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Portrayal of women in 'Hamlet'
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Sophie Ryle 12JDM
An exploration of Shakespeare's portrayal of women in 'Hamlet'
Although not as fully realised as the main male characters, the female characters in 'Hamlet'
play an absolutely crucial part in developing the deep running themes in the play, and prompting fundamental questions about human psychology for the audience.
Hamlet's relationships with the two women in the play are complicated and turbulent. The cold rejection of Hamlet by his childhood love, Ophelia, and the disloyalty and gross, publicised sexual activity of his over-sensual mother, conspire to produce misogynous feeling in Hamlet. Hamlet often expresses his thoughts and feelings, conscious and unconscious, through imagery. In Act II scene ii, he describes fortune as a "strumpet", or whore. This comment hints at his misogyny, but these feelings can perhaps be best illustrated by his exasperated cry, "Frailty, thy name is woman".
The female characters in the play can be interpreted as either manipulative, using those around them to gain for themselves, or manipulated, being pushed around by those in more powerful positions. Certainly in a patriarchal society like the one described in Hamlet, (or indeed the society in which Shakespeare lived), women
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