Essay on Feminism in Hamlet

1461 Words Nov 23rd, 2008 6 Pages
“Feminist Criticism and Its Integration in Hamlet”
In the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, many controversies arose from the text, one of which was feminism. Feminism in the most general of terms is known as the principle advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men. Feminism was a largely debated issue in the context of eighteenth century literature specific to many of Shakespeare’s texts. Feminist Criticism is similar in content but is more specific and pertains to the “lens” through which a text is viewed or perceived. During the era of Shakespeare’s existence, many of his female characters and the plots surrounding them were considered antifeminist due to the role that the women played or even
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Ophelia “is not understood by her male audience but her rebellion against the double standard and its oppression of women arouses fear in Gertrude, who understands”. (Fienberg, Nora) When Ophelia mourns her father, people instantly think that her weak mind must have “shattered” and her only escape from insanity is death.
In Act V, after Ophelia’s death/suicide, the scene starts with Hamlet spying upon Laertes during his sister’s burial. When Laertes speaks in wonderment over his sister’s death, he surmises that she must have killed herself in an attempt to escape the madness that some man must have caused. He believes that in her weak feminine state that a man must have taken advantage of her and destroyed her mind. (Oh, treble woe, Fall ten times treble on that cursed head, Whose wicked deed thy most ingenious sense deprived thee of!, Act V-1 pg 294). Through the feminist lens, this scene is portraying the ultimate possessive action that men believe that they have the right to have. Hamlet and Laertes both lay claim to Ophelia’s mind and then use the fact that she is female as a way to push her already frayed reputation over the edge as a subservient and unwittingly innocent girl.
An example of a female versus a male role in Hamlet is introduced…

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