Hamlet 's Feminity

Topics: Hamlet, Femininity, Characters in Hamlet Pages: 12 (4368 words) Published: October 6, 2012
Canadian Social Science ISSN 1712-8056 Canadian Academy of Oriental and Occidental Culture Http://www.cscanada.org Http://www.cscanada.net E-mail: css@cscanada.org; caooc@hotmail.com

Vol.5 No.5 2009 10/31/2009

Hamlet’s Femininity

GUO De-yan1

Abstract: The charm of Hamlet over the centuries largely lies in Shakespeare’s subtle treatment of Hamlet, and many critics have interpreted Hamlet’s tragedy as a result of his indecisive character, his obsession with philosophical thinking or his Oedipus Complex. This essay holds that Hamlet’s struggle with his femininity also contributes to his tragedy. Hamlet does exhibit some masculine traits such as courage, rationality and aggressiveness, but at the same time he is agonized to find that he is as weak, emotional, passive and dependent as a woman. In whatever cases he is placed either as a prince, a son or a lover, he is more identified with women than with men. Such a discovery tortures him and produces in him some sense of self-negation and self-hatred. Because of his deep-rooted patriarchal concept of gender identity, Hamlet cannot make a compromise with the feminine traits in him, and it somewhat prevents him from taking a masculine action to avenge his father. Key words: Hamlet; Femininity; Masculinity; Tragedy; Self-Hatred Résumé: Depuis des sicècles, le charme d’Hamlet se trouve largement dans un traitement subtil de Shakespeare de ce personnage et de nombreuses critiques ont interprété la tragédie d'Hamlet en raison de son caractère indécis, son obsession par la pensée philosophique ou son complexe d'Œdipe. Cet essai soutient le point de vue que la lutte d'Hamlet contre sa féminité contribue également à sa tragédie. Hamlet montre certains traits masculins tels que le courage, la rationalité et l'agressivité, mais en même temps il est angoissé de voir qu'il est aussi faible, émotionnel, passif et dépendant comme une femme. Dans quelque cas, il n’est plus traité en tant qu’un prince, un fils ou un amant, il est plus identifié avec les femmes qu’avec les hommes. Une telle découverte le torture et produit chez lui un sentiment d'auto-négation et de haine de soi. En raison de son concept patriarcal profondément enraciné de l'identité de genre, Hamlet ne peut pas faire un compromis avec ses traits féminins, ce qui l’empêche de prendre une action virile pour venger son père. Mots-Clés: Hamlet; fémininité; masculinité; tragédie; haine de soi 1

Ph. D. Candidate of British and American Literature, Nankai University, Tianjin, China; Associate Professor at the School of English Studies, Tianjin Foreign Studies University. Tianjin, China. * Received 6 July 2009; accepted 25 August 2009


GUO De-yan/Canadian Social Science Vol.5 No.5 2009 89-95

During the last 400 years, Hamlet has become one of the greatest plays the world has seen. It is no exaggeration to say that its wide and enormous popularity among the audience, the readers and the critics has never been exceeded by any other single work. The universal charm of Hamlet lies in Shakespeare’s exquisite poetic language, witty remarks about human foibles, delicate representation of Hamlet’s dilemma and more importantly his keen perception of the essence of human life. Critical works on Hamlet can make up a library, among which Hamlet’s character has been a favored topic for discussion. People are used to labeling fellow beings as either good or bad, but this play portrays a group of round characters who have shown their individual complexity to a more or less extent. Even the most vicious Claudius has something in him that we cannot hate: his constant love for Gertrude and his repentance for his crime. In terms of characterization, Hamlet offers a realistic representation of human beings as a combination of good and evil, as Adam in the Garden of Eden, who commits the sin of disobeying God’s will, but shows great power of love in sinning together with Eve. Similarly,...
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