Within theatre Hamlet is either loved or hated, there is no in between, it appears. I personally love the overall story, but what keeps me coming back to the play isn’t the plot, but the characters and their relationships to one another. I have seen them played very simply (Hamlet plays insane then actually goes a bit crazy, Gertrude is a loving mother, Ophelia is a confused young woman, Claudius is a jerk, and the Ghost is ticked off), and I have seen them played VERY complex. Both of these are interesting to watch, but I prefer the work the actors do to create very compelling, complex characters that make you sit there an hour after the show is done and going “wait a minute…! What did they…? WHOA!” Because of my interest in these kinds of characterizations, I have been developing my own ideas for Hamlet that strictly plays with the relationships of the characters.
Shakespeare has given us some amazingly bad ass females, but within Hamlet, many think that we’re sorely lacking on that front with the passive female characters of Gertrude and Ophelia. I am not the first to feel this way, after all many of my favorite versions of the play that I have seen have subtly shown Gertrude as knowing about the death of her late husband and who did the deed. But I would love to see if there is a way to imply that she, in fact, was the master mind behind the whole plot. Through this change, I think it could make the entire plot more intriguing and even darker than it already is. It would make Gertrude the dominate personality in her relationship to Claudius, who could have killed his brother because he is in love with, and is being manipulated by Gertrude. This would also create an even greater rift between Gertrude and Hamlet. Even if he doesn’t know of his mother’s devious ways. In truth, by making Gertrude a stronger, more aggressive character, we can almost change the entire story.
Some people wonder how will people be able to tell Gertrude is aggressive without the set characterization. I think it already is in there, tucked away in subtext. However, we can also show it by contrasting Gertrude with Ophelia. A very soft spoken, soft hearted girl, we see this in how she is treated by everyone within the play “stay away from Hamlet”, “come talk to Hamlet”, “get thee to a nunnery”…the poor girl is practically a puppet! Putting that subservient, compliant, female next to a devious, matriarchal powerhouse like Gertrude would certainly get the point across.
You could particularly have fun with Act 3, scene 2. During the play you could either have her showing guilt as well, or perhaps even creepily enjoying seeing a similar deed to the one she had carried out played on the stage, and because Hamlet and Horatio are so stuck on Claudius, they themselves do not see it, but those in the audience playing attention, would see it and start putting the pieces together.