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The Women in Hamlet are Weak and Morally Suspect: Discuss

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Introduction

The Women in Hamlet are Weak and Morally Suspect: Discuss At the time that William Shakespeare composed his plays, women had no rights and their responsibilities were located in the home, raising children and keeping house. These views were reflected in many documents compiled by Shakespeare's contempories, and women were often depicted as a metaphor for weakness. However, Shakespeare crossed these stereotypical boundaries and provided his Elizabethan audience with a 'fresh' viewpoint regarding women, for example, in his play "Romeo and Juliet", despite the danger that she faces, Juliet defies her father's wishes and does what she believes to be right - following her heart and marrying Romeo. Another example of Shakespeare's unconventional attitude concerning women is found in his play "Macbeth", in which Lady Macbeth cunningly controls her husband and deceives him into murdering King Duncan. Nevertheless, in the play "Hamlet", the principal women, Ophelia and Gertrude, appear na�ve and innocent to the deceit surrounding them and, from this, two opposing moral viewpoints are formed: the traditionalists within the audience would view both Gertrude and Ophelia as tragic heroines whereas the feminists would argue that, as with all women of Shakespeare's era, Ophelia and Gertrude are exploited, manipulated and used by the male characters. Hamlet depicts Gertrude as deeply loving and worshipping of his father during his soliloquy at the end of I.2, "...she would hang on him As if increase of appetite had grown By what it fed on..." ...read more.

Middle

His actions appear to show that his unrequited love for her has caused his madness, and this reason is accepted by both Gertrude and Polonius, who says that "[his love for Ophelia] hath made him mad" He then experiences some feelings of guilt, "I am sorry," as he has instructed his daughter to reject his advances on the grounds that he, "Feared that [Hamlet] did but trifle and meant to wrack thee" Ophelia, unlike the character of Juliet in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, has followed her father's wishes instead of her heart, "...as you did command, I did repel his letters and denied His access to me" Polonius and Claudius appear to be 'playing as a team' in discovering the cause and subsequently curing Hamlet's 'madness', yet Claudius' reasons for uncovering the foundations of his insanity are somewhat more sinister than Polonius'. Claudius suspects that Hamlet knows of his "murderous act" and has developed a form of madness as a result of the discovery. However in contrast to the theory that Ophelia is simply allowing herself to be used, another perspective would be that she is as concerned with his insanity, and as determined to return Hamlet to his 'normal' self as any other character in the play. This viewpoint is supported by her speech in III.1 when she, as Gertrude has, speaks of her affection for Hamlet's former persona, "O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown! ...read more.

Conclusion

witnessed by the Queen as she genuinely seems to have held affection for the young maiden throughout the play and this imagery is most probably a sly technique by Shakespeare to rid his audience of any negative thought of Gertrude and thus to arouse much emotion and sympathy upon her eventual death. Having examined the traits of both Ophelia and Gertrude in detail, and having also briefly discussed their relationship with each other, their contrasting relationships with Hamlet and their willing obedience towards the male characters, I have concluded that the women in Hamlet are weak, as neither of the women has the strength of character to take on their male companions to fight for what they believe in. The main examples of which are Ophelia denying Hamlet's advances upon her father's orders, despite her own wishes, and Gertrude allowing Claudius to send Hamlet away to England, regardless of the fact that she is his true parent and therefore should have the final say in his actions. However, I do not agree with the view that either Gertrude or Ophelia are in any way morally suspect as they are na�ve to all circumstances surrounding the activities in the Royal Court, and very traditionalist in their views that women are inferior to their male counterparts and should therefore agree and obey with their wishes and commands, despite contradictory personal feelings. Year 12 English Literature Rosalind Abbotts ...read more.

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