In Shakespeare s play Hamlet, several characters are incorporated into the plot in order to compliment and help portray Hamlet s individual character. Hamlet s character, though extremely complex and intricate, is also surprisingly immature and unpredictable. These characteristics can be seen in Hamlet s actions throughout the play and through other characters written into the plot. Hamlet s personality is directly reflected in his relationships with the female characters of the story. Most notably with his mother, Gertrude, and his lover Ophelia. Their purpose is to help reveal Hamlet s true personality. The weakness and na ve aspects of their characters exemplify Hamlet s controlling yet meek personality.
Gertrude, Queen of Denmark is faced with tragedy at the start of the play. With the death of her husband, she is widowed and left in a very vulnerable position. Her na ve character relies primarily on other characters; most commonly her dependency relies on males. Shakespeare s portrayal of women throughout the play remains the same. These characteristics that Shakespeare placed on women throughout the plot thus validates Gertrude’s hasty marriage to Claudius. Unable to control the country of Denmark on her own, lacking independence, Gertrude is quickly wed. The occurrence of this marriage at the start of the play affects Hamlet s attitude towards his mother throughout the entire plot. He was disgusted with Claudius s behaviour towards his recently widowed mother. Claudius s primary motivation was to acquire the throne, and this sole motivation was what Hamlet disapproved of. Hamlet shows no affection towards his mother throughout the entire play. It is obvious that he loves her dearly, however, his behaviour does not portray his true emotions. Though Gertrude is truly in love with Claudius, she still regrets her decision to an extent because she has lost the respect of her son. Her attempts to show affection and converse with Hamlet fail miserably every time, and each time her heart is broken. Though it is difficult to see, because of Hamlet s immature behaviour, it is clear that the loving relationship between mother and son does exist.
Ophelia, object of Hamlet s affection, plays a significant role in the play. Hamlet is madly in love with Ophelia, and pursues any relationship he can get with her. Though Ophelia is willing, it is her father that comes between their relationship. Polonius, father of Ophelia, strongly advises her not to become involved with Hamlet, for he is insane, and immature. Ophelia, as the common female character created by Shakespeare, is trapped in the situation. Her lack of confidence, and independence makes her subject to the control of others, such as her father, and thus this weakness leads her to obey to her father s command. Hamlet s feelings for Ophelia shift from a desperate passionate love, to a resentful hate. He resents her for being the weak character that she is, and listening to her father, therefore not returning his love. While at the same time, he is madly in love with her, and cannot express his feelings any more than he already has. Hamlet’s personality progresses from rational to insane in a matter of days. His feelings for Ophelia drive him over the edge and he begins to act differently. Not only is he immature in his actions towards her, but also very unpredictable. For example, his behaviour towards her during the play that he created is immoral, and rude. Hamlet is not known to be a pervert, however after calling her a whore and acting like a child, Ophelia s opinions change. These actions cannot be justified; his behaviour was unpredicted, and immature in this case. His possessive and persistent behaviour frightened Ophelia, for he continuously threatened her and attempted to persuade her to return his love. Finally, his continuous harassment drove Ophelia insane, eventually leading her to commit suicide. Ophelia s weakness and dependency on others is one reason for her suicide. However it was Hamlet s strong determination to acquire her love that truly led her end her life. His control over her mind, and his actions that literally drove her insane, are the true causes of her death.
Through their own characteristics, both Gertrude and Ophelia helped illustrate Hamlet s personality throughout the play. Frailty thy name is woman may have been Shakepeare s attitude about the female characters of the play, however this weak and naive characteristic that he placed on the female roles was a necessity to the play. Hamlet s immature, unpredictable and insane behaviour could not have been defined if the female roles had not existed in the plot to shape his true personality.