closet scene. The closet scene explains much

Interpreting the King in Hamlet

Interpreting the King in Hamlet

Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet presents in the character of King Claudius an intelligent, cunning, and seemingly unselfish ruler. This essay will present a critic-supported, detailed consideration of the very capable and cunning King Claudius.

For the entirety of the drama a life-or-death mental contest ensues between Claudius and the protagonist. John Masefield discusses this mind battle in “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”:

The King is probing Hamlet’s mind with gross human probes, to find out if he is mad. Hamlet is searching the King’s mind with the finest of intellectual probes, to find out if he is guilty. The probe used by him, the fragment of a play within a play, is the work of a man with a knowledge of the impotence of intellect–

“Our wills and fates do so contrary run

That our devices still are overthrown”–

and a faith in the omnipotence of intellect–

“Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.” (n. pag.)

Salvador de Madariaga in “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern” discusses Claudius’ relationship with the two emissaries and former friends of Hamlet, who were escorting the prince to his execution in England:

The two young men receive from the King a commission which, whatever the King’s secret intentions may be, is honorable. Hamlet, the King in fact tells them, is not what he was. The cause of the change “I cannot dream of.”

Therefore, I beg you

so by your companies

To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather

So much as from occasion you may glean

Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus

That opened lies within our remedy (n. pag.).

Like everyone els…

… middle of paper …

…Embassy of Death.” The Wheel of Fire. London: Methuen and Co.,

Ltd., 1954. p. 38-39. N. pag.

Mack, Maynard. “The World of Hamlet.” Yale Review. vol. 41 (1952) p. 502-23. Rpt. in Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996.

Madariaga, Salvador de. “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.” “On Hamlet.” 2nd ed. London: Frank Cass

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