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Feminism in Hamlet

By | September 2008
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“Feminist Criticism and Its Integration in Hamlet”
In the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, many controversies arose from the text, one of which was feminism. Feminism in the most general of terms is known as the principle advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men. Feminism was a largely debated issue in the context of eighteenth century literature specific to many of Shakespeare’s texts. Feminist Criticism is similar in content but is more specific and pertains to the “lens” through which a text is viewed or perceived. During the era of Shakespeare’s existence, many of his female characters and the plots surrounding them were considered antifeminist due to the role that the women played or even just because of how they were referred to within the text by him or other characters. Some assumptions that go along with the analysis of Hamlet through the feminist lens is that the women, such as Gertrude and Ophelia, are given marginalized opinions and roles within the play, that the play is from a male-centered viewpoint, and that it solely focuses upon the male characters and their experiences instead of integrating the views and impacts of the women as well.

A specific example of marginalization of a woman character within Hamlet is in Act III where Gertrude is told to leave the men to their plans even though they should include her and what opinions that she might have had over how to fix the situation. (Sweet Gertrude, leave us too…Act III-1, pg 136). When this scene is read by a person through the feminist lens, it can be seen as her being dismissed due to an opinion of Claudius that she is unnecessary and that he knows what is best when it comes to important matters. When focusing on the feminist view, readers may also look at Gertrude’s response to Claudius as being submissive and lacking forethought which brings to mind that this sort of dismissal is common between the two and that Gertrude is constantly...
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