Gertrude and Ophelia: A Creative Rewriting

Title

Gertrude and Ophelia: A Creative Rewriting

Description

An Exploration of Gertrude and Ophelia

In my many readings of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, I am often presented with the idea that Gertrude may have played a part in Ophelia’s death. Gertrude is nearly always portrayed as a passive villain, one that has allegiance both to her son, Hamlet, and her new husband Claudius, yet has proven herself to be slyer than is let on in the text, having little remorse for the death of Hamlet’s father—her original husband, and seemingly playing along with Claudius’s devious motives. In Act IV Scene 7 of the play, Gertrude performs a sinister monologue describing the details of what she believes to be Ophelia’s death or perhaps suicide to Laertes—Ophelia’s brother. The monologue contains darker themes of death and tragedy that are contrasted with the airy and whimsical descriptions of nature that are found in the language used, making it seem like Ophelia’s death was the result of madness. The way the monologue is structured also makes it seem as though the way that Gertrude should be speaking is with a coy, naïve, and innocent tone, implying that there may be more to Ophelia’s death than she is letting on, especially compared to her behavior in the rest of play.

Because of this feeling of something missing between the characters Gertrude and Ophelia, I decided to include a scene between these two women. Throughout the play, we see Hamlet and Ophelia’s love grow to the tumultuous climax of them having sex and then the tragic downfall of their relationship. In certain readings of the play, it is implied that Ophelia is pregnant with Hamlet’s child, something that certainly could not happen given the time period, their lack of marriage, and lack of approval from their parental figures. In my addition to the play, Gertrude finds out about Ophelia’s pregnancy via a thrown away pregnancy test and confronts her about it.

To take place near Act III Scene 1
Time: Just after 9/11, July of 2002
Place: Near Washington D.C., The United States of America
Scenario: Hamlet and Ophelia are both in their early teens (approx. 15 years old) and have been growing closer and desperately want to be a couple. They are a bit young to date and are both from prominent political families, making this difficult to do. Their parents are all Senators, Representatives, and high ranking officials in the U.S. government meaning that they’re always in the public eye. Hamlet’s father was a successful and well liked liberal politician, and his wife—Gertrude, more moderate, but his brother Claudius on the other hand was fairly conservative, causing rift and jealousy in the family. When Hamlet’s father is assassinated, Claudius decides to embark on his own political career, much to the dismay of Hamlet. Hamlet follows in his dad’s political footsteps and has similar views on policy and government making him suspicious of Claudius and his political ambition, especially after his uncle Claudius and his mother start getting closer. After months of Claudius and Gertrude trying to get Hamlet to take time away from the city to clear his head by sending him off to boarding school, they begin to let him blow off steam at their estate in D.C. Gertrude and Claudius throw an Independence Day (4th of July) barbeque in their backyard and invite other prominent families, including Ophelia’s to the celebration. In her time getting closer to Claudius, Gertrude has come to develop more conservative views, especially in terms of marriage, pregnancy, and abortion. Gertrude ends up finding a positive pregnancy test in the trash bin of her bathroom and confronts Ophelia, knowing that she and Hamlet have been growing closer despite the lack of approval from parents and assumes that it is hers.

Scene:

Location: Upstairs in Gertrude and Claudius’s house

*A radio broadcast can be heard buzzing faintly in the background coming from the backyard. You hear reports analyzing the attack on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the hijacking of airplanes. War is imminent. The families converse, mingle, and laugh down below. Gertrude begins to enter into a bedroom through the door frame, but stops and puts one hand on the frame. Something else dangles from between her fingers in her other hand. Ophelia sits on the bed.*

Gertrude: I thought I might find you in here…

Ophelia: Oh…um…hi...I didn’t know you were inside. I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to just wander up here. I had to use the bathroom. I can go back downstairs. We should be celebrating.

*Ophelia sniffles a bit and goes to get up. There is a pause.*

G: Is everything alright?

*Another pause.*

G: Between you and Hamlet? Did you fight?

O: *hesitant*…No, not really…We’re fine.

*Gertrude gives her a stern look of disbelief, raising an eyebrow.*

O: Okay…Yeah…something came up.

G: What do you mean something came up? Did something happen?

*Ophelia avoids eye contact. She can’t manage it.*

O: Yes. But it’ll be fine. We’re working on patching things up. You don’t have to worry about us.

*Ophelia busies herself by smoothing the sheets. Gertrude moves into the room slowly and approaches the bed a bit ominously. She sits beside Ophelia, uncomfortably close. She grabs Ophelia’s chin, making her maintain eye contact.*

G: Oh, but I think I do Ophelia. What the hell is this?!

*Gertrude lifts up her other hand to reveal the positive pregnancy test that she had been holding.*

*Ophelia glances down at the pregnancy test, her chin still in Gertrude’s hand. Ophelia gulps, visibly shaken.*

O: That’s not mine. I swear. Like I said. We just got into a little fight.

G: A little fight over this?!

*Gertrude begins to frantically wave it in Ophelia’s face. *

G: This isn’t just some little thing to fight over. Your pregnant! I can see it in your stomach. You’ve been getting rounder down here.

*Gertrude throws the test down and pokes her finger into Ophelia’s stomach.*

G: What were you even thinking? You’re 15. Girls like you shouldn’t be having sex at all. Little whores. All of you. Did you even use protection? *Gertrude shakes her head.* What am I even saying?! Of course you didn’t. Just look at you.

*Ophelia is silent, passive.*

G: You weren’t thinking. Do you know what this could do to us all? People look up to us. We represent everything. And the two of you just go off and disregard all of that? How dare you.

*Ophelia looks at Gertrude, searching.*

O: I’ll carry it. To term. No one has to know it’s mine. I swear.

G: Of course you’ll carry it. *Gertrude dismisses Ophelia.* But that doesn’t change what’s been done. You’re making us look like dirty hippies…with no self respect.

*Ophelia looks at Gertrude again, this time desperate.*

O: But…I do really love him. Doesn’t that count for something?

G: That doesn’t matter. If you think he “loves you” back, you’re absolutely insane. You’re both 15. You wouldn’t know love if it hit you in the face.

*Gertrude lets go of Ophelia’s face and snaps her hand back. She gives Ophelia one more stern look and storms out the door and back to the party. Ophelia sits on the bed breathing deeply, inhaling and exhaling. She begins to heave until the breaths turn into sobs. She realizes that she’s utterly alone. She looks down at her stomach with disgust.*

*Fade to black.*







Creator

Delia Curtis

Date

April 6th, 2018

Comments

Citation

Delia Curtis, “Gertrude and Ophelia: A Creative Rewriting,” Shakespearean Journeys, accessed April 20, 2024, http://shakespeareanjourneys.emerson.build/items/show/52.