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To what extent do you see the women in the play as victims in a man's world? How might the response of a modern audience to Gertrude and Ophellia differ from that of Shakespeare's time?

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Introduction

Hamlet Coursework To what extent do you see the women in the play as victims in a man's world? How might the response of a modern audience to Gertrude and Ophellia differ from that of Shakespeare's time? Hamlet is a story of revenge, betrayal and confused love, set in the Elizabethan period. Shakespeare often interpreted everyday life into his plays; therefore each one would reflect the society of that time. For many years in the past, women played a small role socially, economically and politically. As a result of this, many works of literature were reflective of this diminutive role of women. They were not thought of as equal to men. They had hardly any rights and were expected to obey men1. The women were simply seen to bear children and also to take care of them. They had no political voice and were very rarely educated. They were often regarded as a possession, the men in the family always firmly in control of their future. However, in contrast to this trend, in Hamlet the women in the play are driving factors for the actions of many other characters. Although it was very much a society dominated by man, women's influence was obvious in many aspects of life. ...read more.

Middle

reflecting how her actions revolve around a man's view. What the Queen doesn't realise is that she is a victim within the King's attempt at plotting against her beloved son. In Act 4 Scene 7, there is a clear sense of how Claudius is putting his own survival before his bond with Gertrude. Gertrude is in the middle of an on going conflict between her son and her new husband. She genuinely loves Hamlet and Claudius, but the two men in her life are on a downward spiral and so is she. What she seems to want is something very basic: a happy family. But life as a woman in a man's pride driven world is denying her that. She is a victim in the way that Hamlet continues to harm her emotionally and in the sense that Claudius uses her as a mark of pride. Also, indirectly, she is a victim of the play as a whole. She drinks the poison, which the king set up for Hamlet and sadly dies. Claudius does not prevent her from doing so in order to disguise his guilt. Gertrude is a victim of the tragedy of the play and is eventually over powered by the manly pride driven battle. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although there are very few interactions between the two women, when they do happen they are very sweet and each seems to be concerned about the other. In such a macho world, they appear to find support from the other woman. Shakespeare's Hamlet was a huge success during the Elizabethan period and also with an audience today. However, attitudes towards the play have changed remarkably since Shakespeare's time period. An Elizabethan audience would be far less compassionate towards women than an audience would today. Women in those times were used to the patriarchal society and it was far more realistic for those times. The women in the Shakespearean period were familiar with the dominance of the males and would find it unusual to see any woman disobey the men in their life. Perhaps women back then would see Gertrude's death as a result of her defiance towards Claudius, as he did warn her not to drink from the cup. However, women today wouldn't share this view. Today, women have far more independence and status. An audience today would possibly be far more sympathetic towards Gertrude and Ophellia, but maybe see them as fragile and weak. They could possibly be regarded upon as the pathetic stereotype of a woman, and not viewed as popular characters because of their exaggerated femininity and weak personalities. ...read more.

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