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How does Shakespeare portray the female characters and explore the role of women in "Hamlet" consider the response of a modern audience to this aspect of the play?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare portray the female characters and explore the role of women in "Hamlet" consider the response of a modern audience to this aspect of the play? When reading "Hamlet" it is clear that Shakespeare portrays women as weak objects that men use for their own purposes. Without the support of a man the women seem useless and not independent unlike the women of today, who are seen as independent and able to take care of themselves. Throughout "Hamlet" Shakespeare creates the impression that without a man, women are weak and easily manipulated. A great example of this is Gertrude's quick marriage to Claudius, this produces the impression that she need a man for support and feels venerable without one. It also shows how quickly Claudius has manipulated her emotion of love for King Hamlet into love for himself making Gertrude look easily led. Hamlet makes clear his disapproval of the marriage by asking how she can go from his father to his brother, " would step from this to this". This reference is delivered in a nasty, stressed tone showing how he is using his mother to vent his anger on showing a lack of respect for her. ...read more.

Middle

Throughout "Hamlet" Shakespeare gives the males in the play a superior grip on the English language, which shows men are more intellectual than women and therefore more intelligent. Gertrude " why, how now Hamlet!" Hamlet " What's the matter now?" Gertrude "Have you forgotten me" Hamlet " No by the rood, not so, you are the Queen, your husbands brothers wife" In this passage above Hamlet takes control by asking what the matter in a tone to put down his mother and to make her feel stupid. This takes away the effection Gertrude shows for Hamlet by calling him by his name, making her look foolish as well. He then proceeds to make her feel powerless by giving an expanded answer to her simple question, putting her down again. By now he has taken control of the conversation by showing her little respect. Her only input in the conversation is by answering questions and trying to understand Hamlet, she has no control over the content of the conversation making her appear powerless. To a modern audience Hamlets treatment of his mother would cause shock due to his lack of respect for her and the fact he is controlling her. ...read more.

Conclusion

Shakespeare deliberately gave her this role as it helps create the persona that women are weak objects that won't stand up to males and impression that the society at this time was dominated by males, which is true of the time but not today. A modern audience where neither sex now dominates society it would seem alien and unfair towards women. It may also create anger in female readers, as the treatment of Ophelia would be seen as barbaric and unnecessary. In conclusion I think Shakespeare makes the society in which Gertrude and Ophelia are entangled dominated by men for a good reason. By only having two poorly developed female characters it shows how in "Hamlet" women are seen as less important and weaker. Actions of the males towards the females creates a feeling of injustice towards the women characters. Although the two women are seen as objects they are strangely central to the plot, this is a contradiction that makes use more aware of the treatment they receive, this also heightens the feeling that the males are superior to the females as it show their domination of the female characters. Overall I believe Shakespeare makes the female characters weak for two reasons, one is shows the subordination of women in his society and secondly it makes Hamlets character seem more powerful and intelligent than he maybe was. ...read more.

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