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The Role of Women in Hamlet

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monique sartor

on 21 October 2013

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Transcript of The Role of Women in Hamlet

Sexual Liberation
"Frailty thy name is women" (1.2.145)
Women were seen as weak and inferior to men. They were controlled and dominated by men.
Ophelia's death may have been an act of suicide;
she has no value without a male role
In the 1500's, if a woman were single, then their father, brother or another male relative was expected to take care of them.
Regarding Polonius' death, Laertes wants to get physical revenge where as Ohelia goes mentally insane.
How did it all begin?
In the 1500's women were expected to be virgins until marriage
Heavily influenced by religion. Sex was used for intimacy and procreation between a husband and wife
If a women had sex before marriage she was dishonored and undervalued.
Was Ophelia a virgin?

The Role of Women in Hamlet
Loving and happy Queen
Strong for her people
Shows clear weakness when confronted by Hamlet
[ "O Hamlet, speak no more:/ Thou turn'st mine eyes into my very soul,/ And there I see such black and grained spots/ As will not leave their tinct"(3.4.90)]
["The lady prostests too much, me thinks"(3.2.226)]
In William Shakespeare's Hamlet women are characterized as weak and ineffectual as they submit to their male counterparts and are led physically and mentally by them.
Characteristics of a Queen:

Hamlet's Distorted View of Women
Dependance of Men
Women in the 1500s
Queen Elizabeth I
Woman of Integrity
Well-Loved by Society
Religious influence
Physical aspects
ie. skulls, hips etc.
Social Norms
ie.hunter vs. gather

Fear vs. Devotion
Appearance vs. reality

"The funeral baked meats/ Did coldy furnish the marriage tables"(1.2.179-180).

" Come Gertrude, we'll call up our wisest friends/ And let them know, both what we mean to do." (4.1.38)

Gertrude= Puppet
Lear= Puppet
G&R= Puppeteers
Comparison between Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Gertrude
Queen Gertrude

["I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet's wife;/ I thought thy bride-bed to have deck'd, sweet maid,/ And not t' have strew'd thy grave"(5.1.237-239)]

["Be you and I behind n arras then;/ Mark the encounter; if he loves her or not"(2.2.161-162)]
Elizabethan Era
Failure to make decisions:
" I will, I pray you pardon me."
Role of women / Role of mother
Therefore, In William Shakespeares Hamlet, women are characterized as weak and ineffectual as they submit to their male counterparts and are led physically and mentally by them.
Last speaker: Casey
"slave of [man's] lust and mere instrument for production"

Patriarchal Society
'I have already joined myself in marriage to a husband, namely the kingdom of England' -Queen Elizabeth I
'I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman but, I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too' -Queen Elizabeth I
'Better beggar woman and single than Queen and married' -Queen Elizabeth I
"I shall obey. my lord" (1.3.135)
Cordelia from King Lear
"At such a time I'll loose my daughter to [Hamlet]" (2.2.160)
"Blasted with ecstasy: O, woe is me" (3.1.162)
"God hath given you one face, and you make / yourself another" (3.1.144-145)
As well a woman of Integrity
Degrades herself
["Look you lay home:/ Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with,/And that your grace hath screen'd between/ Much heat and him"(3.4.1-4)
Appearance vs. Reality
Gies, Joseph and Frances Gies. Women in the middle ages. New York: Harper &

Row, 1978

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Toronto: Harcourt Canada Ltd, 1564-1616. Print.


Considered to be the weaker sex physically and emotionally
Obedient to their husband
Stronger only when a man was involved in their life
evidence saying yes:
"You must fear,/ His gratness weigh'd, his will is not his own;/ For he himself is subject to his birth:/ He may not, as unvalued persons do,/ Carve for himself , for on his choice depends/ The safety and the health of the whole state" (1.3.16-21).
Leartes warns her not to lose her "Chaste treasure" (1.3.31) and to fear the "danger of desire" (1.3.35)
evidence saying no:
"before you tumbled me,/ You promised me to wed."(4.5.61-62)
"Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,/ And dupp'd the the chamber-door;/Let in the main, that out a maid/ Never departed more." (4.5.51-54)
"I did love you once" (3.1.115)
verall, these two women in the play were dominating figures that made up the basics of the play. If it wasn't for Gertrude marrying Hamlets uncle, his motivation in killing Claudius wouldn't be there. And if Hamlet didn't lose Ophelia his actions would be different. The role of women in the play sets up a system of cause and effect.
Full transcript