Women and Frailty in Shakespeare's Hamlet

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Women and Frailty

The two women in Shakespeare's tragic play Hamlet play larger parts than meets the eye. These two women embody the saying, "there are no small parts, only small actors." While Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, and Ophelia, Hamlet's lover, are very different and lead different lives, they suffer similar fates. Both women have control not of their lives but of their deaths.Gertrude and Ophelia are anything but independent women. The two women need and rely on the strength of the men in their lives. Once they stray away from these influential men, the women find their ultimate demise. Gertrude, the Queen of Denmark, appears to have no genuine thoughts. She agrees with her husband each time he opens his mouth. While Hamlet continues to mourn over his father's death, the King asks, "How is it that the clouds still hang on you?" (I, ii, l. 66). The king implies that Hamlet should be over the recent death of his father. Gertrude echoes Claudius's statement remarking, "Good Hamlet, cast thy knighted color off,/ And let thing eye look like a friend on Denmark" (I, ii, 68-69). Gertrude lets both her husband, Claudius, and her son walk all over her throughout the play. Claudius is constantly telling his wife, "Come, away," dismissing her from a room as if she were an animal. When Polonius presents the King and Queen with his theory for Hamlet's madness, the Queen does not interject or protest. The King asks, "Do you think ‘tis this?" (II, ii, 151) and the Queen merely remarks, "It may be, very like" (II, ii, 152). Hamlet treats his mother with disrespect and speaks down to her. Hamlet looks down on women as a whole exclaiming, "frailty, thy name is woman" (I, ii, 146) making his views on women very clear. If Gertrude were not so meek and weak, Hamlet would not find it so easy to be disgusted with his mother. Her weakness means she never attempts to discuss her "incestuous" behavior with Hamlet as she is not strong enough to defend herself against his...
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