Hamlet: A Tale Of Sordid Misogyny

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade October 2001

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William Shakespeares Hamlet is based on the legendary prince of Denmark, who lived hundreds of years before the womens movement in a time when chastity was cherished and witch burnings were not uncommon. The sexual inequality of antiquity is palpable in Hamlet, and most of Shakespeares other productions. The only two female characters in Hamlet are Queen Gertrude, Hamlets mother, and Ophelia, Hamlets lover. Queen Gertrude and Ophelia represent the two prevalent attitudes towards women in the time of Shakespeare: either terribly wicked or epitomes of virtue. Queen Gertrudes relationship with Hamlets murderous uncle Claudius leads Hamlet to abhor women and female sexuality, and long for an illusory, wholly righteous, mother figure. This desire drives him into a state of madness in which he rejects, condemns, and ultimately destroys Ophelia. Hamlets complex psyche and unreasonable aspiration for a virtuous mother are responsible for the deterioration of his relationship with Ophelia and, thus, her suicide.

Hamlets attitude towards Queen Gertrude and Ophelia reflects the antediluvian perspective of women in Shakespeares time and is dictated by his relationship with his mother. Hamlet condemns his mother and uncle Claudius for their hasty marriage after his fathers death. His feelings are explicitly expressed after he murders Polonius and compares the act to their marriage: A bloody deed almost as bad, good Mother / As kill a king, and marry with his brother (87). Hamlet continues his vile portrayal of his mother through his description of her relationship with his uncle as Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love / Over the nasty sty (89). In response to his condemnation of her and his uncle Claudius, Queen Gertrude is, throughout the play, too shocked or distraught to provide much defense for herself. In response to Hamlets denunciations, Queen Gertrude pleads with him...

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