Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

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Many literary critics have presented theories on the meaning of William Shakespeare's Hamlet, ranging from claims of Oedipal Complexes to insinuations of homosexuality. Though most such interpretations can be considered true at some level, there seems to be some basic theme - some driving force - that underlies all other interpretations.

While most criticisms focus on individual characters, a more insightful criticism of the true nature of Hamlet can be drawn simply by analyzing the key relationships in play. These relationships - especially those dealing with women or issues of femininity - allow a level of interpretation that examines not merely the events of the play, but the true underlying significance of gender both to Shakespeare and to the characters he presents.

In order to interpret the significance of the feminine within the relationships in the play, one must first understand precisely the nature of 'feminine.' Though this term is typically associated only with women, Hamlet in many regards breaks down these barriers. While women are almost always feminine in some respect, the male characters in Hamlet are often embodiments of feminine virtues, such as female sexuality, motherhood, or sisterly love. As one author states, "thanks to feminist criticism, gender is not indissolvably fixed in Shakespeare. Male characters can profitably incorporate female characteristics, and women characters can assume masculine ones" (Kolin 5). While the women of Hamlet are the bearers of individual and unique feminine qualities, a feminist interpretation of the work also reveals the broader ideals of femininity within many of the male characters.

The first of the truly significant women in Hamlet is Gertrude, Hamlet's mother. ...


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...nd Feminist Criticism: An Annotated Bibliography and Commentary. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1991.

Erickson, Peter. Patriarchal Structures in Shakespeare's Drama. Paraphrased in Philip Kolin, Shakespeare and Feminist Criticism: An Annotated Bibliography and Commentary. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1991.

Klein, Joan Larsen. "'Angels and Ministers of Grace': Hamlet, IV, v-vii." Paraphrased in Philip Kolin, Shakespeare and Feminist Criticism: An Annotated Bibliography and Commentary. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1991.

Kolin, Philip C. Shakespeare And Feminist Criticism: An annotated Bibliography and Commentary. New York: Garland Publishing. 1991. Web. 26 May 2015.
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0895769X.1995.10545153

Watts, Cedric. Twayne's New Critical Introductions to Shakespeare. Boston: Twayne Publishers. 1991.
 

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