The Themes of Women and Ambition in Hamlet and Macbeth

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Throughout Shakespeare's Hamlet and Macbeth, there are two prominent themes: the negative impact of women and ambition. In Hamlet, misogyny, or the strong dislike toward women are greatly shown throughout the play because of his mother Gertrude and his lover Ophelia. He believes that all women are weak, unable to think for themselves, and utterly submissive toward men just because of Gertrude and Ophelia's actions. Ambition is shown through Claudius' - Hamlet's uncle and Gertrude's new husband - character in which he goes great lengths to become king of Denmark. In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is manipulative yet hypocritical when she tries to persuade Macbeth to kill Duncan which causes a downward spiral into his insanity. This also ties into both of their ambitious behavior in that they will harm anyone to hold a great position, similar to Claudius in Hamlet.

Hamlet is greatly and negatively impacted by the two women who are supposed to be most important to him: his mother, Gertrude, and his partner, Ophelia. Their actions ultimately contribute to Hamlet's theme of misogyny, or a hatred and distrust of women. "Let me not think on 't; frailty, thy name is woman!" (I.ii.146). During his monologue, he is upset that his mother, Gertrude, was quick to remarry right after the death of his father - not to mention she remarried his uncle, Claudius, out of all people. This act of incest sickens him and he is disgusted at her actions when she and his late father were inseparable and now she is married to a man that is not even as great a leader and fighter as his father was. In regards to Ophelia, Hamlet is angry at how submissive she is when her father Polonius and brother Laertes order her to stay away from him despite the fact that they are ...

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... on sort of a male role in Act 1 where she calls him out on his manhood or lack thereof because he does not want to kill a virtuous and humble man with whom he has no problems. Shakespeare's audience also sees how hypocritical this makes Lady Macbeth when she scrubs her hands to rid herself from the guilt of murder. She is also ambitious because she only wants Duncan killed so she and Macbeth can be king and queen of Scotland. After Macbeth kills Duncan, he too becomes ambitious in that he is paranoid and ready to kill anyone who may seem to be plotting against him.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William, Barbara A. Mowat, and Paul Werstine. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2009. Print.

Shakespeare, William, Barbara A. Mowat, and Paul Werstine. The Tragedy of Macbeth. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2009. Print.
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