The Role Of Women In Hamlet

1298 words - 5 pages

The mindset of the unequal genders in the past is thought to have influenced the way playwright William Shakespeare portrayed females in his plays. Shakespeare exemplified this in his revenge tragedy Hamlet, written in 1601 with one of the most significant characters, Gertrude. She is central to the plot due to her relationship with the main character, Hamlet, being his mother. However, not only is she the mother to the tragic hero Hamlet, she is also widow to his laid father, King Hamlet Senior, and also newly wed to Hamlets uncle, Claudius. In this tragic play, we witness not only the downfall of women of the play in general, but specifically the falling out of Gertrude as a mother to Hamlet, as a wife to the new King Claudius, and as a woman herself.

Gertrude is the Queen of Denmark and has experienced significant life changes in the last few months. She buries her husband and has remarried her brother in law. This rapid transition to a new marriage does not bode well on her son, Hamlet. Hamlet discusses his distaste in this situation and reflects on this as he tries to overcome the grief of losing his father. Of course it does not sit well with grieving Hamlet that his mothers new marriage has created a lust-filled environment, and that Gertrude has portrayed herself as a very sexual character. At the beginning of the she play she also continuously takes Claudius’ side over Hamlets. An excerpt from Rebecca Smith’s A Heart Cleft in Twain: The Dilemma of Shakespeare’s Gertrude analyzes Hamlet’s first soliloquy in the first act where he voices his disgust for his mother and his shame for her and women in general. In Rebecca’s passage, she states that “Hamlet's violent emotions toward his mother are obvious from his first soliloquy, in which twenty-three of the thirty-one lines express his anger and disgust at what he perceives to be Gertrude's weakness, insensitivity, and most important, bestiality..." (Smith 197). This soliloquy not only expresses Hamlet’s feelings toward women, but also signifies the beginning to his madness. Not too much further into the play Gertrude realizes her sons abnormal behavior and her conscious kicks in, leading her to feel shame and guilt towards herself. “I doubt it is no other but the main, /His father’s death and our o’er- hasty marriage” (II.ii.56-57). Here Gertrude acknowledges her flaws as a mother to Hamlet, because she finally understands and convinces herself that because she moved on so quickly after the death to marry Claudius, Hamlet has become mad. This is essentially the falling action of Gertrude as a character because she is trapped between trying to please her husband and her son.

Initial incident and consequently the lead to the denouement of her character, was Gertrude’s marriage to Claudius, little does she know of course. As the audience, we are aware of the plots and schemes developing throughout the play without Gertrude’s knowledge. Frailty, thy name is woman: Gertrude: in the...

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