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The Representation Of Women In Hamlet

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 859 words Published: 27th Apr 2017

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Everyone has a weakness in their lives that can overcome their lives. Some of the weaknesses could be greed, anger, and depression. Weaknesses can create issues, but can also make people learn life lessons. In Shakespearian time women were not allowed to play themselves on stage, and they were often seen as weak characters. In Shakespeare’s play, the characters all have flaws that eventually lead to their deaths. Ophelia and Gertrude are two different women who seem to be trapped in the same circumstances. Therefore both Gertrude and Ophelia lack the drive to be listened to and are therefore seen as weak and fragile woman.

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Ophelia tends to follow the direction of others and not stand up for herself. At the beginning of the play, we see both Ophelia’s father and her brother lecturing her about her relationship with Hamlet. They talk about how she shouldn’t be with him and that they warn her there is no way Hamlet will want to marry her without his only desire being sex. After an apparent visit from a distressed Hamlet, Ophelia says “….as you did command, I did repel his letters and denied his access to me” (2.2.180-110). Just as her father told her, she rejected Hamlet. Hamlet obviously loved Ophelia, and all of a sudden, she rejects him. It gets even worse when she agrees to confront Hamlet in front of Claudius, Gertrude, and Polonius, just so they can observe Hamlet’s reaction. She gives Hamlet his letters back, which prompts Hamlet to say “get thee to a nunnery” (3.1.131). In a nunnery women cannot marry at all; they cannot be under the influence of men, or influence men in any way. Hamlet feels that is where a woman has a best chance at being faithful and where she will cause the least amount of damage. She won’t have children meaning she cannot bear wicked children like Claudius. Furthermore, Ophelia is not strong enough to survive alone, and upon realizing this, she calls her brother for help and guidance. Polonius’s controlling manner is unrecoverable. Ophelia realizes that “I would give you some violets / but they withered all when my father died…” (4.5. 207-209). Violets are known as a symbol of faithfulness, this is why Ophelia says that the violets are gone because she feels betrayed that her father has left her even though it wasn’t his fault as he was killed by Hamlet. Violets also mean forgiveness, which Ophelia does not feel compelled to do for Polonius. Polonius’s guidance has influenced Ophelia’s emotional growth and has only allowed her to think and feel what she is told to. Ophelia’s actions result in her being weak and unable to remove her from the past and being capable of making her own decisions.

Gertrude is forbidden by her affection from men, as well as her tendency to use men to fulfill her life, which of course makes her dependent upon them. Hamlet believes that Gertrude’s quick marriage to his uncle was a sign of her weakness because it shows she could not stand to be alone. He states that:

A little month, or ere those shoes were old

With which she followed my poor father’s body

Like Niobe, all tears-why she, even she

O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason

Would have mourned longer!, married with my uncle (1.2.151-157).

Hamlet is clearly angry that his mother’s emotions were so weak. He wonders how she could quickly marry her husband’s brother after burying her husband. Gertrude clearly can’t be by herself and constantly needs a man in her life to fulfill that empty spot inside her. Gertrude throughout the play is questioned about being immortal due to the quickness of her marriage. It seems as though she has no sympathy towards the death of her husband and could not wait to jump into another marriage with Claudius. Hamlet realizes this and says “O, most wicked speed, to post/ with such dexterity to incestuous sheets!” (1.2.161-132). Hamlet has a problem with his mother’s sexuality. It’s not that he’s disgusted by Gertrude’s marriage to Claudius, but the fact that he can’t stand to think she is having sex. Although it is quite clear that Gertrude is weak and relies on Claudius to make her happy, she does not realize how much it has affected Hamlet. He does not only lose respect for his mother and his uncle, but begins to doubt his mother’s prior love for his father. In conclusion, Gertrude demonstrates similar weakness traits to Ophelia by letting the men in the play have a huge impact on the way the she think.

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In Hamlet, the women play small roles in portraying their historical status. Although Gertrude is the Queen and Ophelia is the prince’s lover, their voices are never heard and their actions are influenced by the men. Although Gertrude and Ophelia are not well developed throughout the play, their actions, language and influence portray them as the type of women that are constantly relying on men making them frail human beings.


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