Role And Treatment Of Women In Shakespeare's Hamlet

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In an ingenious masterpiece, Shakespeare weaves trifling events that appear inconsequential, yet become essential to the plot and flow of the play. Upon discerning the role of women in the Shakespearean era and analyzing the relationships both Gertrude and Ophelia had with the men in their lives, can one comprehend the role and treatment of women in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. The presence of only two women in the entire play denotes a certain message from the beginning, additionally with both females dying prematurely, this further underlines the lack of importance and value Shakespeare has deemed fit for women. Both women were conveyed as superfluous, distraught characters ruled by the men in their lives and their feelings. Consequently Shakespeare …show more content…
Shakespeare lived in a strict political patriarchal society. In which the society presents women as instruments shackled to the will and pleasure of men. For a woman living at such time their role is defined simply in relation to the men in their lives. As such, Shakespeare’s Hamlet fully embraces this attitude; this is depicted in one example when Laertes, Ophelia’s brother, tells Ophelia to guard her chastity from Hamlet, ordering her to “chaste [her] treasure open to his unmastered importunity.” (I, iii, 31-32) Additionally, women were regarded as the “weaker sex”, not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. It was believed that women required a man to look after them, however, looking after them translated into the men thinking and acting for them. The women of this era were raised to believe that they were inferior to men, to ensure that the women followed this temperament the Church would quote the bible to ensure that the women adhered to this mentality. A famous line written by the protestant leader John Knox states, “Woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man .” (Knox, 37) This is an example of the expectations placed on the role of women, in the patriarchal society these women were expected to instantly obey the males in their lives. Once again, Shakespeare ensures that this image of complete subservience is shown by both females in his play. In one instance, when Polonius orders his daughter Ophelia to stop seeing Hamlet, without questioning his reasoning Ophelia replies “I shall obey, my lord.” (I, iii, 136) An unassuming line, yet one that shows the role of the female in its entirety; this line shows the thorough control Polonius has over Ophelia, and also shows Ophelia’s innate desire to please others even if it means sacrificing her own feelings. Ironically, the title

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