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Theme of Feminism in Hamlet

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In the times when Hamlet was written, women were developing their power. Even though women’s behaviors were limited by their power, they were still the major influence in shaping the whole story. The Renaissance ushered in an age of human awakening in Europe. Men find their own individuality and dignity and pursue the happiness of worldly life, while women are not a completely silent class. Although women were still suppressed by the patriarchal consciousness in this period, they were no longer willing to be a silent class and began to challenge the male world and the patriarchal consciousness and system that suppressed women. A small part of Hamlet’s society shows this chaotic society. However, in a society like Hamlet, women are criticized by men, because they don’t have enough power, enough status, and enough equality. Although they consciously resist, they don’t really resist. Throughout the play, Gertrude uses her influence over Claudius to keep she and Hamlet safety while Ophelia uses her sexuality to handle her relationship with Hamlet. These senses of woman power also have a lasting effect on the theme of revenge and corruption.

Women were treated as a difference with men in Hamlet and also the male cast views the female characters as inferior. In most cases, they were limited to express their feeling about many things. They don’t know how they can express their feeling toward the public. As a result, whether or not for women talking in society, they are only regarded as silent. It is obvious that Hamlet holds a negative attitude toward women. During the conversation, Ophelia said that ‘I fell for your trick, then.’ Hamlet replied with ‘Get yourself into the convent.’ (3.1.130-155) The convent is the place where women used to be humiliated by men. The convent is really an insult to women, so Hamlet didn’t give any respect to Ophelia and he also regarded women as a weakness. However, this was his bias about women, he already assumed women are all unfaithful. Hamlet was able to say these kinds of rebellious words not only because he was a man, but also because he was the rightful heir to the throne. Hamlet was the man of privilege, so the rules of discourse were more lenient to him. Hamlet’s high status gave him more freedom than women to say what he wanted to say. Hamlet’s outspoken attitude towards women was not only directed at his mother but also at his lover Ophelia. Hamlet vented out to his Gertrude, ‘Women, curse your weakness.’ (1.2 141-142) It was the situation of Hamlet that criticized his mother, but what he said was about all the women. He is not only criticized his mother but also prejudice against all the women. He was already considered that all the women are weak in both body and spirit. In his perspective, he already made up a mind of looking down on women and hold a negative point to women’s characteristics.

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Ophelia was the representative of women who willing to fight against inequality, but she does not have the power to speak out and save herself. Not only Ophelia didn’t have the power to make her own decision but also ordinary women in that society mostly seemed to have no power. Many critics find Ophelia to be a pawn to the men in her life, but throughout the play, she proves that ‘Herself to be neither silent nor merely obedient.’ This statement is only disproved in regard to her father. But when her father asked her to determine whether or not Hamlet is really in the madness that asked Ophelia to take part in her father’s plan for determining Hamlet’s state of mind. However, Ophelia didn’t refuse to do it, because Polonis is her father, man with the highest right in her family. Polonius said, ‘From now on, make sure to spend more light than heat, and make him do more than just ask to get you to talk with him.’ (1.3 120-122) Polonius used absolutely word to state that Hamlet’s love for is fake to Ophelia and gave Ophelia a command to stay away from Hamlet. Polonius was Ophelia’s father, so Ophelia needs to listen to her father’s order to stop seeing Hamlet and Ophelia has no idea but to obey her father. At first Ophelia was trying to against her father, ‘Father, he’s always talked about his love for me in honorable fashion—’ (1.3 110-111) It was all of Ophelia ‘s trying for herself toward her father but finally she still needed to obey her father as she was powerless to express for herself. Furthermore, Laertes said ‘You’ve had too much water, Poor Ophelia, so I won’t cry for you…… When I’ve stopped crying, I’ll be done acting like a woman……'( 4.7 183-187) Laertes used water to metaphor there were too many tears inside of Ophelia and he said as soon as he would dry up, he won’t be acting like a woman it stated Laertes regarded crying is the thing belong to women. Crying is a fragile thing, and yet Laertes said this action belonged to women, so at the same time, he’s making an indirect satire of women as weak and powerless. In addition, Laertes was treating Ophelia as the weakness of women. Laertes just treated Ophelia as a tool, he never says something with Ophelia emotionally. Ophelia was imposed on male consciousness by Laertes, but she ignored male ‘education’. Last but not least, Hamlet was hurt by the case that Gertrude had married his uncle, so, he thought all the women who are beautiful seem to be a liar and all the women won’t be honest. He prejudiced Ophelia that ‘…God gives you one face, but you use make-up to give yourself…’ (3.1 143-146) A brunch of unreal behaviors was used to describe Ophelia, these fake behaviors are the same as Ophelia used make-up to cover herself. As a result, Hamlet used the cosmetic to showed that Ophelia is always lying to others also Ophelia was treated as a liar who won’t show the loyalty to male. However, Ophelia accepted Hamlet’s word and said nothing with it, she calmly without any struggle. At that moment her word was still regulated. At the end of the play, Ophelia went into insane. She lost control of herself while her father was killed by Hamlet. After this, she started to talk more liberal.

Gertrude is a good woman, she tends to gain more power because she wants to protect hamlet. As compared to her power with the status according to the power of men in Hamlet, Gertrude is very humble. Even if she has much power, her power is insignificant. At that time married to her husband’s brother will not be valued. Everyone seems could not understand Gertrude of her marriage. The subtext of her marriage is to protect her son. She is the representative of women who has enough power, she still willing to make sure she had enough safety whereas she still didn’t have the chance to speak out. Hamlet thought it is really a taboo for her to marry Claudius ‘Women cursed your weakness…… Within a month of my father’s death…… to jump so quickly into a bed of incest’ (1.2 141-143) It was Hamlet’s word to inspire his mother who was not innocent.

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Theme of Feminism in Hamlet. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 3, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/theme-of-feminism-in-hamlet/
“Theme of Feminism in Hamlet.” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/theme-of-feminism-in-hamlet/
Theme of Feminism in Hamlet. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/theme-of-feminism-in-hamlet/> [Accessed 3 Oct. 2023].
Theme of Feminism in Hamlet [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 29 [cited 2023 Oct 3]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/theme-of-feminism-in-hamlet/
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