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The Role Of Women in Hamlet

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The mindset of the unequal genders in the past is thought to have influenced the way playwright William Shakespeare portrayed females in his plays. Shakespeare exemplified this in his revenge tragedy Hamlet, written in 1601 with one of the most significant characters, Gertrude. She is central to the plot due to her relationship with the main character, Hamlet, being his mother. However, not only is she the mother to the tragic hero Hamlet, she is also widow to his laid father, King Hamlet Senior, and also newly wed to Hamlets uncle, Claudius. In this tragic play, we witness not only the downfall of women of the play in general, but specifically the falling out of Gertrude as a mother to Hamlet, as a wife to the new King Claudius, and as a woman herself.

Gertrude is the Queen of Denmark and has experienced significant life changes in the last few months. She buries her husband and has remarried her brother in law. This rapid transition to a new marriage does not bode well on her son, Hamlet. Hamlet discusses his distaste in this situation and reflects on this as he tries to overcome the grief of losing his father. Of course it does not sit well with grieving Hamlet that his mothers new marriage has created a lust-filled environment, and that Gertrude has portrayed herself as a very sexual character. At the beginning of the she play she also continuously takes Claudius’ side over Hamlets. An excerpt from Rebecca Smith’s A Heart Cleft in Twain: The Dilemma of Shakespeare’s Gertrude analyzes Hamlet’s first soliloquy in the first act where he voices his disgust for his mother and his shame for her and women in general. In Rebecca’s passage, she states that “Hamlet's violent emotions toward his mother are obvious from his first ...

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...her in order to obtain his wife (Gertrude) as well as the crown to the kingdom. William depicts the females in the play less than positively, and as a result, lead to their own demise. Through the play, Shakespeare illustrates the fallout Queen Gertrude creates for herself as a mother, a wife, and a woman herself through the sacrifice of her own happiness and wellbeing.

Works Cited

Bierman, David. “Women In Hamlet.” Frailty, Thy Name Is Woman. UCSC. 2004.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Don Mills, ON: Oxford UP, 2011

Smith, Rebecca. The Woman’s Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare. Champaign, IL: U of Illinois P, 1983
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