Frailty, Thy Name Is Women “Frailty thy name is women” (I.II.150) are words which are spoken by Prince Hamlet, the prominent character of the tragedy play Hamlet by Shakespeare, in his first soliloquy. These words underline how Hamlet truly feels about Gertrude, the queen, and Ophelia, his “beloved” maiden, and women in general. Although the two women play awfully passive characters and lack their voice for the world to hear, they are significantly important because they show how Hamlet, possibly Shakespeare, are a misogynist, which is one of the themes of the play. Through the fickle, passive, and submissive portrayal of the two woman characters, Shakespeare shows women needs to have an autonomy-sense, otherwise their lives will turn out to “cannot come to good” (I.II.163).
Throughout time in history, women have continued to play minor roles in society, although with heavy contributions, as depicted in William Shakespeare’s tragic revenge, Hamlet. This unfortunate truth is reflected through the actions of Queen Gertrude, and Ophelia, as they are the true source of all conflict, seen as weak and characterless personnel, and incredibly dependant on the men in their lives. Thus labeled as the true driving factors of other characters actions, and as a result, receiving abusive treatment.
The rights of women are often greatly suppressed and seen as less important than the rights of men throughout all aspects of life. Since the beginning of human evolution, females have had to fight for equal treatment and have been discussed in several types of media and writing. It is not uncommon for female characters to be portrayed as being inferior to the male characters, especially throughout a variety of literature. Throughout the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, it is indisputable that the female characters are often subservient to the male characters. Furthermore, the two female characters Gertrude and Ophelia are given limited power in their ability to make their own decisions, they often agree and obey to the thoughts and commands
Shakespeare’s Hamlet, shows strong prejudice against woman especially with such characters of Ophelia and Gertrude. Shakespeare created an interesting character with Gertrude; he created a character that sits in the middle of all the conflict and appears to not partake in much of it. However Gertrude does seem intent in defusing it at every possible chance she receives. Gertrude is a central figure in the play. She appears a great deal but doesn’t say much – implying mystery and creating an interesting uncertainty in the audience. Hamlet spends a lot of time dwelling on her marriage to Claudius and Shakespeare leaves many questions unanswered with Gertrude such as did she have an affair with Claudius behind old hamlets back? Why does she drink the poisoned wine that is intended for her son? Does she know it is poisoned? Gertrude is the mother of Hamlet and although they do not have a typical mother son relationship she does love him. Queen Gertrude is often interpreted by many as an adulterate, incestuous woman. Catherine Belsey states that typical interpretations of Hamlet maintain: ‘Gertrude a slut; and Shakespeare a patriarchal bard’ (Belsey,1997:34). Gertrude’s actions throughout the play could be read to show her to be a very passive character, far from a strong independent woman. This is shown with her obedience to Claudius, three times during the play, Gertrude is told to leave and each times she complies without hesitation. In Act 1, scene 2 Claudius says to Gertrude, ‘Madam, come’ (122). Then again, Act 3, scene 1, Claudius says to her, ‘Sweet Gertrude, leave us .’ (28), she complies with ; ‘I shall obey you’ (37). And finally, in Act 4, scene 1, Claudius say, ‘O Gertrude, come away!’ (28). This obedience that Gertrude ...
Gertrude’s blindness to the whole situation is sickening. How she marries the brother of her former husband right after he kills him and never knows the truth is beyond me. She never cared about how her son felt before or after she married Claudius. She didn’t even wait very long after her husband died to get married again ( I; ii; 180-181. "Thrift, thrift, Horatio. The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables".). Therefore she is either a very slow, naïve woman or a very evil, coldhearted one. For someone to side with a person even after their own son has told them that the person they’re with has murdered their former lover is absolute lunacy ( III; iv; 29-30. "A bloody deed- almost as bad, good mother, as kill a king, and marry his brother".). Not knowing the truth in the first place is one thing, but turning your back on your own flesh and blood is another. Therefore without his mother on his side, Hamlet has lost all the family in his life that could have helped him get through his terrible time and he sinks lower than ever before.
After the death of Old Hamlet and Gertrude’s remarriage to Claudius, Hamlet feels extremely angry and bitter. “How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable / Seem to me all the uses of this world!” (1.2.133-134). Due to the death of his father, he is already in a state of despair and the lack of sympathy that his mother has towards his sorrow does not aid him in recovering from this stage of grief. “Good Hamlet, cast thy knighted colour off, / And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark” (1.2.68-69). Hamlet is struggling to accept the fashion in which Gertrude is responding to the death of Old Hamlet; she seems quite content with her new life with Claudius, which is a difficult concept for him to accept as after the d...
The position of Gertrude’s character in the play raises numerous questions about her involvement with her former husband’s murder, along with her reasoning for marrying Claudius. Failing to question Claudius’ intentions with her son, Hamlet, Gertrude includes herself in the corruption. She is present at various meetings discussing her son’s whereabouts and plots to spy on him (83). Though she is conscious of the corruption in the court, she does not seek to resolve the matters. But rather, she involves herself in the conflict and schemes. Claudius’ ways definitely influence her judgment, which is seen when she allows Polonius to spy on her private conversation with Hamlet (169). Furthermore, when confronted by Hamlet, she admits, “Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul, And there I see such black and grainèd spots, As will not leave their tinct” (175). Her response to Hamlet’s raging interrogative and accusatory speech insinuates that she too has in some fashion contributed to the corruption in Denmark, though the specific circumstance is never revealed. Shakespeare’s portrayal of Gertrude shows a woman who is more concerned about self-preservation and remaining in power so much so that she involves herself with the plots of a man, who murdered her
...est for him, yet she does not know what is in the best interests of those around her and she does not seek out the opinions of others before making decisions. I can relate to Gertrude’s flaw because I, too, often forget that I do not always know best. I forget that often times people need time and to be left alone; that some things will not get better overnight and there is nothing I can do to fix the issues but wait. If Gertrude had been more patient with the issues in her life, such as should she give hamlet the throne after her husband’s death, she might have done things differently. Yet, Gertrude was a “fixer” who wanted fast solutions to long term problems, and she believed that she knew best, even when she did not. This caused her to make bad decisions throughout the course of the play. Her flaws are what make her relatable, as well as what makes her human.
In UA’s production Gertrude sees the ghost in her chamber when Hamlet is accusing her, but denies that she has. She also witnesses Ophelia’s death. Both of these actions can be inferred while reading the play, but seeing them blatantly acted out further develops Gertrude’s character. Gertrude and King Claudius are similar in that they do not want to upset the status quo and they do not want to accept their sins. This comparison is cemented by Gertrude’s actions in the play. She does not want to accept the sin that she had a hand in killing her previous king and husband, so she denies that she has seen him in her chamber. Then, when she witnesses Ophelia drowning, she does not do anything to stop it because Ophelia’s madness was only creating problems in the court and in her own personal life. Seeing Gertrude act in this way, rather than simply not seeing the ghost king or Ophelia’s death, makes her more complicit in the play’s
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.