Hamlet Essay

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‘Critics often judge Gertrude as a weak, selfish and innocent woman, caught up in conflicts she does not fully understand.’ To what extent do you agree with this? The two female characters in Shakespeare’s tragedy seem to be drowned in the mist of the deceitful power-game played by the male characters, which contribute to the on-going tragic conventions of murder, revenge and betrayal so prevalent in this form of drama. The title of Hamlet’s metatheatrical play-within-a-play, 'the mouse-trap' is as applicable to the plot of Shakespeare’s 'Hamlet'; set in the especially patriarchal society of Elsinore, which is dominated by the authoritative actions of the male characters, Hamlet may be seen as a tragedy where the female characters have small and seemingly unimportant roles in the tragic plot compared to the climactic ‘masculine’ moments – the visitations of the Ghost, the dramatic agon between Hamlet and Claudius and the final conquest between Hamlet and his counterpart Laertes. Gertrude is a character whose fate is tragically overshadowed by the power of these men, indicative of the submissive role of women in the Jacobean period. Despite the fact that directors often present Gertrude as a sensual and deceitful woman who is vain and self-satisfied with strong sexual appetites, if one looks to Shakespeare’s text, this character has a very small and arguably innocent voice in the play; indeed Rebecca Smith argues that ‘Gertrude’s words and action create not the lusty, lustful, lascivious Gertrude that one generally sees in stage and film productions but a compliant, loving, unimaginative woman whose only concern is pleasing others’. In order to assess Shakespeare’s characterisation of the Queen, it is necessary to exami... ... middle of paper ... ...arded as selfish, weak and innocent, caught up in a conflict that she more than understands. Works Cited Bamber, L.(1990) “Class Struggle: Shakespeare and Sexism.” The Women’s Review of Books 7:5. Bradley, A.C. (1966) Shakespearean Tragedy. New York: St. Martin's Press. Burnett, Mark, ed. (1994) New Essays on Hamlet. New York: AMS Press. Granville-Barker, Henry. (1970) Prefaces to Shakespeare. New York: Hill and Wang. Heilbrun, Carolyn. (1957) Hamlet’s Mother. California: University of California Press. Kolin, Philip C. (1991). Shakespeare and Feminist Criticism an Annotated Bibliography and Commentary. New York: Garland. Loske, Olaf. (1960) Outrageous Fortune. Oslo: Oslo University Press. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Smith, Rebecca. ‘A Heart Cleft in Twain: the Dilemma of Shakespeare’s Gertrude’.

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