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Discuss Shakespeares and Hamlets treatment of and ideas about women

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Introduction

Essay Question: Discuss Shakespeare's/Hamlet's treatment of and ideas about women Plan 1/ Introduction 4/ Romance and Sexuality 2/ Traditional Roles 5/ Character Developments/Deaths 3/ Misogyny 6/ Conclusion The women of Shakespearean literature have been known to have a strong emotional complexity, where each of them find themselves subject to adversities based around the powerful men who influence them. From Lady Anne's striking romantic confusion in Richard III, to Viola's challenges in morality throughout Twelfth Night, such a Shakespearean signature in portraying women persists in Hamlet; through Gertrude, a Queen dealing with her questionable actions and Ophelia, who struggles with the pressures of male authority. It should come as no surprise that although being a 16th century play, the exploration of female issues of tradition, misogyny, romance and mortality allows Hamlet's treatment of women to maintain a highly significant relevance in today's modern world. Elizabethan women held very little social rights and power, with strict roles in child bearing and household duties allowing them to have very little say even within their own lives. Despite clearly being set in Denmark, Shakespeare who was writing during this time, extended this traditional roles to Ophelia and Gertrude. ...read more.

Middle

may be seen as to defy fictional character and be the manifestation of Shakespeare's own personal opinion, though evidence for this in his marriage with Anne Hathaway is not very strong. Through either interpretation, it is undeniable that so far in the play the women have yet to find themselves in a state of happiness. Another significant aspect of Hamlet's treatment of women, is how the currently negative treatment is extended to how Shakespeare portrays their sexuality. For instance, after Ophelia is warned to not "lose your heart, or [her] chaste treasure open" by her brother Laertes, she gives her virginity to Hamlet. When Hamlet discards marriage, she says with in a particularly distressed tone "Quoth she, before you tumbled me, /You promised me to wed. /So would I ha' done, by yonder sun, /An thou hadst not come to my bed -(IV.5)".During Act 3, Scene 2 when the 'mouse-trap' play is taking place, Ophelia must also be subjected to Hamlet's sexual innuendo's such as "That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs." for which she cannot reply in order to remain as a respectable lady. Again, Shakespeare indicates another aspect of Elizabethan women, with how female sexuality was highly conservative and their virginity very strictly only being lost with marriage with those not doing so being thought of as a disgrace. ...read more.

Conclusion

No matter the perceptive of the reader on the play's treatment of women, they should be able to appreciate Shakespeare's realistic portrayal, where although he took creative liberties in some circumstances, he gave true Elizabethan indications of female traditional roles and sexual attitudes on women. It was through writing with conviction (not only through staying true to the context but in showing Ophelia's and Gertrude's emotion and complexity) that the play attains it's status of one of the best of his classics. The two women are thought to be superficial, but considering the devices such as tone, juxtaposition and imagery as well as analysing their character intentions and behaviour it should be extremely apparent that this is not true and that they obviously do display depth. Secondly, I feel that in the question of whether Shakespeare was a feminist or even a misogynist that the answer cannot be found in Hamlet - where his treatment of women in Hamlet is actually neutral. The female characters were designed not for the reader to be focused on who they were, but for what they brought out in other characters. More specifically, Ophelia and Gertrude were therefore created to see how romance, affection and love can truly drive a man insane. ...read more.

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