• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Examine how Shakespeare presents the female characters in 'Hamlet' and what the response of a modern day audience might be to this aspect of the play.

Extracts from this document...


Examine how Shakespeare presents the female characters in 'Hamlet' and what the response of a modern day audience might be to this aspect of the play. As 'Hamlet' was set in the Elizabethan period it is necessary to consider the portrayal of woman in the play as a comparison with women in a modern day society. Similarly to most literature written during this period, 'Hamlet' conveys women's lower status to men. This can be thought of as the stereotypical view in Elizabethan society. We know that women were not even able to act in plays and that young men had to play the parts of women. One of the main ways we may interpret the portrayal of woman is through the language, and in some cases stage directions of various characters, in various scenes. It may be true to say that the characters of Ophelia and Gertrude are portrayed as weak and submissive, this is seen by men as well as themselves. They can be seen to be merely driving factors of the play rather than main elements such as Hamlet. It may also be suggested that due to these facts, the play 'Hamlet' may be written differently if written today, in terms of language, in order to suit a modern day audience. It can be argued that the way Shakespeare has presented women, reflecting society in the Elizabethan period, may not be acceptable in today's society. One of the principle aspects to consider is how female characters are portrayed and therefore treated by others in the play. Ophelia is an interesting character, and it is important to explore her relationships, her language, and also her death prior to concluding her portrayal. ...read more.


However, even as Queen and mother, Gertrude similar to Ophelia, seems to find herself dominated by the male characters. Like Ophelia, Gertrude is also dominated by Hamlet. However, it must be noticed that unlike Ophelia's character, this domination and control does not affect Gertrude mentally, nor does it affect her actions. In addition, although his words to her are cruel, he holds a great deal of respect for her calling her Mother and "good lady". In the 'closet scene' Hamlet finally confronts his mother and we are able gain insight into their relationship. Gertrude attempts a motherly almost formal tone with Hamlet, scolding him for his disrespectful behaviour towards Claudius "Hamlet, you have thy father much offended". However, Hamlet instantaneously dominates the conversation refusing to let his mother scold him whilst criticising her for her betrayal of his father King Hamlet "Mother you have my father much offended". He almost intends to explain to her how she has done this "You are the Queen, your husbands brothers wife". He also continues to extend his feeling to all woman stating "frailty thy name is woman" possible to further explore Gertrude's relationship with Hamlet. As continued in Act 3 scene 4, Hamlet goes into additional detail of what he believes to be his mother's sexual crime. He says, "but to live in the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, stewed in corruption". The imagery used conveys a sexual relationship between Hamlet and his mother. Due to Shakespeare's use of minimal stage directions throughout the play, many actions and features of the characters are almost left uncertain, allowing directors to manipulate this to present other views. ...read more.


After he tells her not to drink from the cup she responds with "I will my lord, I pray you pardon me", showing even though she doesn't follow his order she shows the greatest respect for him, however, this leads to her death. It is interesting though that before she dies she feels she must explain how to Hamlet "the drink the drink, I am poisoned" In conclusion, I think Shakespeare has presented woman as the weaker sex and shown them to hide any dominating characteristics that they may have. If we were to consider this play in context with Elizabethan times, it becomes obvious to the reader that Shakespeare has presented this view to fit in with a Elizabethan audiences thinking and stereotypes, any other portrayal of woman would be thought of as abnormal to them. However, it is not possible to clearly state that a modern day audience would not have the same responses. I think that Gertrude's relationships, how she is treated by Hamlet, and indeed her sexual relationship with Hamlet would be thought of as outrageous by both audiences. As the incestuous desire between Ophelia and Laertes is subtle, it would not be looked at with disgust, and may dismiss it as brotherly love. I think that due to the language Elizabethan audiences would be more likely to pick up on the sexual terms. There are many areas, which I have explored in which Shakespeare presents women as weak and submissive. However, I think that most characteristics of Ophelia and Gertrude within the play are a mere reflection of women in the Elizabethan times. If this were not true, the play would be mocking woman of the Elizabethan times, and therefore watched more in terms of a comedy. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Hamlet section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Hamlet essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the way Shakespeare presents the relationships between Hamlet and his Mother, Gertrude, making ...

    4 star(s)

    Whereon do you look?" Hamlet: "On him, on him! Look you, how pale he glares!" Hamlet could well be acting when he says he sees this ghost, a ploy to scare his mother, or to enforce his madness, because the queen obviously cannot see this 'ghost'. Although we say this, Hamlet refuses to be called an actor.

  2. What is the significance of the ghost in Hamlet? How would an Elizabethan audience ...

    purpose of the ghost suppose to represent the subconscious mind of the citizen or the inner thoughts of Shakespeare? That is one of the questions that should be kept in the back of the mind of the readers. Upon the entrance of the ghost, Shakespeare tries to convince the audience

  1. Examine Hamlet's Relationship with Gertrude & Ophelia in light of the comment 'Frailty thy ...

    emotions for her, and a rejection would cause an exaggerated reaction also. In conversation with Polonius, Hamlet's bitter feelings towards women come out through quick and crude puns: 'Let her walk not I' th' sun.

  2. Discuss Hamlet's attitude to death and the afterlife, giving indications to how both contemporary ...

    Laertes, another character to lose his father and his sister, who are both related to Hamlet in one way or another, deals with his feelings for seeking revenge in a very different way to Hamlet. Although at first Laertes believes that Claudius killed his father, his reaction to his father's death differs greatly.

  1. Scene by Scene - Hamlet.

    Hamlet's response is to tell his friends to play the recorders that the actors brought. Neither knows how. Hamlet says they should be able to, since "it is as easy as lying". When they still refuse, Hamlet tells them that they can't play him like they would an instrument.

  2. Examine how Shakespeare explores the role of women in Hamlet. What might the response ...

    When Polonius is killed Ophelia's madness develops. She starts carrying and spreading flowers; this is the first connection between Ophelia and flowers in the play. A second link is when Gertrude scatters flowers on her grave. Laertes refers to her as 'rose of May' and imagines violets growing from her 'unpolluted flesh'.

  1. Free essay

    'Frailty Thy Name is Woman' How does Shakespeare present women and sex in Hamlet?

    mother, Gertrude, Hamlet appears fixated on the disgust of his mother's sexual welfare with Claudius, from this Hamlet appears to become cynical about women in general and perceives a connection between the female sexuality and moral frailty. The concept of misogyny continues to occur throughout the play and is a significant constraint in Hamlet's relationships with his mother and Ophelia.

  2. Criticism on Hamlet

    is more developed by bringing forward his aversion to externals, and which betrays his habit of brooding over the world within him, coupled with a prodigality of beautiful words, which are the half embodyings of thought, and are more than thought, and [353] have an outness, a reality sui generis,

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work