The Oppression Of Women In William Shakespeare's Hamlet

2068 Words 9 Pages
With that said, there becomes an increasing fascination with simplicity, possessing a compelling and harmonious beauty in a frenzied world. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the ingenuity in the portrayal of women exceptionally embodies the notion of simplicity. Gertrude, Queen of Denmark, and Ophelia, daughter of the Lord Chamberlain, maintain exceedingly limited roles within the play, firmly accentuating an extreme absence of depth. In Janet Adelman’s Suffocating Mothers, Adelman proposes that Shakespeare’s women are depicted as “screens for male fantasy”, ultimately oppressing the independence of female characters (36). As a result, the inadequate development of women in Hamlet cajoles critics, much like Adelman, to characterize Gertrude …show more content…
Whereas Gertrude craves a fulfillment of her feral sexual relations, Ophelia yearns for an intimate companion in Hamlet. Hamlet, through his manic episodes, exemplifies a thoughtful affection for Ophelia, and she, reciprocates that love. Compellingly so, Hamlet’s letter to Ophelia, a glimpse of the unclouded Prince, boasts evidence of his love: Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love.
O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers. I have not art to reckon my groans, but that I love thee best, O most best, believe it. (Ham.2.2.116-22) However, Ophelia’s portrayal as a tender lover is plagued by manipulation at the hands of King Claudius and Polonius: “The pure love of Ophelia is being used by two evil men who besmirch everything they touch … These two, then, for their own purposes exploit a young love and exercise of devotion sugaring o’er the Devil himself” (Greenhaven Press 100). In the first scene of the third act, Claudius and Polonius fully demonstrate their willingness to exploit Ophelia’s innocent love, seeking the culprit of Hamlet’s madness. In the process, Hamlet exaggerates his distemper, exclaiming his distaste for Ophelia. Distraught, Ophelia reminisces in the Hamlet that thirsted for her
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As she comes to terms with the destruction of her relationship, Ophelia’s tragic melancholy engulfs her mind, only to be further aggravated by Polonius’ complete disregard for his daughter’s emotional state. “How now, Ophelia?” Polonius says, “You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said / We heard it all” (Ham.3.1.178-80). Following the traumatic disbanding of her relationship with Prince Hamlet, both Claudius and Polonius prove ignorant to the sombre spirit of the virtuous Ophelia. As a result, a definite exploitation of Ophelia’s relationship is presented. Abandoned to cope with her unanimous sorrow, Ophelia transcends into her unfortunate lunacy, characterizing her as a true romantic tragedy. Nonetheless, the dismemberment of Hamlet and Ophelia is well within the constraints of society in the seventeenth century. Ophelia’s tragedy stems from her innocent obedience to her deviously deluded father. In reference to Shakespeare’s World and Work, women in the Elizabethan society were “supposed to remain chaste, silent and obedient to their fathers’ or husbands’ wishes” (Andrews 1: 126). In the same manner, Shakespeare depicts Ophelia as wholly obeying Polonius, remaining silent despite her reluctance: “I shall obey, my lord” (Ham.1.4.135). Despite unveiling a meaningful adoration for Hamlet, Ophelia conforms to the gender marginalization of

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