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Is Hamlet a misogynist?

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Introduction

Is Hamlet a misogynist? If so, why? "Frailty, thy name is woman." This aphoristic declaration of Hamlet in his first soliloquy puts forward the labyrinthine question - Is Hamlet a woman hater? This is, in fact, one of the riddles of the problem play, which the critics over the last few centuries tried to answer, but they succeeded only in making it more entangled, producing more controversy. I think, this is a question on which variable judgments are inevitable, but I will try to focus on a more convincing goal, expressing my own opinion. I feel inclined to touch at the background, which brings the charge of misogyny against Hamlet. His father died an unnatural death and his mother married his uncle with surprising haste. Hamlet could not convince himself how his mother could marry a 'lecherous villain' Claudius within two months of his father's death, who was a god-like man. It urged his philosophic tendency to hurl a severe attack on the female sex in general and his mother in particular with the above-quoted line. ...read more.

Middle

Even Ophelia herself says that he loved her "in the honourable fashion" and has given countenance to his speech with "almost all the holy vows of heaven." Can we call him here a woman hater? Now if that be the case, why did the relationship fail? Why did he insult her in the play-scene? Let me proceed very calmly to find answers to these immensely though-provoking questions. Hamlet's mother's crude insincerity to his father and her sensual surrender to his uncle have already devastated his good feeling for the women. In such a critical moment the Ghost appears with his strange revelation and imposes on him the noble mission. Hamlet immediately vows - Yea, from the table of my memory I'll wipe away all trivial fond records .......................................... That youth and observation copied there And thy commandment all alone shall live..." (second soliloquy) Therefore, he is to put aside all other thoughts even the thought of Ophelia. He puts on an antic disposition and goes to Ophelia to convince others through her that he has gone mad and his madness is not due to any mysterious unknown cause but to the disappointment in love. ...read more.

Conclusion

I do not think there is any serious purpose behind Hamlet's outpouring of abuses to Ophelia in the play scene. Thinking that the play would contribute to his revenge, he becomes 'merry' and finding the woman who has denied his love wantonly, he gives free outlet to his insulting language. No doubt, he goes too far with his obscenity and invective as we hear their dialogue: Ophelia: Tis (the prologue) brief, my lord. Hamlet: As brief as woman's love. We should think that whatever he says comes out of his experience, which he has gained from his mother's inconstancy and Ophelia's behavior. But, as I have already pointed, nothing can be concretized satisfactorily. His thoughts and deeds can never be estimated from that surface appearance; one must go into his heart to make any definite comment on his relation to his mother or to Ophelia. I would say that Hamlet had a very nice feeling for the female before his mother's second marriage. It got disturbed later and took another shape. Even then to what extent he is a woman hater remains a question. I would like to quote Earnest Jones here: "The precise nature of his original feeling for Ophelia is a little obscure." ...read more.

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