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In conclusion the attitudes towards women in the plays Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida and As You Like It are that women are weak. This weakness is shown in different ways

Extracts from this essay...

Introduction

Discuss the attitudes towards women in two or more of the plays studied. There are in fact only two female characters in the play Hamlet. These are the characters of Queen Gertrude of Denmark and the character of Ophelia who is Prince Hamlet's love interest. It seems as though the character of Ophelia is always being told what to do, both by her father and her brother. An example of this would be when her farther Polonius tells her to stop seeing Hamlet: I would not in plain terms from this forth Have you so slander any moment leisure As to give worlds of talk with the Lord Hamlet1 Here Ophelia is told that she is not allowed to continue seeing Hamlet because her father sees it as inappropriate. There is no argument against her father's orders; 'I shall obey, my lord.'2Ophelia replies that she will obey her father's instructions, even though it seems to us that she loves Hamlet. Her doings are based on what other people say. In Act one, in the third scene Laertes (Ophelia's brother) is leaving for France. Before he leaves he tells Ophelia that the 'best safety lies in fear'3 Ophelia is expected to follow Laertes judgment on safety and fear. Orphelia is motherless giving her more male dominance in her life, her character relies on others as 'her whole education is geared on relying on other people's judgments'4 and due to this 'Ophelia has no chance to develop an independent conscience of her own, so stifled is she by the authority of the male world'5 Ophelia's character has no identity of her own, she is dependant on her father's rule and her brother's judgment. So basically 'her identity is constructed always in reference to another.'6 After the death of Polonius, Ophelia loses her sanity. Her life before her father's death was so reliant on his rule that she 'becomes incapable of coping with a world in which he has no part.'7 This is what drives Ophelia to her insanity.

Middle

Basically if you slept with a man and were unchaste it would cheapen you as a woman. It was a way of society during that time and women did not really have any alternative but to try and follow. 'For women like Cressida the forms of chaste behavior usurp the fact. They follow the rules meticulously because they cannot afford not to'32 In Troilus and Cressida, Cressida is taken to the Greek camp as an exchange for a Trojan hero. She has no alternative but to go to the camp. This shows a male dominance and the inequality of the genders. This inequality can be highlighted further when Cressida says: And yet, good faith, wished myself a man, Or that we women had men's privilege Of speaking first33 Here we are able to see the inferiority of women as men have what is described here as a privilege. In conclusion yet again the attitudes towards women are that they are weak. One of the ways this weakness is shown is by the women giving in so easily. We also see that women are seen as inferior to men. This was seen as normal at the time: That women occupied a position subordinate to men in the early modern period is beyond dispute: that this was the "natural' state of affairs was almost beyond dispute.34 This shows that it was almost like an unwritten rule that men are superior and women inferior. Shakespeare's As You Like It is a complicated play in the context of women. When Rosalind is banished from the kingdom by Duke Frederick, her uncle, Rosalind and Celia decide to go to the forest to seek Rosalind's father. They realize the danger of traveling through the forest as young women: Alas, what danger will it be to us (Maids as we are) to travel so forth so far? Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold35 To overcome this problem Rosalind decides to disguise herself as a man. This is to protect the women.

Conclusion

24 Shakespeare's Tragedies, G.B. Harrison, Routledge& Kegan Paul Ltd 1951, pg127 25 The Oxford Shakespeare, Comedies, William Shakespeare, Troilus And Cressida (4,6,55) 26 Juliet Dusinberre, Shakespeare and The Nature of Women, Macmillan Press Ltd 198, pg 148 27 The Oxford Shakespeare, Comedies, William Shakespeare, Troilus And Cressida (5,2,131) 28 Juliet Dusinberre, Shakespeare and The Nature of Women, Macmillan Press Ltd 198, pg 193 29 The Oxford Shakespeare, Comedies, William Shakespeare, Troilus And Cressida (5,2,112) 30 Juliet Dusinberre, Shakespeare and The Nature of Women, Macmillan Press Ltd 198, pg 193 31 Juliet Dusinberre, Shakespeare and The Nature of Women, Macmillan Press Ltd 198, pg 193 32 Juliet Dusinberre, Shakespeare and The Nature of Women, Macmillan Press Ltd 198, pg 65 33 The Oxford Shakespeare, Comedies, William Shakespeare, Troilus And Cressida (5,2,111) 34 Russ Mcdonald, The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare, An Introduction with Documents, Macmillan Press Ltd, pg252 35 William Shakespeare, As You Like It, The New Cambridge Shakespeare, Edited by Phillip Edwards, Cambridge University Press 1985, 2003, (1,3,97) 36 Juliet Dusinberre, Shakespeare and The Nature of Women, Macmillan Press Ltd 198, pg 113 37 Juliet Dusinberre, Shakespeare and The Nature of Women, Macmillan Press Ltd 198, pg 113 38 William Shakespeare, As You Like It, The New Cambridge Shakespeare, Edited by Phillip Edwards, Cambridge University Press 1985, 2003, (1,3,70) 39 William Shakespeare, As You Like It, The New Cambridge Shakespeare, Edited by Phillip Edwards, Cambridge University Press 1985, 2003, (1,3,77) 40 Juliet Dusinberre, Shakespeare and The Nature of Women, Macmillan Press Ltd 198, pg 114 41 Juliet Dusinberre, Shakespeare and The Nature of Women, Macmillan Press Ltd 198, pg 114 42 William Shakespeare, As You Like It, The New Cambridge Shakespeare, Edited by Phillip Edwards, Cambridge University Press 1985, 2003, (3,3,340) 43 William Shakespeare, As You Like It, The New Cambridge Shakespeare, Edited by Phillip Edwards, Cambridge University Press 1985, 2003, (3,3,302) 44 William Shakespeare, As You Like It, The New Cambridge Shakespeare, Edited by Phillip Edwards, Cambridge University Press 1985, 2003, epilogue line 1 ?? ?? ?? ?? 1

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