English 12 AP
March 18th, 2013
Gender Roles in Hamlet
Hamlet, written by the well-known Shakespeare, is a story which involves men who are implored to be “manly” by directing the lives of the women in order to make their own lives comfortable and refraining from copying feminine behavior. Hamlet and Ophelia, two characters who are supposedly in love with each other, are examples of how the men and women in this story are expected to live up to the stereotypical standards set by those who surround them. They are also examples of how when stereotypical standards are forced upon young men and women, their reaction to this forceful action has only negative consequences, which in this case is death. What are these stereotypical standards and who has set them? The stereotypical standards for men in Hamlet are that they are to have total dominance, be controlling, directing, superior, and manly meaning being strong, not shedding tears, and not grieving over anything or anyone for a long amount of time. All the older men, including King Claudius, Polonius, and Laertes, in this tragedy have set these standards. King Claudius contributes to these standards in Act 1 when he scolds Hamlet for grieving about his father’s death at a party his mother and stepfather were having at their kingdom. Claudius told Hamlet “’tis unmanly grief” (Act 1 Scene 2 Line 6). Claudius associates Hamlet’s behavior with unmanliness, and therefore feminine behavior, because he thinks Hamlet appears weak, unreasonable, and without discipline. Polonius and Laertes contribute to these standards throughout the story because of how they direct and control the life of Ophelia. They take away any dominance that Ophelia has over her life and make her completely inferior to them. This is shown in Hamlet when they both tell her she should “fear it” when Hamlet tells her he loves her and that she is not to see or speak to him anymore (Act 1 Scene 3 Line 3). The stereotypical standards set...
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