Examine how Shakespeare chooses to present the female characters in Hamlet.

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Arjan Thethy 11.T        English coursework        Miss Hill

Examine how Shakespeare chooses to present the female characters in Hamlet

When reading ‘Hamlet’ it is clear that Shakespeare portrays women as weak objects that men use for their own purposes. Women are portrayed to be useless and dependant on men where as men are seen as dependant and can take care of themselves.

Throughout ‘Hamlet’, the opinions of female characters are often defined by the actions of male characters, so the viewer tends to get a one sided view of what the female characters are like. For example, Polonius thinks his daughter, Ophelia is property, and commands her to do things for him, which she does without hesitation. When this was written, at the end of the Elizabethan era, this treatment of women would appeared to have been seen as acceptable, however, modern day audiences would interpret this differently, as it would almost certainly be seen as degrading to women.

In the play ‘Hamlet’ the audience gets the impression that without a man, women are weak and easily manipulated. A great example of this is Gertrude’s quick marriage to Claudius; this produces the impression that she needs a man for support and feels venerable without one. It also shows how quickly Claudius has manipulated her emotion of love for King Hamlet into love for himself making Gertrude look easily led. However, this can also be interpreted differently; there was chaos in Denmark as there was no King. Would Hamlet, the King’s son take the throne, or to somebody else? By marrying Claudius, Gertrude managed to secure the throne for her son later in his life when he has matured more, as well as restoring order to Denmark.

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Shakespeare chooses to present the female characters as being second to the male, a prime example being the way Hamlet treats his mother after the marriage. Hamlet makes clear his disapproval of the marriage by asking how she can go from his father to his brother, ‘would step from this to this’. This reference is delivered in a nasty, stressed tone showing how he is using his mother to vent his anger on showing a lack of respect for her. She asks him to stop twice by saying ‘Hamlet speak no more’ but he continues indicating that he is ...

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