11.07.2019 in Literature

Approaches to Literature: Feminism in Hamlet

The female characters in Hamlet provide an invaluable key to our contemporary experience.  Be very precise about place, time, and people. Hamlet is a play by William Shakespeare, the first work of literature that an ordinary person in life looks at life in a broader perspective. It also reflects how an individual is faced with tough questions but comes up with honest semi-answers. This is a culture that is becoming extinct in contemporary society. Hamlet is a play that leaves the audience with the notion that life is worth living, by imperfect individuals in an imperfect world. The play “Hamlet” recounts the events that take place in the kingdom of Denmark. The play is believed to have been written between the years 1599 and 1601.

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Hamlet takes vengeance on his uncle Claudius, who is responsible for murdering the old King Hamlet, and takes the wife of the deceased Gertrude. One of the focal female characters in the play is Ophelia. She has the prospective to become a tragic heroine and overwhelm the adversities perpetrated upon her. Nevertheless, she crumbles into ludicrousness, consequently becoming virtuously catastrophic. This is because Ophelia is not as significant as her portrayal of the nature of the two women in the play. OOphelia’s distinct tenacity is to show at once Hamlet’s distorted opinion of women as ruthless sexual pillagers, the transparency, and the virtue of women. Hamlet feels betrayed by Gertrude to a greater magnitude than he could imagine. This is an apparent reason why the character has been displayed in a deceitful manner in the play.


Hamlet detests his mother as well as Ophelia who, according to his considerations, disguises their natural traits under the cloud of excellence. Women are also accountable for causing a dynamic change to men in diverse contemporary society. They are the second in order from the husband thus; they ensure that family matters are well catered for. For instance, through Ophelia, we witness Hamlet’s evolution and devolution. He is totally convinced that all women are whores. Hamlet views women as individuals who look pure to the eyes of the public, but their hearts are dark with corruption and a desire for sex. However, for women to become whores, they must have their procurers, the reason why Gertrude has been turned into a whore by his father Claudius, whereas Ophelia becomes one due to her father’s influence. Polonius makes arrangements to use the glamorous Ophelia to ascertain why Hamlet is behaving so inquisitively .  Hamlet is absent in the room, but it is obvious that he has eavesdropped as Polonius tries to use his daughter’s charms to fulfill his sneaky purposes.

Hamlet is aware that Polonius influences his daughter to practice prostitution. And Hamlet labels Polonius a “fishmonger,” though Polonius does not untangle the connotation of Hamlet’s quotations. Whatever makes a woman a whore in the Hamlets’ valuation is her sexual use by several men. Hamlet is enraged by the ‘nunnery’ interval that Ophelia considers some logic of love and duty for other men prior to her degree of love and adoration for her new husband above her sense of love and duty for her old man. Gertrude chose a brother over the dead old King Hamlet, as Ophelia chooses her own father over the young Hamlet (Wells, 2002). The choices made by both ladies can be read as furthermore sexually obstinate in nature. To the rest of the audience, Ophelia signifies a very different thing to those who are not blinded by fury; she is the archetype of beauty. Like Gertrude, young Ophelia is naive and inexperienced. However, Ophelia has an excellent motive to retreat behind the punitive realities of life and can’t be compared to Gertrude.

Ophelia was still a kid when she lost her mommy, shortly after she was born. Polonius, who happened to be the father, loved her immeasurably along with her sibling Laertes, and took abundant pains to shelter her. She chooses to remain dormant to matters of public thus; devotes her days involved in some trivial activities. She reciprocates the love a great deal and takes precautions not to disappoint them. This is coupled with a comprehensive and steadfast allegiance. Her character traits include simplicity, and she has unselfish affection towards people. However, her love for Hamlet is strong, and she obeys her father when he instructs her to cease visiting Hamlet or receiving letters from him. She has a clean heart, though she lies to Hamlet that her father had left when he was just behind the curtain; it is out of anxiety. Ophelia coheres to the reminiscence of Hamlet, giving him respect and sensitivity.

She even defends him and adores him to the very end, notwithstanding his ruthlessness. She is unable to defend herself; nevertheless, she exhibits naivety that is evident in her deep suffering. The character traits of Ophelia show how women in society are used by callous men to achieve their goals. Some go to the extent of abusing them, as they have put women under pressure to obey without questioning. A perceptive notion by some ancient ethnic feminists declares that female psyches are a product of ethnic forces, such as class differences, tribal, general differences, as well as chronological differences. Cultural force had a greater influence in Shakespeare’s time than that of the patriarchy era when individuals were not much attached to customs. The patriarchal community of Western culture had strong negative effects on the liberty of women and their expression. Therefore, the essence of women was virtually incorporated, creatively, informally, linguistically, and legitimately by the cultural psyche of the men. Sadly, the male regard for females was perpetually linked to the female physique, which was tolerable since supremacy over women was the implicit hypothesis of men.

The female body was part of man’s ‘property,’ and its sexual obligation could be a vulnerable theme of discussion. Many of the Shakespearean plays make the point clear, including the play “Hamlet.” Hamlet’s sexual ambiguity in his discourse with Ophelia would have been apparent to a contemporary audience, and ostensibly conventional. Hamlet refers to a double meaning of nothing when he says to Ophelia, “That’s a fair decree lies amid a maid’s legs”. This turns out like a gaudy kind of anecdote for an honorable prince to discuss with a young woman of the court, though Hamlet is not discreet to talk about the subject. Ophelia doesn’t seem snubbed upon hearing it since it reflects how a cultured woman would think or feel about such humor made by men (Strickland, 2007).  For many decades, women have undergone public dismay in the presence of men. This makes men rule over their world and take control of everything. Polonius considers the behavior of being a womanizer as alright since his son Laertes. This is an utmost menace to the male, patriarchal ego to abuse women. 

Moreover, the most dreaded disrupter of the social order from females is when a woman becomes unfaithful to her husband. However, it is not considered a big deal when men become unfaithful, an issue that has left many women to suffer in silence. The author uses the female characters in the play to express his own deep emotions; a notion that originates from the contemporary world. Several similar stories happen to people in their daily lives, which interfere with family relationships and breed hatred among people. Women have been portrayed in the play as betrayers of their husbands. Gertrude betrays her husband by living with his evil brother and ends up curtailing Hamlet’s freedom to practice his masculine role as the son of the late king. Women are the pivotal players in contemporary society. This makes them considered the delicate gender by their male counterparts. : The idea gives them some added advantage in the workplace and other institutions. Hamlet by William Shakespeare outlines a clear-cut line of how customs and societal issues affect females in society. Gertrude and Ophelia are clear representations of how men exert pressure and dictatorship over women. This is why Hamlet ends up with a negative point of view concerning women, including his mother Gertrude.

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