Same Flesh and Bone
Ever since Eve was fashioned from Adam’s rib, men have viewed women as objects that they use and abuse like an extension themselves. This idea exists because over time men have become to see themselves as superior beings. This idea has been reinforced by years of culture and tradition; it can be found in the media, the workplace and has even made its way into literature through the mind of William Shakespeare. In his play Hamlet, he explores themes of sexuality and how men view women.
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.
Even though women’s rights has evolved drastically, today and throughout history, women still largely adhere to men’s demands. Men, who withhold most of the power in relationships, tend to expanded their own power at the cost of these women, displaying that anybody in a position of power can become uncontrolled. A similar scenario of imbalanced power appears throughout Hamlet, Shakespeare portrays women as pawns in a mostly male world, due to their desire for acceptance from men, women are led to their downfall, showing that in seeking a man’s approval, they often fall victim to men’s greed and manipulation.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is set in the late middle ages, in Denmark. A time in history when women were not respected and thought of as the inferior sex. There are two women characters in Hamlet; Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, and Ophelia, Hamlet’s love interest. Magda Romanska the writer of “Ontology and Eroticism: Two Bodies Of Ophelia”, argues that Ophelia represents the typical idea of women in the nineteenth century. I agree with this, but argue that it is not the only aspect of Ophelia’s character. Ophelia becomes the bearer of Hamlet’s hatred toward the world, and is also the character of lowest status because she is an average women. Ophelia surrenders herself to the cruelty of those around her, and sacrifices her sanctity to please and conform
With particular reference to Hamlet, feminist critics might explore the characters of Ophelia and Gertrude and how they challenge—or fail to challenge — the domination of male characters. Feminist critics would also be interested in exploring how the play expresses ideas about femininity that were common in Shakespeare's lifetime and how complicit Shakespeare is in Hamlet's personal misogyny. … Elaine Showalter's essay "Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism" explores the difficulties, even embarrassments, that feminist critics have had in approaching Ophelia. The problem is that Ophelia has tended to be overshadowed by Hamlet, even by feminist critics, who then feel the need to liberate Ophelia from obscurity. However, even liberated Ophelia is problematic for she suggests some potentially troubling connections between femininity, female sexuality, and madness.
In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, women are oversexualized, and are given no role other than to be the item of a man’s desire. The promiscuity of the only two women in the play, Gertrude and Ophelia, detracts from their power and integrity, and allows Hamlet a certain amount of control over them. Gertrude’s sexual lifestyle is often mentioned by her son, Hamlet, and Hamlet uses his knowledge of Gertrude’s sexuality as a means to criticize her. Ophelia’s sexuality initially appears to be controlled by Laertes and Polonius, and Hamlet takes advantage of the naive image that she is required to keep. However, in her later madness, Ophelia taints this image by revealing that her innocence is feigned. By exposing the sexual natures of both Gertrude and Ophelia, Hamlet strips these women of any influence they may have had, and damages their once-honourable names.
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 ...
Hamlet is one of the most controversial characters from all of the Shakespeare’s play. His character is strong and complicated, but his jealousy is what conduces him to hate women. He sees them as weak, frail, and untrustworthy. He treats Ophelia, the women he loves, unfair and with cruelty. Similarly, he blames his mother for marrying her dead husband’s brother, who is now the King of Denmark. Hamlet’s treatment for women stems from his mother’s impulsive marriage to his uncle who he hates and Ophelia choosing her father’s advice over him.
Polonius immediately calls to question Ophelia’s ability to reason with his opening remark, “I must tell you / You do not understand yourself so clearly.” (1.3.104-105). This statement along with his suggestion to, “Think yourself a baby” (1.3.114) in regards to how she feels about Hamlet show his commanding nature and instant mistrust of how Ophelia could possibly behave in the best way. Ophelia, to her credit, responds with a curt, “I shall obey, my lord” (1.3.145), which shows her maturity and respect by avoiding conflict through a calm demeanor. However, given how she responded to Laertes, this response also comes across as snide and mocking showing her independence through a resilient, almost defiant, statement. Ophelia, for the second time, faces immediate threats to her power over herself and deals with both calmly and intelligently by not provoking a reaction while still showing abject
How Hamlet Presents Its Female Characters
Hamlet is said to be one of the most discussed works of literature in
the world. Shakespeare has generally
presented strong women in his plays; for example Lady Macbeth, Portia
and Rosaline. This may have been influenced by his personal life, as
his wife Ann Hathaway, was eight years his senior. However the women
in Hamlet have weaknesses, both Gertrude and Ophelia show compassion
and neither are ruthless in their attitudes and actions, however
ruthlessness is not always a strength in women. Hamlet is one of
Shakespeare’s most complicated characters, but ironically he sees no
complexity in the people around him especially the female characters
of this play.