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Feminism in Hamlet
Transcript of Feminism in Hamlet
What is Feminist Criticism?
How did she die?
Distraught & Distracted
Nobility-wearing a heavy dress
River could have pulled her in
Weight & corset would have suffocated & drowned her
Depressed over her father's death
Hamlet revealing he never loved her broke her heart
No family to go home to -> ALONE
No other reason to be at the river bank-> what a coincidence?!
Nevertheless, Ophelia died a quiet death void of the drama of the other characters' deaths. In either scenario she died because of weakness, either of emotion or of physical.
Was she just distracted
and accidentally ventured
too deep into the strong
current of the river?
In the play Hamlet, Ophelia is depicted as naive and dependent. From the beginning of play she is dominated by the men in her life, as soon as the men leave she dies. In contrast to Gertrude who shows indifference, Ophelia is driven by her hyperbolic emotions.
Relating to Other Female Characters
As we continue reading....
Mildred & Ophelia
by Ray Bradbury
Gertrude & Ophelia
by Ray Bradbury
Mrs. Linde & Gertrude
A Doll's House
by Henrik Ibsen
Nora Helmer & Ophelia
A Doll's House
by Henrik Ibsen
The characterizations of Nora Helmer and Ophelia are strikingly similar. In A Doll's House, Nora is portrayed as an easily manipulated woman, a "doll" to Torvald and her father before him. Ophelia too is a "doll" to her father. She obeys him and chooses his decisions over her own. Like Nora in the beginning acts of "A Doll's House," Ophelia seems completely concerned with the opinions of the men dominating her life. She is never depicted as making her own decisions. However, Nora is a more dynamic character that becomes independent and leaves Torvald, while Ophelia never becomes self reliant and eventually dies out of despair of not having a man to guide her anymore.
by William Shakespeare
Feminist Criticism is a type of literary analysis that explores how women are typically characterized in texts and how these portrayals are not true representations. It focuses on how femininity is depicted as passive and emotional, while the male moves by reason and action.
Ask yourself these questions..
1. To what extent does the representation of women (and men) reflect the time & place in which the work was written?
2. How are the relationships between men and women presented?
3. Does the author present the work from a predominantly male or female perspective?
“We can imagine Hamlet’s story without Ophelia, but Ophelia literally has no story without Hamlet.”
We will analyze the depictions of Gertrude and Ophelia in William Shakespeare's Hamlet through a feminist lens.
In William Shakespeare's
, Queen Gertrude is a main character but lacks development and importance in the plot. Throughout the play she shows her dependence and subordination towards men; she immediately marries Claudius and agrees with his word regardless of what her own son believes. Gertrude is also depicted as an indifferent woman who does not worry over the conflicts of the plot.
Was she involved with Claudius before the death of her husband?
Did she love her husband?
Was she aware of Claudius’s plan to commit the murder?
Did she love Claudius, or did she just marry him to keep her social status?
Does she believe that Hamlet is sane, or does she pretend to believe him simply to protect herself?
Did Ophelia choose to take her own life in grief and desperation?
Gertrude, from William Shakespeare’s
, and Mrs.Linde, from Henrik Ibsen’s
A Doll’s House
, are very similar because both do what they have to for survival. For example, in A Doll’s House Mrs.Linde is a widow who has no one to work for, and seeks refuge and comfort in an old love: Mr. Krogstad. She wants to remarry because she is alone in the world. Moreover, Gertrude also remarries for comfort; however, she is also motivated in keeping her royal status. Both women are in similar situations, trying to stay alive the only way they know they can. However, both women are different in the sense that Mrs.Linde wants to remarry because she wants to take care of someone again; whereas, Gertrude remarries so she can be taken care of. Ultimately, both women are what they have to do to live the live they’ve always know.
Survival at any cost
Mrs. Peters & Ophelia
by Susan Glaspell
Ophelia, from William Shakespeare's
, and Mrs. Peter, from Susan Glaspell's
, are very similar because they are both obedient, especially towards the men in their lives. For instance, when Mrs. Peter and Mrs. Hale find evidence for Mrs. Wright's case, Mrs. Peter wants to turn it in because her husband is the sheriff. The attorney telling her she is "married to the law", made her feel more compelled to show her husband. She wanted to please to attorney and her husband, and being that he was the sheriff she believed it would make him proud to know she found case breaking evidence. In similarity, Ophelia follows her father's orders to stop seeing Hamlet, although she is betraying her love for him. Ophelia felt the need to put her father's feeling before her own. Both of these women sought acceptance from the men in their lives and thus conformed to their rules.
Suicide (accidental or not)
Ignorance: oblivious to the conflicts of the plot
Mildred betrays Montag (turns him into the fire department) & Ophelia betrays Hamlet
Ophelia full of emotion; Mildred cold & quiet
Ophelia actually loves Hamlet; Mildred is distant towards Montag
Mildred is selfish while Ophelia tries to please her father
Not afraid to question society (unlike Mildred, Mrs. Bowles and Mrs. Phelps)
Although she dies early her legacy/example lives on throughout the novel
She is the reason Montag goes on to question the society in which he lives
Dependence & Independence
The Ghost of Hamlet
"Ay, that incestuous , that adulterate beast, With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts-... that have to power So to seduce!" (1, 5, 45)
While the ghost characterizes Claudius as a soulless, manipulative animal, that through deception seduced his wife, Gertrude, he depicts his wife in passive state saying that Claudius is solely responsible for his death and their incest. Instead displaying anger towards her, he almost laments for her because she "could not help it." The ghost characterizes his former wife as a victim to his brothers seduction of lust. The ghost pleads hamlet to not take action or be mad at his mother because it was his brothers fault that she betrayed the love of his first marriage. For instance, the ghost tells Hamlet to let her be and her own punishment will her own conscience. He orders Hamlet to wage revenge against his uncle but to not touch his mother, again marking the separation between her and Claudius. His brother is depicted as evil while Gertrude is just a woman who could not avoid falling for his wicked tricks.
"...won to his shameful lust The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen" (1, 5, 45)
"O Hamlet, what a falling off was there!" (1, 5, 45)
Shakespeare portrays Gertrude as ignorant, because when Hamlet is screaming at her for marrying his uncle only after two months after his father’s death she says in a confused manner. Her ignorance is prevent her from understanding why Hamlet is reproaching her. She also mentions that she chooses to forget, or be ignorant of her actions; she would rather avoid conflict because it is too much for her to handle. Shakespeare also portrays Gertrude as weak and helpless by mentioning her pleas to Hamlet to stop screaming at her about the sins that she has committed. She begs him to stop. The ghost characterizes her as almost innocent. Lastly Shakespeare demonstrates Gertrude’s ignorance and helplessness by including the ghost of Hamlet appearing to stop Hamlet from further hurting his fragile mother. The appearance of her late husband strengthens the idea that she needs a man to protect her.
Act III Scene 4
Act 1 Scene 5
“Ay me, what act That roars so loud and thunders in the index.”
“O, speak to me mo more! These words like daggers enter in my ears. No more, sweet Hamlet” (3, 4, 95)
Hamlet Confronting Gertrude
“O Hamlet, speak no more! Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul,And there I see such black and grainèd spots As will not leave their tinct” (3, 4, 90)
“ Do not forget. This visitation Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose. But look, amazement on thy mother sits. O, step between her and her fighting soul. Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works. Speak to her, Hamlet" (3, 4, 110)
Act V Scene 2
Gertrude accidentally drinks the poisoned drink that Claudius prepared for Hamlet. She drinks it in good luck and happiness for Hamlet. Claudius screams at her to not drink it but she continues. The queen dies a petty death. While the other characters die in mysterious murders, in battle or in violent outbursts of anger she dies simply by accidentally drinking a poisoned drink not even meant for her. Interestingly she dies because she disobeyed Claudius' command of not drinking.
“I will, my lord. I pray you, pardon me. (drinks)”
Act 1 Scene 2
Hamlet's Soliloquy about Gertrude
In his soliloquy Hamlet depicts his mother as an incestuous, impatient woman who could not bear being alone so she quickly remarried Claudius after the death of her husband. She is characterized as disloyal and unconstrained in her actions. His words highlight her dependence on men because she immediately remarries. She is portrayed as a weak woman just searching for someone to protect her.
"Frailty, thy name is woman!"
"Within a month,
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her gallèd eyes,
She married. O most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!"
"Leave her to heaven and to those thorns that in her bosom lodge, to prick her and sting her" (1, 5, 89).
" I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother not borne me: I am revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in" (lines 123-128).
"Get thee to a nunnery, farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them" (lines 138-141).
Hamlet characterizes men as sinners. He says that women are responsible for men acting like monsters. With regards to this, Hamlet admits that he too is a sinner, calling himself and men monsters at the hand of women. Moreover, he characterizes women as the "breeders of sinners". He urges her to go to a "nunnery" so that she wouldn't bare children, who eventually will become sinners and monsters . Thus, he hurries her to join a nunnery before she is doomed to bare sinners. Hamlet is telling her if she does marry, to marry a "fool" because "wise men" know how women will turn them into monsters. The difference between the characterization of men and women is highlighted here. The men are characterized as evil while women are simply just their "breeders."
The Nunnery Conversation
Act 3 Scene 1
Laertes' Talk with Ophelia
When Laertes talks to Ophelia he warns her about the dangers of being in love with Prince Hamlet. He characterizes Hamlet as important, bearing a lot of responsibilities as leader of Denmark. She warns that she will not be a priority to him because his biggest priority is the good of the country. He seeks to discourage Ophelia from completely surrendering herself to him because he will eventually leave her to move onto greater responsibilities. Ophelia is portrayed as unaware woman who has never thought of this possibility that her brother her warns her about.
"He may not, as unvalued persons do, Carve for himself, for his choice depends The safety and health of this whole state" (1, 3, 20)
" A violet in the youth of primy nature Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting, The perfumes and supplianace of a minute. No more. "
Polonious' Talk with Ophelia
In contrast to Laertes, Polonious is more controlling than guiding towards Ophelia. While Laertes simply warned Ophelia Polonious gives her orders of not seeing Hamlet anymore. He characterizes Hamlet as manipulative and untruthful. Polonious' purpose in portraying Hamlet negatively is to discourage Ophelia from having a relationship with him. Ophelia is characterized as naive for believing that Hamlet truely loves her. She seems doubtful in her words and eventually obeys her fathers commands. This scene shows the dynamics of father- daughter relationships at the time, when fathers had complete control over their daughters.
" Ay, springes to catch woodcocks" (1,3, 115)
"Affection! Pooh, you sepak like a green girl , Unsifted in such perilous circumstance" ( 1, 3, 100)
"Think yourself a baby That you have ta'en these tenders for true pay," (1, 3, 105)
Act 1 Scene 3
1. In Elain Showalter’s essay “Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism” she asks if whether Ophelia is “indeed representative of women” and if her madness stands “for the oppression of women in society as well as tragedy.” In the 17th century women were seen as inferior to men and dependent of them. Hamlet gives a well representation of women in the sixteen hundreds, by demonstrating Ophelia as a young lady who is dependent on men. Her brother leaves, her lover disclaims his love for her, and her father dies. With all the men in her life gone, she dies either by suicide or not. Hamlet also portrays Gertrude as dependent because after her husband died she married his brother only two months after, which demonstrated her need for a man. In today’s society women are seen as equals to men; they are strong and independent and share the same rights and respect that men have.
2. According to Hamlet, he loves Ophelia yet in ACT III Scene I He denounces his love for her by saying that he never did love her and that she was wrong to believe he did. We believe he does not sincerely love her but feels lust for her. For example in ACT III Scene II he begins to make sexual innuendos towards her. Another clue for why he didn’t love her like he said he did was when he felt little remorse after killing her father. Another key clue to show that he does not really love her is that people who are in love with someone usually cannot stop talking about that person to anyone. Hamlet never mentions Ophelia if she is not present. He has many soliloquies none of which are about Ophelia.
Hamlet's Conversation at the play
At the play Hamlet opes to sit next to Ophelia
however instead of acting romantic like has been observed in the letters he would write he acts perverted and disrespectful. Through his perversion Ophelia remains polite and does not reproach him. The scene highlights the relationship between men and women. Men were allowed to act disrespectful but women had to remain polite.
"Lady shall I lie in your lap" (3, 2, 100)
"That's a fair thought to lie between a maiden's legs" (3, 2, 105)
"Ay my lord" ( 3, 2, 105)
Thought and affliction, passion, hell itself, she turns to favor and to prettiness" (Act 4, 5, 185)