Mrs. R. Robinson
English IV AP 1501/ DC 1302. 4
22 April 2014
Thematic Paragraph: Shakespeare’s Hamlet and its Displayed Attitudes toward Women
In Act I of William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Shakespeare uses the narrative as an opportunity to explore the attitudes toward women that were commonly held at the time, examining the widespread misogyny of the early 17th century. The presence of only two named female characters reveals how women were largely thought of as the subordinate sex and were expected to follow the will of the men surrounding their lives. Hamlet is greatly alarmed as to why his mother, Gertrude, would remarry so quickly after the death of her husband and why she would choose to remarry King Hamlet’s brother of all possible options, leading to Hamlet’s view of his mother deteriorating as the play goes on. Hamlet goes on to state, quite frankly, “frailty, thy name is woman!” (I, ii, 29), revealing how Hamlet has a lower standard for the ability of women, outright stating that they are ultimately the weaker sex. The only other female character, Ophelia, is introduced to the audience in conversation with her father, Polonius, who tells her, “Affection, puh! You speak like a green girl (…) Do you believe his ‘tenders,’ as you call them?” (I, iii, 45). Polonius openly talks down to her and disregards her opinion and wishes altogether. Ophelia is revealed to be only a victim, losing any complexity on whether or not the audience should view her character with sympathy. After following her father’s orders, Hamlet assumes she is in on Claudius’ plot to find Hamlet out and berates her for such weakness claiming to have never loved her. Hamlet goes on to say, “Go to, I’ll no more on’t. It hath made me mad. I say, we will have no more marriages. Those that are married already, all but one, shall live. The rest shall keep as they are. To a nunnery, go.” (III, I, 133). These examples support that misogyny was...
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