Comparing Gertrude and Ophelia of Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

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A Comparison of Gertrude and Ophelia in Hamlet

The Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet features two female characters in main roles, Ophelia and Gertrude. They are similar in a surprising number of ways. This essay proposes to elucidate the reader on their likeness or similarity.

It is quite obvious that both Gertrude and Ophelia are both motivated by love and a desire for quiet familial harmony among the members of their society in Elsinore. Out of love for her son does Gertrude advise:

Dear Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off,

And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.

Do not for ever with thy vailed lids

Seek for thy noble father in the dust. (1.2)

Likewise does she ask that the
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She considers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to be friends of her son, and only for that reason sends them to learn about him; she would never use them as Claudius later does in an attempt to murder Hamlet. And even at the moment of her death, her last words include, “O my dear Hamlet.” Yes, Gertrude is pro-family.

In similar fashion does Ophelia manifest great familial affection, agreeing to comply with the advice of her brother Laertes: “I shall the effect of this good lesson keep / As watchman to my heart.” When her father, Polonius, makes inquiry regarding the “private time” which Hamlet has been giving to Ophelia, she replies unreservedly, “He hath, my lord, of late made many tenders / Of his affection to me,” and elaborates mightily on the subject. Polonius insists that she “from this time forth” not “give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet,” and Ophelia dutifully complies with his wishes: “I shall obey, my lord.” She later even gives him her love-letters from Hamlet. When she acts as a decoy so that Polonius and Claudius can observe the prince, resulting in Ophelia’s chastisement by the protagonist, she nevertheless keeps him as the main focus in her life: “O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!” Her love for brother, father, boyfriend, and others generally, override her love of self. Her respect for the opinions of immediate family is greater than her respect for her own opinions even in the matter of her courtship.

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