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

Examine how Shakespeare treats the female character / explores the role of women in "Hamlet" and what the response of a modern audience might be to this aspect of the play.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

EN ESSAY Subject : "Hamlet sees Gertrude give way to Claudius and Ophelia give way to Polonius." (David Leverenz). Examine how Shakespeare treats the female character / explores the role of women in "Hamlet" and what the response of a modern audience might be to this aspect of the play There is no doubt that at the time of Shakespeare's success, the world's view on women's nature was accepted to be subordinate, both physically and mentally, to that of men in a sort of patriarchal society. In "Hamlet", Shakespeare, through his characters' dialogue, explores the popular beliefs held on the nature of women, their relationship to sex, as well as the perceptions of the female body. Straightaway, it is very interesting to note that of all the characters present in "Hamlet", only Gertrude and Ophelia represent the female gender. There is no doubt that a further study of the language used especially in regards of these two characters as well as their deep analysis will help, therefore, to examine how Shakespeare treats the female character in "Hamlet". While women were thought to be deceptive, unfaithful and susceptive to the pursuit of sexual pleasure, they were supposed to be "chaste, silent, and obedient", expectations found throughout "Hamlet" most visibly in the character Ophelia. ...read more.

Middle

Hereafter, at the line 160, Polonius proposes to "loose my daughter to him", which really sums up what he sees in his daughter. The image shown here by Shakespeare is that women cannot escape second-class status. Indeed, Ophelia is used throughout the play by almost all the main characters, that is, Polonius, Claudius, Laertes and Hamlet. The latter, in the "nunnery" scene, is, in effect, I believe, bringing out his anger he has towards his mother as he says "get thee to a nunnery". The signification of brothel given to "nunnery" in the Shakespearian is adjusted with what Hamlet feels about his mother which moves me to believe such an interpretation. Eventually, Ophelia goes mad as she is constantly given commands : she is a Shakespearian woman who is caught between a strong father and a strong lover. She must choose right in the first act whether to obey her father's orders or her love for Hamlet. By choosing her father, Ophelia displays a passivity that will lead to her own destruction when he is killed as she will be left without anyone to protect her as she will have lost her lover and become reliant on her father. ...read more.

Conclusion

Hamlet considers this a profane, traitorous, and callous display. This scene is pretty much shocking for a modern audience as Hamlet builds a picture of Gertrude and Claudius making love with a disgusting atmosphere : "to live / In the rank and sweat of an enseam�d bed, / Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love / over the nasty sky." Nowadays, it is hard to accept that a son can treat his own mother in such a way. In the play it is suggested that women are fickle in their love, or emotionally imbalanced. During the performance of the "Mousetrap", Ophelia comments that the prologue was brief. In return, Hamlet slights women in his quip, "As woman's love" (Act III, scene 2 l.134-135). When Shakespeare writes that "For women's fear and love holds quantity / In either aught, or in extremity" (l.148-149), he indicates that women either do not love or fear at all, or they fear and love too much. This generalisation of all women is regarded as a flaw. In conclusion, the position of women's role as seen in Hamlet is definitely one of lower status. Female characters, as well as women as a whole, are often subject to the degradation of their male peers. ...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. 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'.

  2. Free essay

    Examine Shakespeare's presentation of Ophelia and how a modern audience might respond to her

    Polonius has encouraged this lack of judgement, as he says, "Think yourself a baby." He tells her what to think and gives her no opportunity to make decisions for herself. Her own father denies her an identity. A modern reader would find it very hard to relate to this; because of the liberty women have today.

  1. Hamlet - Character study of Ophelia.

    She agrees to spy on Hamlet and unquestionably agrees to all his demands. This shows true naivety as her father is part of the new corrupt and untrue realm that she accepts to be lawful. Shakespeare continues to use the people surrounding Ophelia to show her untainted character, as he

  2. Discuss the atmosphere created at the beginning of the play. What is its relevance ...

    It is in fact ironic that Ophelia is an antithesis to Laertes. She seem to be happy staying at home and does not bother to fight for her independence and the freedom to be who she wants to be. * Polonius Polonius is quite an antithetic character since rather than

  1. To what extent do you see the women in the play as victims in ...

    She seems to be seeking dominance from another man, and Claudius was the perfect solution for her. Gertrude's speedy marriage makes Hamlet feel that she and all women are untrustworthy: Hamlet-"Let me not think on't- Frailty, thy name is woman-" (Act 1 Scene 2 Line 148)

  2. Hamlet is known to be the most popular play written by Shakespeare.

    as bad, good mother, as kill a king and marry with his brother." The oxymoron probably suggests sarcasm in his tone as he in fact never really considered his mother as "good" after her sudden marriage with Claudius. Gertrude's shocked echo "As kill a king" signals to the audience that

  1. Examine Shakespeare's Presentation of Ophelia and how a modern audience might respond to her

    Polonius' perception of his daughter becomes clear with the statement 'you have ta'en these tenders for true pay | Which are not sterling. Tender yourself more dearly'. The financial references here show that these 'tenders' are worth nothing to Polonius unless they become cash, or 'stirling', in his hand.

  2. Criticism on Hamlet

    grandeur as reposing upon the tender virgin innocence of Ophelia, with all that deep delight with which a superior nature contemplates the goodness which is at once perfect in itself, and of itself unconscious. That Hamlet regards Ophelia with this kind of tenderness - that he loves her with a

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