Exploring Female Degradation In Hamlet
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: English Literature|
|✅ Wordcount: 870 words||✅ Published: 28th Apr 2017|
Shakespeare portrays women in Hamlet as complicated beings. Gertrude, the mother of Hamlet, is criticized for her hasty marriage to Hamlet’s own Uncle Claudius, the brother of his father. Ophelia is depicted as a young woman whose obsessive nature yearns for Hamlets love. Being so addicted to Hamlet, she would probably be prepared to sacrifice her own life for him. Although these characters portray different kinds of women, Shakespeare exposes a negative light on which they are in their limited roles. In Hamlet, women have no chance to redeem themselves and are subjects to the authority and pain that men inflict on them.
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Instead of simply ignoring her and having nothing to do with her, Hamlet uses the power of words as daggers and inflicts pain on Ophelia. Overall, powerful use of words and the feeling of superiority had a direct impact on the women in the play. Hamlet uses his key weapon and tragic flaw; the supremacy of words to be his most valuable source of power(Smith) Shakespeare is responsible for those poisonous words that killed Ophelia. Hamlet, as well as other male characters such as Polonious and Laertes, scold Ophelia as if she were a child, disrespect her as if she is less of a person then they are and tell her that she should involve herself in a brothel instead of being a “breeder of sinners” (Act 3.Scene 1.122-123). “Get thee to a nunn’ry.” (Act 3.Scene 1.122) The term “nunnery” does not mean to have an affiliation with anything religious but is used to disrespect and lash out on innocent Ophelia. In this scene, the hate towards women is amplified. Hamlet constantly keeps showing his feeling of dissatisfaction with the idea of women altogether. “Hamlet speaks to Ophelia so offensively so she will not become a “breeder of sinners”(Act 3.Scene1.122-123) because his belief is that if sins are made by a child, there is only room to trust that it is because their mother is the true sinner.”(Showalter 77-94) “Frailty, thy name is woman!” (Act 1.Scene 2. 146) This example truly shows an understanding that Shakespeare feels the need demean women. That quote expresses Hamlet feeling that all women are weak.
Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother stands by her position in royalty and has a tendency to want men to protect and guard her at all times. Gertrude seems like a woman who depends on a male to protect her and help her make decisions. This makes her very vulnerable and susceptible to being held on command. Her character was created in a way where she never has the ability to fully think about a situation and resolve it. She keeps herself at a safe position that is good for her therefore getting nothing accomplished for example when she instantaneously runs to Claudius after she had an altercation with Hamlet. Polonius’s daughter, Ophelia obeys her father and her brother, Laertes. She is very dependent on the male characters in Hamlet. Polonius, Laertes and Hamlet all tell her who she is and advise her on everything. Ophelia accepts her fathers demand to spy on Hamlet without a doubt making her even more vulnerable than Gertrude. “Shakespeare gives us very little information from which to imagine a past for Ophelia. She appears in only five of the play’s twenty scenes; the pre-play course of her love story with Hamlet is known only by a few ambiguous flashbacks.”(Showalter 221) These two women have limited roles and are barely heard. Regardless of their roles, their characters are not even meant to have powerful voices. They are created to stand by their men, accept all favors and demands, and are incapable of making their own decisions without hurting themselves. For example, Ophelia is very weak and incapable of helping herself because she had grown up with two men taking away her capability to become an independent young woman to a voice. She had twice the authority and judgment to create a unspoken and helpless girl. While Ophelia’s father and brother have somewhat of a decent and normal relationship, their relationship with her is out of the ordinary. They each control her and believe that they have unquestioned control over her. When Polonius speaks to Ophelia about her relationship with Hamlet she tells him that Hamlet is in love with her and she loves him too. Her father strictly advises her to not associate with Hamlet and repeats the same advice that Laertes had given her before. Polonius tells Ophelia to have nothing to do with him because he is basically a liar and is essentially a fake person who is trying to fool her. Ophelia is subject to his authority and obeys her father without defending herself, her feelings and the young man she loves.
In essence, powerful use of words and the feeling of superiority had a direct impact on the women in the play. Generally, there is a great sense of negativity towards women shown in Hamlet. Ophelia and Gertrude are very vulnerable women who are used to letting men have an upper hand in their relationship. This reliance on men makes them susceptible to their authority and in the end they are overall powerless against them.
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