13 April 2013
The Exploration of Hamlet through a Feminist Lens
Throughout the Elizabethan era women were not acknowledge as humans. The ideal gender role of women was to work in the home: cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the children. Men were the only ones to work and have a career. The feminist theory analyzes the status of women in society. It deals with gender differences, gender inequality, gender oppression, and structural oppression. Analyzing Hamlet through a feminist lens critics focus on Ophelia one of the plays female characters, within the text Shakespeare conveys the treatment of women in Elizabethan society. In doing this, Ophelia is often utilized as an ultimate pawn by the men in her life; Laertes, Polonius, and Hamlet.
As for a women’s social position they are define as being powerless. Ophelia’s brother Laertes is one of the characters that implements her for his desire and will because of her gender. In the tragedy Laertes converse win Ophelia exuding a tone of authority and power. He speaks to her as a higher power; he gives her orders not advice. She is not privilege to choose what she wants to do, instead she gets told what to do because in this era women were looked as puppets. Laertes finds out that Ophelia has been seeing prince Hamlet, he doesn’t not feel that Hamlet is good enough for Ophelia, he suggest her to stop seeing him. Considering that Laertes has a higher placement in society because of his gender she listens and agrees with him. Shakespeare Writes, For Hamlet and the trifling of his favor, Hold it a fashion and a toy in blood, A violet in the youth of primy nature, Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting, The perfume and suppliance of a minute. No more (I.iii.5-10) fits your wisdom so far to It believe it As he in his particular act and place May give his saying deed, which is no further Than the main voice of Denmark goes withal. Then weigh what loss your honor may sustain If with too credent ear you list his songs, Or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open To his unmastered importunity. Fear it, Ophelia. Fear it, my dear sister, And keep you in the rear of your affection, Out of the shot and danger of desire. The chariest maid is prodigal enough If she unmask her beauty to the moon. Virtue itself ’scapes not calumnious strokes. The canker galls the infants of the spring Too oft before their buttons be disclosed. And in the morn and liquid dew of youth, Contagious blastments are most imminent. Be wary, then. Best safety lies in fear. Youth to itself rebels, though none else near. (I.iii.25-44) Farewell, Ophelia, and remember well What I have said to you, (I.iii. 84-85). Laertes is leaving to go to France but before he leaves he makes sure he talks to his sister about seeing Hamlet. He thinks that Ophelia is too innocent to be dating someone like Hamlet. Knowing that Ophelia will not put up a fight to defend herself or Hamlet because she is a woman, he demands her to stop seeing him. When Ophelia is left in Denmark, her father Polonius is killed by Hamlet. The traditions when a parent is killed the child would usually seek revenge for the parents death. Since Ophelia is a woman she has fewer opinions, she cannot act- all she can do is wait on Laertes to return and take his revenge. Since she cannot act she goes mad. The Saylor foundation writes, “A feminist theoretical reading of Hamlet might argue that Ophelia—who is driven to seeming madness throughout the play and, possibly, eventual suicide—is figured as being repressed, abused, ignored, and renounced by male characters throughout the play because of her gender,” (16). Ophelia is constantly used, and abused by the men in her life because of her gender.
Not only is Ophelia utilized by her brother Laertes but also by her father Polonius. In the play Laertes asks the king to honor his request to go back to France. Before he leave Polonius has a talk to with Laertes...