AO5 (Critical Interpretations) - Gertrude and Ophelia

Ophelia's madness

  • ' her madness, there is no one there. She is not a person...she has already died. There is now only a vacuum where there was once a person.' (Leverenz)
  • '...driven mad by having her inner feelings misrepresented, not responded to, or acknowledged only through chastisement and repression' (Leverenz)
  •  'Not allowed to love and unable to be false, Ophelia breaks. She goes mad rather than gets mad.' (Leverenz)
  • '...the madwoman is a heroine, a powerful figure who rebels against the family and the social order...' (Showalter)
  • 'Deprived of thought, sexuality and language...she represents the strong emotions Elizabethans thought womanish' (Showalter)
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  • 'Ophelia has no choice but to say 'I shall obey, my lord'' (Leverenz)
  • 'Everyone has used her... She is valued only for the roles that further other people's plots.' (Leverenz)
  • 'Ophelia has been an insignificant minor character in the play, touching in her weakness and madness but chiefly interesting, of course, in what she tells us about Hamlet' (Showalter)
  • 'We can imagine Hamlet's story without Ophelia, but Ophelia literally has no story without Hamlet' (Edwards)
  • 'Ophelia is a play within a play, or a player trying to respond to several imperious directors at once' (Leverenz)
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  • 'Gertrude... has traditionally been played as a sensual, deceitful woman' (Smith)
  • '...when one closely examines Gertrude's actual speech and actions in an attempt to understand the character, one finds little that hints at hypocrisy, suppression, or uncontrolled passion and their implied complexity' (Smith)
  • 'Gertrude appears in only ten of the twenty scenes... she speaks very little, having less dialogue than any other major character...she speaks plainly, directly, and chastely' (Smith)
  • 'Gertrude believes that quiet women best please men, and pleasing men is Gertrude's main interest' (Smith)
  • 'Gertrude has not moved toward independence or a heightened moral stance; only has divided loyalties and her unhappiness intensify' (Smith)
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