Women in Hamlet

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Hamlet is one Shakespeare's most famous plays. This essay will look at Hamlet's perception of women in general but particularly Gertrude and Ophelia. It will also look at the historical presentation of women, comparing Hamlet's time to today and seeing if the symbolic role that the female characters have is related to the period. I will also look at Hamlet's madness, whether it was it was real or not and also whether women could be the cause of it. Finally it will glance at a possible ‘Oedipus rex complex' in Hamlet.

Because Hamlet is based around the character Hamlet Prince of Denmark, women in the play are often presented the way that Hamlet sees them. Also Hamlet lives in a very enclosed world with only a small circle of friends and family. Only two women, Gertrude and Ophelia, enter into his world, so he used their characters as a complete character assessment of all women. Hamlet directs the insult "frailty thy name is woman" (Act I sc. ii) at Gertrude, and in some ways this remark is justified.

Hamlet is disillusioned with her because of her "o'erhasty marriage" (act I sc. ii) to Claudius. He says that the marriage is incestuous and at times he seems more upset about it than his fathers death. This is why some critics say that Hamlet has an Oedipus complex. This is an idea developed by Freud who says all sons want to sleep with their mothers and kill their fathers. There are many arguments with this line of thought. Hamlet is very outspoken about Gertrude's incestuous behavior. He also seems repulsed by sex. Hamlet is trying to avenge his father's murder. Gertrude is also suspected by Hamlet of being involved in the murder of old hamlet, although we are led to believe that she is not.

The ghost of old Hamlet tells Hamlet to say nothing against her," against thy mother aught; leave her to heaven' (act II sc.i) as though she is an innocent party in Claudius plan. Gertrude supports Hamlet at the end of the play by accidentally saving his life by...
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