Allan G. Johnson, a sociologist, defines Misogyny as ‘misogyny is a cultural attitude of hatred for females because they are female’. (Johnson, 2000). In the play, Hamlet, there are just two individuals from the cast who are female characters. One is Gertrude who is anticipated as a forbidden, cutthroat and a prostitute. The other, Ophelia, is cast to be an innocent and oblivious young lady. Together, these ladies portray the female sex in William Shakespeare’s play. Both the characters are shown as weak and victimized characters lacking power and control.
The first female character presented in the play is Gertrude, the Queen of Denmark. Despite the fact that she belongs to the royal family and is of high order, she constantly carries a shadow of irresponsible and careless behavior. The way Shakespeare portrays him is a woman of weak character. Although she is a noble lady, but there is a continuous refusal from her side to stay determinant and strong. When Hamlet is accused of stalking Ophelia, the only reaction from the Queen, Gertrude is, “I question it is no other than the fundamental, his dad’s demise and o’er-rushed marriage”. (Act II, scene ii. 56-57). The natural reaction by a mother is trusting her son and backing him up till the very end. However, Gertrude quickly surrenders to the ploy made by the men. Claudius and Polonius, both made her believe that Hamlet is deeply in love with Ophelia and that love is the cause of his madness. Instead of looking in her son, she falls prey to Polonius and Claudius’s scheme easily. The characterization of Gertrude is of a woman who can easily be manipulated by men and remains simple minded under the control of oppressive men. Right from the opening, Shakespeare builds the mood for this misogyny. In the opening scene Gertrude’s portrayal is of a lustful whore dying to marry. “With an auspicious and a dropping eye, with mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage, in equal scale weighing delight and dole”. (Act I, scene ii. 11-13).
Ophelia is the epitome of the misogyny in the play. None of the soliloquies in the play features Ophelia. She remained a victim of dictatorship both from her father and her lover. Through her dialogues and actions, she is represented as a lacking woman. In her own words she says, “I think nothing, my lord. That’s a fair thought to lie between maids’ legs. What’s my lord? Nothing. (Act III, scene ii.116-19). Her treatment by her brother and father is that of a child. In their opinion, she lacks consciousness, self-awareness and maturity to think and take her own decisions. R They both portray a cultural control and dictatorship over woman. The irony of the situation here is that Ophelia accepts that clichéd control and wisdom where she readily accepts what Laertes says, “Farewell, Ophelia; and remember well What I have said to you (I.iii.84-85). Tis in my memory lock’d, And you yourself shall keep the key of it”. (Act I. Scene iii.86-87). Not only he advices but also plans her actions properly. Her dialogues with her fathers are of more curtsy and respect more of a servant than a daughter as she says, “so please you…my lord…I do not know, my lord, what should I think…I shall obey, my lord” (Act I. Scene iii. 89-135).
It is evident from just characterization of the play that the play is misogynist. Both the women are portrayed as weak, controlled and victimized by patriarchal set up. They fall prey to the ploys and manipulation of men. Not only falls prey but readily and easily gets manipulated and controlled.