In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, women are oversexualized, and are given no role other than to be the item of a man’s desire. The promiscuity of the only two women in the play, Gertrude and Ophelia, detracts from their power and integrity, and allows Hamlet a certain amount of control over them. Gertrude’s sexual lifestyle is often mentioned by her son, Hamlet, and Hamlet uses his knowledge of Gertrude’s sexuality as a means to criticize her. Ophelia’s sexuality initially appears to be controlled by Laertes and Polonius, and Hamlet takes advantage of the naive image that she is required to keep. However, in her later madness, Ophelia taints this image by revealing that her innocence is feigned. By exposing the sexual natures of both Gertrude and Ophelia, Hamlet strips these women of any influence they may have had, and damages their once-honourable names.
Hamlet possesses an uncomfortable obsession with his mother’s sexuality. For this reason, Hamlet’s soliloquies provide most of the audience’s information about Gertrude’s sexual activities. In his first soliloquy, Hamlet refers to the relationship between Gertrude and Claudius when he exclaims, “Within a month…She married. O, most wicked speed, to post / With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!” (I, ii, 153-157). In saying this, Hamlet displays how hastily Gertrude has abandoned the late King Hamlet, Hamlet’s father, such that she has already married Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle. In addition, Hamlet acknowledges that Gertrude and Claudius have quickly developed a very sexual relationship. Despite the very recent death of her husband, Gertrude is unable to control her sexual desires, and she remarries less than two months after King Hamlet’s funeral.
Much later in the play, Hamlet...
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...f the women takes away from their influence and their honour, giving Hamlet an extent of dominance over both women. Hamlet often discusses his mother’s sexuality, and he denounces Gertrude based on her sexual activities. Hamlet also takes advantage of Ophelia’s faked innocence, and exposes her sexuality. By revealing the truth about Gertrude and Ophelia, Hamlet deprives these two women of their authority, and destroys their formerly respected reputations.
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