Role of Women in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

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William Shakespeare incorporates many themes and ideas into his play, Hamlet. Of the multiple important ideas, one potentially overlooked is the role of women. Only two of the characters in the play are female. Their lines are scarce, but hold huge importance in relation to the progression and plot of the play. Ophelia, the implied lover of Prince Hamlet, and Queen Gertrude, his mother, do not appear significant, but their actions and characters allow for other events to unfold. Gertrude and Ophelia are manipulated and belittled. In their weak will, they end up betraying Hamlet. Observing their manipulation by other people, Hamlet is able to justify and go through with his actions.
Despite Ophelia’s weak will, the male characters respond dramatically to her actions, proving that women indeed have a large impact in Hamlet. Her obedience is actually her downfall, because it allows the male characters to control and use her in their schemes. Ophelia’s betrayal ends up putting Hamlet over the edge, motivating him in his quest for revenge. Ophelia is one of the two women in the play. As the daughter of Polonius, she only speaks in the company of several men, or directly to her brother or father. Since we never see her interactions with women, she suppresses her own thoughts in order to please her superiors. Yet however weak and dependent her character is on the surface, Ophelia is a cornerstone to the play’s progression. One way that her manipulation is key to Hamlet’s plot is when Polonius orders her “in plain terms, from this time forth/ Have you so slander any moment leisure/As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet,” (1.3.131-133). She complies with his wishes, agreeing to return any tokens of Hamlet’s love to him, verify t...

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...course, ultimately infuriates and intensifies his urge for revenge. Because of Gertrude’s refusal to acknowledge her sins, Hamlet becomes even more personally motivated to kill Claudius for revenge. Queen Gertrude, though ignorant, has a huge impact on the play because her betrayal and abandonment motivates Hamlet to get revenge.
When writing Hamlet, Shakespeare created a complex play that relies on the roles of two important women to aid the progression of the plot. Although Queen Gertrude and Ophelia rarely speak, they function as a way for the men become informed about Hamlet’s mental state and motives for madness. Each woman made choices that greatly impacted the story plot and the lives of the characters. Ophelia’s suicide causes Laertes’s to desire revenge on Hamlet, and Gertrude’s infidelity and purposeful ignorance intensifies Hamlet’s urge for revenge.
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