‘Gertrude and Ophelia’s passivity (passive natures) makes them vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation.’
Critically discuss the extent to which you agree with the above statement.
This statement has to be assessed against the socio-politico backdrop of Hamlet’s Denmark:― a transitional society between feudalism and an emerging bourgeois capitalism with an ethics of fierce paternalism and patriarchy, unquestioned social loyalties, strict moral codes delineating familial, sexist and social codes of behaviour, notwithstanding an unfettered individualism tending to schism these established norms. This schism in the fabric of society (lending credence to the notion “…something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”) infiltrates the personality and behaviour of Gertrude and Ophelia.
Gertrude, we are led to believe by Hamlet, allowed herself to be seduced by Claudius, is incestuous, fickle, compliant, gullible, and lascivious. Hamlet’s exhortation “Frailty, thy name is woman!” implies too that she is morally frail. As such she appears to be passive, and thus open to exploitation. But one could also think of Gertrude in a more sympathetic light: it is her instinct for self-preservation in a male-dominated world which makes her reliant on strong men. Elsewhere in the play we see a well-rounded character both charming and self-reliant. We should also note that Hamlet’s indictment of his mother is based on his own cynicism towards women in general.
Hamlet’s perception of ...