By highlighting the human experiences of the individual characters and their natural reactions to certain events, Shakespeare’s Hamlet allows contemporary audiences to value the continuing significance of gender roles, religion and personal behaviour in shaping ones identities and relationships. In Shakespeare’s times, as Queen Elizabeth’s reign passed to James 1st and the courts were changing to a Machiavellian system based on expediency for political gain, loyalties began to be questioned and a corresponding uncertainty was created. This uncertainty is also common within our own changing modern society.
Shakespeare’s uncertainty and concern about the relationships between men and women remains relevant today, allowing me to
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Polonius’ metaphorical description of Hamlet’s infatuation, “the perfume and suppliance of a minute,” is contrasted to Ophelia’s overwhelming feelings, “O, help him, you sweet heavens!” Here, the apostrophe portrays the stereotypical notion of women overpowered by emotions. Thus, as a contemporary responder, Gertrude’s situation seems easier to understand, as she asserts her sexual power over Claudius to gain independence. Shakespeare’s however, depicts her as a “whore”, shown through Hamlet’s hyperbole in “would it were not so! You are my mother.” This conflict between mother and son represents an archetypal notion of a males’ need to assert control whilst also providing insight into the female need for individuality. This patriarchal context also justifies Gertrude’s need to “make marriage vows/as false as dicers’ oaths,” the enjambment highlighting how she would otherwise be left virtually powerless in society. The tragic irony in Gertrude’s death, “do not drink! ... I will my lord, pray you pardon me,” after her only act of defiance against Claudius however highlights the biased inequalities engrained within society.
It becomes clear that psychologically, humans react in particular ways when faced with similar traumatic experiences, such as the loss of a father, evident when applying Freud’s ‘Oedipus Complex’