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Shakespeares Hamlet - To what extent do you consider the female roles in the play to be subordinate to the male roles?

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To what extent do you consider the female roles in the play to be subordinate to the male roles? In Shakespeare's day women played a small role socially, economically and politically. As a result of this, many works in literature were reflective of this diminutive role of women. Women were not allowed to perform on stage that meant that, in Elizabethan theatres, men dressed up as women and played their parts. So, female parts were kept relatively small when it came to writing plays. This could be why Shakespeare might have under developed the female role in Hamlet. One of the two females in the play is Gertrude. Her role in the play is a significant one. First of all for being the mother of the main character, Hamlet, whom she influences throughout the course of the play. Secondly, for being married to the villain of the play, Claudius, who has murdered her first husband. Hamlet's first soliloquy suggests that Gertrude has rejected the traditional way that a woman should behave when she is widowed. He says "For Hecuba! / What's Hecuba to him, or he to her" (Act II, Sc II, Ln 555-556). Hecuba was a mythological queen representing a grieving mother, and Gertrude does not fulfil this role. Hamlet's constant repetition of the time in which took the two to get married "But two months dead ... A little month ... Within a month ... ...read more.


Submissive and obeying as she is, she contradicts this by showing a spark of intelligence by speaking up. In Elizabethan times women would have been expected to keep sexual comments to themselves, this is a true indication that she might not be as innocent as we're led to believe. Some independence is suggested especially before the play. Brenner's version of Hamlet expresses her to have broken all the rules for example that she has already lost her virginity. Polonius, Ophelia's father also expresses his concerns about Hamlet's love for Ophelia. He expressly forbids her to see Hamlet again and she yields without any struggle, "I shall obey, my lord" (Act I, Sc III, Ln 136). Polonius cheapens the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia, who finds it very hard to believe that Hamlet might actually love his daughter. He tells her she's speaking like a fool because she believes what Hamlet has said to her, "Pooh! You speak like a green girl" (Act I, Sc III, Ln 101). Ophelia listens. In this scene especially, Ophelia is passive and obeying when she doesn't want to be. She listens as the two men in her life, who feel it to be their duty, try to protect Ophelia's virginity and risky political alliance. Polonius is not as concerned about his daughter's happiness as he is about his own reputation. As David Laverenz declares in his paper, " Identity ... is defined as role, specifically as loyalty among functionaries of a state" (The woman in Hamlet). ...read more.


He says, "Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face? ... But I am pigeon -livered and lack gall" (Act II, Sc II, Ln 570&574). Brutally exposed in this tragedy, Shakespeare exposes the conflict between the male and female, control and emotion within society and the individual self. Moreover, Shakespeare generalises the behaviour of women by saying that women paint their faces and pretend innocence to hide lasciviousness. Hamlet says to Ophelia, "I have heard of your painting too, well enough. / God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves / another" (Act III, Sc I, Ln 143-145). But ironically enough, men also paint their faces; After all, it is Hamlet who is pretending to be mad. The females in Hamlet might be more silent and make less of a statement than Shakespeare might have wanted because of the general role of women in his society. Gertrude and Ophelia are indeed not a true reflection of women's political, intellectual, social, emotional and economical lives across the board. On the contrary, in contrast to the usual concepts of the lives of women in the time, Shakespeare's women generally seem remarkably independent, free spirited, inventive, strong, enduring, capable, witty and assertive. Except their sphere of activity is different to that of men. Given this, Gertrude and Ophelia start out as exceptions to Shakespeare's more usual portrayal of women. They are weaker and more submissive than his usual. But I think that they both gain strength and independence and assertiveness as their experiences through the play progress. ...read more.

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