Societies' Views Towards Women in Shakespeare's Hamlet

analytical Essay
1373 words
1373 words

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare is a well known play, that not only tells a tragedy about revenge and philosophical thinking, but it indirectly emphasizes societies’ views toward women. Shakespeare does a fantastic job at depicting the expected behavior and roles of women through his female characters; Ophelia and Gertrude. Gertrude and Ophelia are portrayed as weak and dependent, a common belief of society toward many women of the time. Hamlet was written and published during the late middle ages (14th -15th century). A time when women were necessary, simply due to their child bearing abilities. They were to be seen as their husband's property, and if they were unfortunate enough to lose their husbands, they would most likely follow command from the next man-most likely their son. The views of this era are clearly shown through the actions and behavior of women in this play. Shakespeare’s play Hamlet captures the stigma, that still exists today: women are weak and dependent upon their male counterparts.
There are two major female characters in Hamlet, the first is Ophelia. Ophelia is Hamlet’s love interest, and the daughter of Polonius - a faithful servant to King Claudius. On several occasions, Ophelia is disrespected and controlled by the men in her life. OPhelia’s father Polonius, was constantly dictating her life. He made his wishes known to her on several occasions in regards to her relationship with Hamlet. Polonius was also successful in getting Ophelia to help him spy and keep tabs on Hamlet. He tells Ophelia to stop spending time with Hamlet after a long talk about his intentions, “I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth, Have you so slander any moment leisure,As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet.Lo...

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... think for themselves and be more independent, their fate may have been different. Although we have made great strides in the movement toward equality, our society still holds a stigma about women. The idea that women are weak and feeble is still alive and thriving. The fight has not yet been won, and it will continue to be an issue until the stigma is dismantled and destroyed.

Works Cited
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. An Introduction to Literature: Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. By Sylvan Barnet, William Burto, and William E. Cain. Boston: Longman, 2011. N. pag. Print.
Noble, D.F. "A World Without Women." Technology Review (00401692) 95.4 (1992): 52. Academic Search Premier. Web. 27 Nov. 2013.
Roberts, Jeanne Addison. "The Crone In English Renaissance Drama." Medieval & Renaissance Drama In England 15.(2002): 116-137. Academic Search Premier. Web. 27 Nov. 2013.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that the middle ages was a rough time for women, and the conditions in which they had to live were partly to blame for their fate.
  • Analyzes how shakespeare's hamlet depicts the expected behavior and roles of women through his female characters, ophelia and gertrude.
  • Analyzes how ophelia's behavior supports the idea that women are dependent and need guidance even in the most personal of subjects.
  • Analyzes how hamlet is guilty of disrespecting ophelia. he disregards her gifts and rants about the fallacy of his love for her.
  • Analyzes how shakespeare uses laertes, ophelia's older brother, to be the strong character who is genuinely phased by the death of his father, but manages to move forward in the hopes of avenging
  • Analyzes how gertrude is the second major female character that depicts weak behavior. she is not only hamlet's mother, but also the wife of king claudius.
  • Analyzes how hamlet portrays the frail and weak nature of women during the late middle ages.
  • Explains shakespeare's hamlet: an introduction to literature: fiction, poetry, and drama, by sylvan barnet, william burto and william e. cain. noble, d.f.
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