Female Characters In Hamlet Essay

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Classical works of literature have a tendency to depict women as inferior and submissive to men, and despite recent diversifications to the Literary Canon these patriarchal texts still hold prevalence within classrooms and curricula. William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, is one of the most widely taught scripts throughout the American Educational system; yet, the only female characters, Gertrude and Ophelia, play minor roles within the play and function as inferior characters. In fact, their primarily function as a plot device, used to demonstrate the male character’s agendas, rather than to function as complex characters on their own. Any actions they take support the idea that without male guidance and domination, women will fall into desultory and destruction. …show more content…
For example, in Act I, Scene iii, Laertes and Polonius both warn her against Hamlet and insist that their relationship is merely a fling of passion. In this scene Polonius states “...From this time/ Be somewhat scanter of your maiden presence./ Set your entreatments at a higher rate/ Than a command to parley. For Lord Hamlet,/ Believe so much in him that he is young,/ And with a larger tether may he walk/ Than may be given you...” (1.3.120-126). This quotation shows not only that Polonius can dictate Ophelia’s actions, but also that Ophelia is held to stricter standards than her male counterpart, Hamlet. Due to the fact Hamlet is a man, he can get away with being immoral, meanwhile women, such as Ophelia, are expected to keep their virginity until marriage. Polonius makes it clear within this scene, that any immorality Ophelia has, does not impact her as an individual nearly as much as it reflects upon him as a father, again exemplifying the idea that her actions are not her own. Rather than taking her own stance, Ophelia allows him to dictate her life and after this interaction acquiesces to her father’s wish without protest. Later in the play, when it benefits Polonius to have Ophelia reignite her

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