Critically acclaimed play ‘‘Hamlet’’- first performed in the Globe theatre in 1602- supports true representations of the Elizabethan Era. Males only had the authority to perform on stage-despite England being ruled by a Queen- reciprocating Shakespeare's link between power structures and gender presentation (thus confirming the patriarchal society and dominance). The only two females in the play are subjected to discriminatory behaviour as well as inequality in treatment.
During Act 1 scene 3 we are introduced to Ophelia for the first time, we learn of her status, but also her feelings of affection towards young Hamlet. During an Elizabethan era women were seen as the inferior gender, and were possessions of their father, brother and husband. Through this intimate scene the audience becomes exposed to the fatherly role in which Laertes offers Ophelia, through his advice not to open her ‘‘chaste treasure’’ to Hamlet’s ‘‘unmastered importunity’’. When Ophelia offers returned words of wisdom - ‘‘recks not his own rede’’- it becomes clear it is more acceptable for men to indulge in casual sex. However, women must remain unchaste as it promised marriage and financial security- men did not wish to marry a woman who was not a virgin; proving the inequality amongst man and woman at this time.
Act 3 opens with Polonius approaching the king with the theory that Hamlet’s affections (‘‘the very ecstasy of love’’) towards Ophelia are to blame for his ‘‘wildness’’. Ophelia becomes objectified, as her father proposes to ‘‘loose’’ her to Hamlet. Elaine Showalter suggests that Ophelia is seen as ‘‘bait’’ due to her inferior position as a female during this era. It is shocking to see such inequality in relation to gender, however an Shakespearean audience would not have regarded this as unusual as a female’s position in society was to solely procreate.
Dustinberre. J writes ‘‘Ophelia has no chance to develop an independent conscience of her own, so stifled is she by the authority of the male world’’ which is particularly true through her father’s murder. Although traumatic, it was unjust to ‘‘self-slaughter’’. Through this scene it becomes impressionable that women cannot function without a man’s guidance in life as they become inadequate without such superiority to look up to. Gertrude's ‘‘o'hasty marriage’’ supports this, as she appeared desperate to remarry to prevent her position of royalty being jeopardised as women were often not taken seriously as they were seen as delicate and incapable. Elizabethan crowds would have related this to Queen Elizabeth, who often exempted herself from female stereotypes by displaying masculine characteristics to earn respect from the nation.
The closet scene supports feminist perceptions of Gertrude. Gertrude is overruled by Polonius (‘‘tell him..’’), which is…