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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.

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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.

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