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
about Hamlet\'s treatment of women and his feelings toward his mother. Hamlet
yells at his mother for destroying his ability to love. He accuses her of

such an act
That blurs the grace and blush of modesty,
Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose
From the fair forehead of an innocent love
And sets a blister there.

Hamlet curses his mother for being responsible for his inability to love Ophelia.
Queen Gertrude\'s actions have caused Hamlet to see all women in a different
light because she has taken away his innocence and love for women.
After Hamlet kills Polonius, he tests Queen Gertrude to see if she knows
about the murder of his father and both he and the audience seem satisfied she
was not party to that knowledge. Hamlet takes it upon himself to tell the queen
her new husband killed the former king, however he is interrupted by the ghost
who warns Hamlet not to tell his mother. The ghosts tells Hamlet he should be
more concerned with King Claudius, suggesting revenge must be taken soon (Dover
Wilson, 248).
During this scene Queen Gertrude is unable to see her dead husband which
in Elizabethan times implied she was “unable to see the ‘gracious figure\' of her
husband because her eyes are held by the adultery she has committed (Dover
Wilson, 254).” The ghosts steals away from the closet when he realizes his
widow cannot see him, causing Hamlet to hate Gertrude even more because he felt
the same rejection when Ophelia rejected him. He can feel his father\'s grief as
a son and as a lover (Dover Wilson, 255). It was devastating to see his father
rejected by the queen in the same manner he was rejected by Ophelia.
Understanding Hamlet\'s hatred toward his mother is pivotal in
understanding his relationship with Ophelia because it provides insight into his
treatment of Ophelia. In Hamlet\'s eyes, Ophelia did not treat him with the love
and respect she should have. Hamlet and Ophelia loved each other but very early
in the play, she is told by her father to break off