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Hamlet from a Feminist Perspective

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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 ...

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...anchester: Manchester University Press. 116-133.

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Heilbrun, Carolyn G. (2002). Hamlet's Mother and Other Women. 2nd ed. West Sussex: Columbia University Press.

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Pearson, Patricia. When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence. New York: Viking, 1997

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