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Hamlet's Women

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In William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hamlet spews extremely harsh words against his mother Gertrude and his love, Ophelia. Some people may claim that these venomous statements mean that he is misogynistic, but, in fact, Hamlet's anger towards Gertrude and Ophelia stems not from their sex but from their betrayal. Throughout the play, Hamlet viciously attacks more than just the women; he has contempt for every person that betrays him and his father. After he recognizes the magnitude of Claudius' deceptions, Hamlet describes Claudius as a "Bloody, bawdy villain! / Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless / villain!" (Hamlet, II, ii, 607-609). Later, when Hamlet kills Polonius, he feels no remorse and calls the corpse a "wretched, rash, intruding fool" (Hamlet, III, iv, 38). Additionally, he has no compassion in his heart for those "adders fanged" (Hamlet, III, iv, 226), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and coldly arranges their deaths. Hamlet is cruel to the extreme to all those who he feels are treacherous, not just to the women in his life.

Hamlet expects his mother Gertrude to mourn for King Hamlet in the same way as he does, in "trappings and the suits of woe" (Hamlet, I, ii, 89). Instead, she marries Claudius shortly after the sudden death. Hamlet cannot understand how she could disrespect his father, especially since she so doted upon the King in life. He exclaims, "O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason / Would have mourned longer!" (Hamlet, I, 154-155) and he feels both hurt and anger. Hamlet has not only lost his father, he has also lost his birthright, as Claudius is now on the throne. It appears to him that she is choosing Claudius even over her own son. His feelings of abandonment create a boiling hatre...

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...es still care about them both. Hamlet understands that Ophelia was just doing as she was told, and he struggles with himself over his feelings. When he learns that she has died, he feels guilt and acknowledges that "I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers / Could not with all their quantity of love / Make up my sum" (Hamlet, IV, i, 285-287). Hamlet forgives Gertrude of her deeds too, for after Claudius poisons her, Hamlet takes revenge upon him in the name of both his father and his mother, "Then, venom, to thy / work... // Drink off this potion. Is (thy union) here? / Follow my mother" (Hamlet, IV, ii, 352-353 and 357). After this violent act, his comment that Gertrude is a "wretched queen" (Hamlet, IV, ii, 365) implies that she should be pitied, not despised. There is no malice towards women in Hamlet, he just is overwhelmed by the deception that he faces.