Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

Length: 2524 words (7.2 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

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. ...

... middle of paper ...

...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.

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

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Feminine Representation in Shakespeare's Hamlet

- Feminine Representation in Shakespeare's Hamlet        Abstract: This essay employs Feminist Criticism, New Historicism, and Marxist Criticism, to analyze the portrayal of Queen Gertrude and Ophelia.   Because Shakespeare's Hamlet centers on the internal struggle of the Prince of Denmark, the reader focuses primarily on his words and actions.  An often overlooked or under appreciated aspect of the play is the portrayal of the female characters, particularly Queen Gertrude and Ophelia.  There are two scenes in particular that provide insight into this topic.  In Act I Scene III, Ophelia receives advice from her father, Polonius, and her brother, Laertes.  Similarly, Gertrude is confronte...   [tags: Feminism Feminist Women Criticism]

Powerful Essays
2631 words (7.5 pages)

Essay on Ophelia - The Innocent Victim in Shakespeare's Hamlet

- Ophelia - The Innocent Victim in Shakespeare's Hamlet        Poor Ophelia, she lost her lover, her father, her mind, and, posthumously, her brother. Ophelia is the only truly innocent victim in Hamlet. This essay will examine Ophelia's downward spiral from a chaste maiden to nervous wreck.      From the beginning of the play, in Act I Scene iii, Laertes and Polonius are trying to convince her that Hamlet does not love her and only is interested in her so he can sleep with her. Laertes says "Perhaps he loves you now, .........   [tags: Essays on Shakespeare Hamlet]

Powerful Essays
834 words (2.4 pages)

Essay on A Feminist Perspective of William Shakespeare

- A Feminist Perspective of Shakespeare      Although William Shakespeare reflects and at times supports the English Renaissance stereotypes of women and men and their various roles and responsibilities in society, he is also a writer who questions, challenges, and modifies those representations. His stories afford opportunities not only to understand Renaissance culture better but also to confront our own contemporary generalizations about gender, especially what it means to be female. In his own time, Shakespeare seems to have been raising questions about the standard images of males and females, about what the characteristics of each gender are, about what is defined as masculine and fem...   [tags: Feminism Feminist Women Criticism]

Powerful Essays
1501 words (4.3 pages)

Literary Criticisms of Shakespeare’s Hamlet Essay

- This essay will discuss several literary criticisms of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. After skimming through several articles, I ended up with four peer-reviewed journal articles, each a different critical perspectives of the play: feminist, psychoanalytical/freudian, moral, and new historicism. My previous studies of Hamlet, as well as my rereading of the play this semester, has collectively given me a general knowledge of the text. My familiarity of the play made it easier for me to decipher the academic journals and see the connections each critic made with the play....   [tags: Hamlet Essays]

Powerful Essays
1226 words (3.5 pages)

Shakespeare 's Hamlet : A Unique Mother And Son Relationship Between Gertrude And Hamlet

- Shakespeare’s Hamlet shows a unique mother and son relationship between Gertrude and Hamlet. Stemming from the death of King Hamlet, Hamlet’s depiction of his mother signals a heinous relationship amongst the two. Hamlets and Gertrude relationship looks complicated, but Gertrude still considers Hamlet as her son. After the marriage of Gertrude and Claudius, her affection towards Hamlet is not encountered, excluding for when she questioned his dark demeanor, “Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off, And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark” (I, II, 68-69)....   [tags: Characters in Hamlet, Hamlet, Gertrude]

Powerful Essays
837 words (2.4 pages)

Hamlet - Shakespeare's Ophelia as Modern Icon Essay

- Hamlet - Shakespeare's Ophelia as Modern Icon Shakespeare's Ophelia is not lacking in attention. As one of Shakespeare's most popular female characters she has enjoyed many appellations from the bard. '"Fair Ophelia." "Most beautified Ophelia." "Pretty Ophelia." "Sweet Ophelia." "Dear Ophelia." "Beautiful Ophelia…sweet maid…poor wretch." "Poor Ophelia."' (Vest 1) All of these names for Ophelia can be found in Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Since Shakespeare's incarnation of Ophelia many have felt the need to offer their opinions of Ophelia as a character....   [tags: Hamlet essays]

Powerful Essays
3387 words (9.7 pages)

Feminist Literary Theory Writing Assignment Essay

- Ophelia’s character is important in observing the true temperament of the male and female characters, as well as the lack of feminism in the Elizabethan Era. Not only does she experience immense inequality, but is generally ignored in most circumstances. Her feelings are completely disregarded the majority of the play, and she is rarely ever able to speak for herself, express her opinions, or act on her own reasoning. In Hamlet, Ophelia’s obedience to her father and brother, along with her dismissal by Hamlet, reveals that women were not allowed to assert their opinions, emotions, or desires in a courtly setting....   [tags: Ophelia, Hamlet, Shakespeare, Elizabethan Era]

Powerful Essays
904 words (2.6 pages)

Shakespeare Breaks the Way for Feminism Essay

- “Gender hardly determines the nature of a character, in the plays of Shakespeare. It is for this very reason, that his plays are read, viewed and enjoyed by both the sexes equally, even after five hundred years of their composition” (Singh). Gender is not something that defines what a character is going to be like in Shakespeare’s plays. This quote illuminates that in Shakespeare’s writings females and males were on equal level playing fields when it came to their traits. Females during the time period were considered inferior to men....   [tags: ophelia, hamlet, gender]

Powerful Essays
1651 words (4.7 pages)

Ophelia: Harshly Criticized Essay

- ... Shakespeare undermines her role and the role of women in society. Not only is she underappreciated being in Hamlet’s shadow, she also is treated as a useless tool or object. Hamlet’s story without Ophelia, but Ophelia literally has no story without Hamlet’” (Showalter). Ophelia is never given the opportunity to be treated as a main character. She is seen as someone who lives in Hamlet’s shadow and is a tool used by Hamlet for his own sexual enticing rather than her role as a woman and human....   [tags: Shakespeare's Hamlet]

Powerful Essays
1029 words (2.9 pages)

Elaine Showalter's Representing Ophelia Essay

- Elaine Showalter's Representing Ophelia     Elaine Showalter defines Ophelia in many typical ways in her essay "Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism." She discusses her significance in reference to how she reveals Hamlet's characteristics. Showalter touches upon the idea that Ophelia's character is one that is symbolic of the psychiatric theories of Freud. Showalter also attributes the characterization of Ophelia to not only the audience, but also to the actress that plays the part....   [tags: GCSE Coursework Shakespeare Hamlet]

Free Essays
1240 words (3.5 pages)