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Compare & Contrast The Way Women Are Portrayed In Hamlet, Wuthering Heights and A Dolls House.

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06/03/2012 Abena Pascoe-Apaw Unit 4: Extended Essay & Shakespeare Study 3,092 words. Compare & Contrast The Way Women Are Portrayed In Hamlet & Other Chosen Texts ?[The play Hamlet has] relatively simplistic views of women as angels or whores.? -Thompson & Taylor The play 'Hamlet' by William Shakespeare is argued amongst academics to be one of the greatest playwrights in history. The play boasts themes such as passion, betrayal and revenge, but a central and important theme in the play is the way women are portrayed within Hamlet. The quote above is from critics Anne Thompson and Neil Taylor who reviewed the shifting critical attitudes to the female characters in Hamlet [1]. I disagree with these critics and this quote and believe that there is a lot to explore within the portrayal of women within Hamlet. Up until recent history, women have been seen as passive and obedient by a patriarchal society where men have the say in almost everything. Women had no voice and were seen as weak and submissive, which is shown in Hamlet and my other chosen texts, Wuthering Heights, a novel by Emily Bronte and A Doll?s House, a play by Henrick Ibsen. In all my chosen texts, women are the centre point of male emotions and play vital roles in the downfall of male characters. The women in Hamlet, Ophelia and Gertrude are shown in the lowest light which may be due to the time period it was written in, the Elizabethan era where women had no rights ad were see as objects rather than human beings. It may also be to the fact that many critics, such as Sharon Ouditt (1996) [2] see author Shakespeare as sexist, but whilst some academics argue that he was not, some argue that the society in a whole showed misogyny. Similarly, the main female characters in Wuthering Heights, Catherine, Isabella and young Cathy are all viewed differently but overall are seen as dependent on males and at the mercy of Heathcliff whether it is physically or emotionally. ...read more.


There is also implicit imagery to suggest the sexuality between Heathcliff and Cathy Brontë tends to use warmth and heat more to represent passion. She often uses Catherine’s fevers to reflect the intensity of her emotion. She declares “Oh, I’m burning” The theme of women being childlike is portrayed strongly amongst these 3 texts. This is best illustrated by the famous quote by Hamlet “Frailty, thy name is woman”. Ophelia is seen as weak and submissive, just as a child is and her brother Polonius confirms this by calling her a “green girl” (where green means inexperienced and immature). The fact that Ophelia is very obedient to her father just as a child should be also emphasises this point. Ophelia is typically compliant to her father replying, “I shall obey, my Lord”. To Hamlet and the audience it may seem as if Ophelia is unloving but perhaps she does love Hamlet, but only as far as her childlike capacity allows, without the passion of a more mature, independent women. Likewise, in A Doll’s House, Nora is also seen in a childlike manner. ________________ Gender and sexuality in Shakespeare. The masculine world of Shakespearean drama. Torvald refers to Nora as “my little squirrel” and “my little spendthrift”. By using this language he is therefore defining her as irresponsible and perhaps even an indulged child. When Nora says “You haven’t any idea how many expenses we skylarks and squirrels have, Torvalds” she is reaffirming the childlike image that her husband has given her in order to persuade him to provide her with money. The fact that she says ‘we’ may also refer to her children as well, putting herself in the same category as them. We also see at the end Torvald putting Nota in the same category as the children when he talks about educating them “Both yours and the children's, my darling Nora” however, as the novel progresses we so Nora slowly unveil to be more of a woman then we first assumed and ...read more.


Although both Edgar and Heathcliff do suffer enormously as her health deteriorates and eventually it causes her death. In A Doll?s House, we can say that Nora also died. The fact that she leaves her husband and starts a new life in her home village portrays the death of her old life and the birth of a new independent. The stage directions at the end project this, ?(The sound of a door shutting is heard from below.)? In all three texts, all women died as a result of the men in their life but unlike the rest, Nora ?died? for the better. Ending, we see that the women explored in these texts, especially Hamlet are portrayed much more than ?angels and whores? as Thompson and Taylor analyzed. They are deep and complex characters flawed and suppressed by the men around them and social conformity roles. Each woman in their own way goes against what was expected of them; Gertrude being overtly sexual and standing against her husband in order to save her son. Ophelia committing the ultimate sin of suicide and, although questioned, maybe even sex before marriage. Catherine?s disregard to her husband Edgar by seeing Heathcliff and also the forbidden passion between the two and lastly Nora?s scandalous behavior leaving her children and husband behind and starting a new life. All of the women make decisions which make them flawed. Catherine places social status before what she knows is right chooses to marry Edgar Linton over Heathcliff her soul mate. Nora?s sole courage in taking money behind her husband?s back to make him better may not seem bad in current society; however, in those days it was unheard of and shocking, let alone leaving behind your children and husband, making the play very controversial when it was released. Ibsen may have created Nora?s role to raise awareness to the audience and show that women should have rights too and society was too strict in the way the treated women. Overall, the women in these texts show complexity and changed the course on how people view women, even today. ...read more.

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