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The Role of Women in Hamlet

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Sienna Wong

on 3 December 2013

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Transcript of The Role of Women in Hamlet

The Role of Women in Hamlet
Ger - Trude
The name is of Germanic derivation.
"Gar/Ger" = Spear
"Prup" = Strength
A feminine derivation of the Greek name 'Ophelos'
Ophelos = Helper
Let's Us Go Back to History...

During medieval times it was considered disgraceful for women to go on stage
In the time of William Shakespeare acting was considered to be a man's profession
Women roles were played by men
Well accepted and respected by Elizabethan audiences
Women were not given the opportunity until the 1600's.
Gender inequality is a predominant issue in Hamlet as the two leading women's are characterized as weak, obedient, and are used as tools of manipulation by the male figures in their lives. Ultimately, Shakespeare illustrates a sympathetic image of Gertrude and Ophelia as their downfall can be blamed on how narrow minded and sexist men are.
"Frailty, thy name is woman!" (1.2.146)
[ GUR-trood ]
Gertrude's weakness enables her to place her emotions ahead of moral righteousness and reverence
Disgusted with his mother's impulse decision to marry Claudius ; Loss of respect
Initiates Hamlet's sexist view on women
All women are flawed
Quote: (1.2.146)
Source: Findlay, Alison. "Gertrude." Women In Shakespeare (2010): 152-154. Literary Reference Center. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.
Source: Findlay, Alison. "Ophelia." Women In Shakespeare (2010): 311-312. Literary Reference Center. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.
Lack of freewill
No voice in any decision making
Listens attentively to Polonius and Laertes
Agrees to their request with the up most respect even if it may seem wrong . (For i.e, spying on Hamlet)
Source: Dane, Gabrielle. "Reading Ophelia's Madness." Exemplaria 10.2 (1998): 405-423. Literary Reference Center. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.
"Ophelia is an angel to Laertes, she is an asset to Polonius, a commodity to be disposed of, ideally at the greatest profit to himself. Relegating her to a perpetual childhood, Polonius educates his 'green girl' (1.3.101) to be an obedient automaton willing to acquiesce to his every command" (Dane 3)
Depends on her husband's (Claudius) for advice and insight in regards to Hamlet's behavior (i.e, When Claudius and Gertrude send Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on Hamlet) 2.2.10
Gertrude longing for the attention that she loses when late King Hamlet dies, quickly marries Claudius
Source: Loberg, Harmonie. "Queen Gertrude: Monarch, Mother, Murderer." Atenea 24.1 (2004): 59-71. Literary Reference Center. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.

"Misogynistic critics argued the Queen as a 'whore', describing her as a 'shallow, amiable, lymphatic creature and declaring Hamlet's mother to be a 'criminal' guilty of incestuous sin"
(Loberg 3)
Each male figure plays a key role in her madness and death
1. Laertes physically leaves Ophelia once again to live in France
2. Hamlet abandons her as a lover and is ruthless and cold towards innocent Ophelia
3. The death of Polonius was enough for Ophelia
Quote: "I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died" 4.5.181

Quote: "Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go. Farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them" (3.1.135)
Tools of Manipulation
Claudius' thirst for power enables him to manipulates events, people's and relationships, especially Gertrude's.
Claudius disguises himself as a loving and caring stepfather to Hamlet in order to gain Gertrude's love and trust. For i.e, Claudius shows his fictitious love for Hamlet in front of the Queen,"This mad young man but so much our love.." (4.1.20)
Gertrude follows Claudius' directions for interviewing Hamlet in her closet, which lead to Polonius' death
Tools of Manipulation (Pt.2)
When Gertrude clutches the cup of death, it symbolizes Gertrude literally overruling Claudius
King: Gertrude, do not drink.
Queen: I will, my lord, I pray you pardon me
Source: Findlay, Alison. "Gertrude." Women In Shakespeare (2010): 152-154. Literary Reference Center. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.
"Gertrude is weak and dependent until the end of the play where her one act of independence causes her death" (Findlay 153)
Gertrude's Independence
Tools of Manipulation
Shows great loyalty to Polonius as she agrees to stay away from Hamlet and ignore his advances towards her
Polonius and Claudius uses Ophelia to spy on Hamlet
Ophelia, walk you here. (to CLAUDIUS) Gracious, so please you,
We will bestow ourselves. (to OPHELIA)Read on this book
That show of such an exercise may color
Your loneliness.—We are oft to blame in this,
'Tis too much proved, that with devotion’s visage
And pious action we do sugar o'er
The devil himself. (3.1.45)
Tools of Manipulation (Pt.2)
Source: Findlay, Alison. "Ophelia." Women In Shakespeare (2010): 311-312. Literary Reference Center. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.
"Hamlet's aggressive questioning of Ophelia's honesty and chastity in this interview is followed by the sexual innuendo about lying in her lap to watch 'The Mousetrap' (3.2.112-116). The bawdy meaning of 'nothing', as a reference to the vagina ('a fair thought to lie between maid's legs')"
Hamlet manipulates with Ophelia's emotions
Ophelia is left stressed and confused due to Hamlet's sexual desires.
Ultimately ...
Shakespeare creates a sympathetic image of Gertrude and Ophelia as their tragic deaths can be blamed on the issue of gender inequality as both characters are illustrated as weak, obedient, and tools of manipulation by the male figures in their lives. Fortunately in present day society, many women have become more independent to overcome many obstacles and challenges to get to where they need to be today!
Discussion Questions
Is Hamlet's reaction to his mother's remarriage reasonable, or are his standards of fidelity too high? Does Hamlet expect his mother to remain single for the rest of her life? If so, why?
Everyone claims that Hamlet is full of madness. What are the similarities and differences between Hamlet's madness and Ophelia's?
How would the play turn out differently if Gertrude didn't marry Claudius?
According to The Great Chain of Being , were women categorized below men? If so, who/what would women resemble more? (i.e, God, Angels, Humanity, Animals, Plants, Matter, Nothingness)
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