The role of women in Hamlet Essay Sample

10 October 2017

Shakespeare’s word picture of Gertrude and Ophelia inHamletis self-contradictory asit challenges every bit good as complements the modern-day societal traditions and norms.Gertrude is the best illustration of this paradox that is manifested through her extraordinary domination over all the major characters ofHamlet. her influence in the tribunal affairs and province personal businesssand her blind obeisance to Claudius. Ophelia is besides active in her domestic sphere but her involvement are restricted to amative and marital maters merely and they are farther directed by his male parent Polonius and brotherLaertes. She is an prototype of traditional feminist looks of the age that require celibacy. conformity and credence of male dominancy from adult females.

Gertrude influence is broad runing as it encompasses the domestic every bit good as the province personal businesss. Simultaneously she manifests the behavior that is in consonant rhyme with the modern-day traditional position. She has the abilityto capture. fend off. or pull strings all of import male characters for her ain involvements. Act 2. scene 2. clearly manifests how Gertrude behaves magisterially with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and with Polonius. This scene farther depicts her interaction with Claudius and influence she possesses over Claudius. But she farther exhibit the behavior chapeau is an incarnation of Elizabethan socio-cultural surroundings and its values. She is subservient to Claudius when she agrees to Claudius’ program to pin down Hamlet. ‘I shall obey you. ’ ( 3. 1. 37 ) . Again in the cupboard scene. she is in conformity to Hamlet’s orders ; ‘What should I make? ’ she asks ( 3. 4. 181 ) .

Furthermore. despite Gertrude’s conformist female biddable behavior. her inordinate gender and lust makes him a non-traditional adult female. This portraiture of Gertrude clearly challenges the societal and ethical norm of Elizabethan society. Her gender is intimidating for both Hamlets. male parent and boy. who consider it barbarous. extreme. and tainted:

‘Nay. but to live/ In the rank perspiration of an enseamed bed. / Stewed in corruptness. honeying and doing love/ Over the awful sty’ ( 3. 4. 92-­95 ) ;

Again it is said ; ‘ So lust. though to a radient angel linked. / Will satiate itself in a heavenly bed

And feed on refuse. ’ ( 1. 5. 55­-57 ) .

These lines are non in conformance with the adult female image of modern-day society where woman’s celibacy was the first status for her societal acknowledgment. The relation of Hamlet and Gertrude is marked with oedipal intensions. Hamlet is placed in a state of affairs his unconscious incestuous dispositions are juxtaposed with the evident incestuous relationship of Gertrude and Claudius who is a new male parent figure to him. This apposition and presence of Oedipal feelings plays an of import in altering Hamlet’s behavior toward his female parent. Jones. 76-77 )

Gabrielle Dane ( 1998 ) writes. “Motherless and wholly circumscribed by the work forces around her. Ophelia has been shaped to conform to external demands. to reflect others’ desires” ( 406 ) . Contrary to this psychologically realistic unfavorable judgment. this word picture of Ophelia is influenced by the cultural tradition of the male-dominant Elizabethan society.

Ophelia is a typical character that is a mirror image of modern-day society. She remains inactive in the domestic and emotional sphere. Ophelia has no individuality of her ain and all her domestic and amative affairs are directed by her male parent. Polonius endeavours to manner the life and attitude of Ophelia harmonizing to his ain wants. He considers his desires as her desires and seek to orient her attack by assorted agencies.

So right from the really start. Ophelia is under the sway of Laertes and Polonius. So her character is in complete conformance with the traditional values of that clip. Polonius ever responds from a place of authorization over Ophelia. stressing his power as the decision-maker for her. Both her male parent and brother have a ego assigned undertaking of directing Ophelia how to move decently in every sphere of her life. Although Shakespeare has characterized Ophelia as inferior to male characters. but word picture of Gertrude has double feature. Sometime it challenges the traditions of the conformist society and sometime it itself become conforms to the values of the society by moving passively.


Dane. Gabrielle. “Reading Ophelia’s Madness. ”Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies10 ( 1998 ) : 405-23.

Shakespeare. William.Hamlet. Washington Square Press: New York. 1992.

Jones. Ernest.The Oedipus-Complex as an Explanation of Hamlet’s Mystery: A Study in Motive.The American Journal of Psychology. Vol. 21. No. 1 ( Jan. . 1910 ) . pp. 72-113

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