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Hamlet and Ophelia

Hamlet and Ophelia

1. Plays have foils to help the audience understand important characters in the play. Foils are minor characters that have similarities and differences with a more important character in the play. Sometimes the minor character is just there for the character to talk to; this is the basis for being a foil. In the play “Hamlet,” [Titles] by William Shakespeare, the character Ophelia is a foil to Hamlet.

2. Similarities are an important part of being a foil. One similarity that Hamlet and Ophelia share are that they both are children of controlling parents. [SV – 1] Hamlet’s father, who is murdered[,] comes back as a ghost to tell him who his murderer is. This news is his father’s way of controlling him from the grave. Hamlet’s mother and stepfather are also controlling him by presuading [persuading] Hamlet not to go to Wittenburg. Men in those days went away to get an education. There was no need for Hamlet to do so because he was a prince. [As a Prince, he might have been even more likely to go abroad for his education.] Ophelia is controlled by her father also. She tells him how Hamlet has tried many times to express his affections for her. Ophelia’s father does not believe Hamlet is sincere and orders her to stay away from him. Ophelia obeys her father[‘]s wishes. Women were expected to do as they were told and believed what they were told to be true.

3. Another similarity between Hamlet and Ophelia is their [the] feelings they have for each other. In the beginning of the play[,] we are lead [led] to believe that Hamlet loves Ophelia. This frightens Ophelia, but that does not mean she does not have feelings for him also. It is her father who discourages [encourages] her to suppress any feelings she may have then. Later in the play Ophelia confesses her love for Hamlet[,] and he then hides his feelings and denies that he loved her. He suggests that she goes [go] to a nunnery. This makes Ophelia feel worthless and not wanted.

4. Finally the reactions that the characters have to their fathers’ deaths are also similar. When Hamlet learns that his father was murdered and that his stepfather is the killer[,] it is more than he can handle.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet – Regarding Gertrude

Regarding Hamlet’s Gertrude

In William Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy Hamlet, the audience meets a queen who is a former and present queen. She was unhappy before – how does she feel now? Is she evil, guilty, motherly, lascivious? The multiple aspects of her personality deserve our attention.

Angela Pitt in “Women in Shakespeare’s Tragedies” comments that Shakespeare’s Gertrude in Hamlet is, first and foremost, a mother:

Gertrude evinces no such need to justify her actions and thereby does not betray any sense of guilt. She is concerned with her present good fortune, and neither lingers over the death of her first husband nor analyses her motives in taking another. . . .She seems a kindly, slow-witted, rather self-indulgent woman, in no way the emotional or intellectual equal of her son. . . . Certainly she is fond of Hamlet. Not only is she prepared to listen to him when he storms at her, proof that he is sufficiently close to her to have a right to make comments on her personal life, but she is unfailingly concerned about him. (46-47)

Gunnar Bokland in “Hamlet” describes Gertrude’s moral descent during the course of Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

With Queen Gertrude and finally also Laertes deeply involved in a situation of increasing ugliness, it becomes clear that, although Claudius and those who associate with him are not the incarnations of evil that Hamlet sees in them, they are corrupt enough from any balanced point of view, a condition that is also intimated by the “heavy-headed revel” that distinguishes life at the Danish court. (123)

Gertrude’s “contamination” does indeed affect the hero. Courtney Lehmann and Lisa S. Starks in “Making Mother Matter: Repression…

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Lehmann, Courtney and Lisa S. Starks. “Making Mother Matter: Repression, Revision, and the Stakes of ‘Reading Psychoanalysis Into’ Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet.” Early Modern Literary Studies 6.1 (May, 2000): 2.1-24 .

Pitt, Angela. “Women in Shakespeare’s Tragedies.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint of Shakespeare’s Women. N.p.: n.p., 1981.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. No line nos.

Smith, Rebecca. “Gertrude: Scheming Adulteress or Loving Mother?” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. of “Hamlet”: A User’s Guide. New York: Limelight Editions, 1996.

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