Essay about Portrayal of Women in Shakespeare's Hamlet
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Portrayal of Women in Shakespeare's Hamlet
Shakespeare was possibly the first writer to portray women as strong, crafty, and intelligent. However, he has still received criticism from feminists about his representation of women. Some have even accused him of misogyny. There are only two female characters in the play Hamlet - Gertrude, Hamlet's mother and Ophelia, daughter of Polonius. Any debate based upon gender roles must therefore focus upon these two characters.
Shakespeare portrays Gertrude as a woman of power and intelligence - she was Queen for a considerable amount of time - we can safely assume at least 30 years - and she is asked advice on matters by King Claudius - "Do you think 'tis this?" (II.2.152). Gertrude is…show more content…
He scorns the queen's company for 'metal more attractive' (Ophelia) (III.2.119), yet holds a great deal of respect for her - using no daggers when he would speak them to her (III.2.403), and calling her Mother (III.4.214) and 'good lady' (III.4.181). Considering that a son without respect for her would call her 'woman', or even with respect for her standing 'Your Highness', these names are very respectful. It would seem that Hamlet loved Gertrude dearly, and held her in great respect. It would, therefore, be a mistake to brand Shakespeare a 'misogynist'. However, when he dwells upon her marriage to his uncle, he has no respect, whatsoever. He gives her no credit for the marriage - holding the view that she was 'whored' and 'cozened at hoodman-blind' by Claudius. Hamlet's fury at her 'o'erhasty marriage' (II.2.56) makes Hamlet soon forget the respect he had for her, though this seemed to return, once he had judged for himself the fact that she did indeed seem innocent of his father's death. He also used word games with her. These word games are certainly not the way a son would be expected to speak to his mother, even though it does fit in with Hamlet's character and wit.
Ophelia is represented in Hamlet as quite the opposite to Gertrude. She is easily led, and takes instruction from her brother and from her father. This could perhaps be due to her being of tender age. Gertrude must surely be a generation older than Ophelia. Ophelia's
Show MoreMost of the worlds cultures follow a patriarchal society and this dates back to the beginning of time. In Hamlet the patriarchal society is clearly depicted by the characters throughout the play. Hamlet is portrayed as an indecisive character when it comes to making a serious decision, for example when he contemplates on killing Claudius. This shows the masculinity and femininity aspect of his character, which offends the ideals in a patriarchal society. Claudius, Polonius, Laertes, Ophelia and Gertrude follow the usual gender roles in a patriarchal society, as for Hamlet, his characteristics come from both gender roles. Just like in society the men in Hamlet follow the rules for a patriarchal society. The three most masculine characters…show more content…
From this Claudius is able to take the throne and become King of Norway. This encourages him to have even more power than before, showing that in a patriarchal society, the roles of a male continue onto a higher power. The female characters in Hamlet follow the traditional roles of females in a patriarchal society. Ophelia is introduced during the conversation with her father and brother. This is the scene in which they demand for her not to see Hamlet as a lover. She follows their commands and end the relationship with Hamlet. In return she gets verbally abused by Hamlet, “Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?” (3.1.122-131). As in response Ophelia has to take on the weak aspect of being a lady and walk away from Hamlet. Ophelia is so accustomed to being told what to do that when her father dies she goes mad. “We must be patient, but I cannot choose but weep to think they would lay him i’th’ cold ground” (4.5.68-70). Ophelia’s character acts this way to resemble the seemingly unstable, weak woman in a patriarchal society. Which is what Neely states, “Thus the process by which the women are singled out for attention, the characteristics attributed to them, and the framework within which they are valued become suspect - vulnerable to objections of a-historicity and wishful thinking and, what is culture in which the criticism exists and which it is reacting against” (6). Gertrude also follows the