How do any TWO OR MORE plays written between 1580 and 1642 represent the relationships between sexuality, gender and power? (Using Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet)
’The course of true love never did run smooth’ - This is the answer indeed. As well as this we come to understand that with the roughness of love comes indifferent sexualities, gender conflicts and powered bravados that entwine themselves into one big mess to indeed create the established plays we read today. Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet very much represent the themes of sexuality, gender and power through the relationships of their family, lovers and acquaintances during each of these Shakespeare plays. This will be further analysed throughout the essay with evidentiary support from quotes, comparable and contrasting subject areas involving both of the plays once viewed ‘together’ also.
First, we come to recognise Hamlet. With frustration towards his mother on her new marriage; ‘’She married. O, most wicked speed, to post. With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!’’ (Act 1, Scene 2, Page 6), but can Hamlet truly say anything to his mother? She may be a woman, but his Kin nonetheless. Fear and anger follow from the death of his father caused by a now, ‘King’ Claudius; ‘’Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.’’(Act1, Scene 5. Page 6) suspecting of Claudius killing his father, Hamlet wishes to overthrow his newly found ‘power’ and attempt a vengeful rampage to execute him. And finally, recognising the pugnacious relationship between ‘loved ones’ Hamlet and Ophelia. ‘’I loved Ophelia, forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love make up my sum.’’ (Act 5, Scene 1, Page 12). With the example of this quote especially comes an easy sentiment which is love. Hamlet seems sincerely in love with Ophelia yet throughout the course of the play comes out as an opposite stance of his affections, ultimately driving both of them to a bad place.
Right through Hamlet, it is evident that the relationship between them all are relatable to the themes being discussed (sexuality, gender, power). Broken down, we become aware of the constant bombardment of power between gender. Women must be obedient to men, men are the rulers of women so on and so forth. Thus comes to concluding the powerlessness of women within Hamlet and therefore the power of gender roles and how much men really do uphold.
Ophelia is at the mercy of the men in her life; Her lover Hamlet, her brother Laertes and her father, Polonius. Examples of this; her brother, off on his travels (France), gives Ophelia advice on how she should conduct herself - “Best safety lies in fear’’ () as well as warning her of her virginity, because that is all Hamlet would want from her ‘’Or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open. To his unmastered importunity‘’ (Act 1, Scene 3, Page 27). Moreover, Polonius is apparent about this double-standard “Lord Hamlet…is young, and with a larger tether may he walk than may be given you” (Act 1, Scene 4, Page 33). As a woman she must accept her isolated and far more supervised life. She is powerless to change anything. But she is obedient, following Polonius’ advice, agreeing to participate in his schemes; As he plans to spy on her meeting with Hamlet and with her submissive response “I shall obey, my Lord”(Act 1, Scene 4, Page 33) Whilst looking at these examples, it is palpable that the power of gender and gender power come hand in hand whether you are related or not. Familial obedience was something that was taken seriously during this period, with obvious constructions of the subservient relationship Ophelia has with her father, brother and even Hamlet. Hamlet does eventually express his contempt for women “Frailty thy name is woman” he continues thrashing naïve Ophelia with more abuse as the play proceeds and as a male he relies on his gender to express his feelings as well as them being heard “I loved you not…You should not have believed me….Get thee...