Women In Hamlet

Words: 1101
Pages: 5

Women are often thought as weak, powerless, and obedient, yet literary works written throughout time prove this stereotype wrong. The play “Hamlet” is one such example. “Hamlet” follows the journey of Prince Hamlet of Denmark as he seeks revenge on his uncle, Claudius, who is now king due to marrying his mother, Gertrude. The play concludes with almost everyone in the play dead, including Queen Gertrude, King Claudius, Ophelia (Hamlet’s love interest), and Hamlet himself. In “Hamlet,” Shakespeare creates the independent, intelligent characters Ophelia and Gertrude, who present themselves as non-archetypal women, symbolizing how women in Elizabethan times assert strong personal agency through dubious actions.
Ophelia and Gertrude display their
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For example, Ophelia consciously decides to commit suicide by drowning herself. After becoming aware of her father’s death, and suffering from Hamlet’s abandonment, Gertrude describes Ophelia as having “Fell in the weeping brook...To muddy death” (4.7. 235). The powerful imagery utilized in Gertrude’s speech creates Ophelia’s death into a passive action. Gertrude describes her as falling into the water, and merely neglecting to save herself. Furthermore, Ophelia’s “garments” “pull” her down, as if they are self-aware, creating a metaphor for how Ophelia’s suffocation by societal expectations and men’s rule, especially the rule of her father, Polonius, and her brother, Laertes. In this way, Ophelia cognizantly liberates herself from a male-dominated society. She proves herself individualistic through her choice to remove herself from such a patriarchal environment. A mythological allusion is also present in Gertrude’s speech, as Gertrude describes Ophelia as a “native” creature in the water, with her “clothes spread wide”. It appears …show more content…
This intelligence evinces when Ophelia deliverers to the other characters after learning of Polonius’ death: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance...that’s for thoughts” (4.5. 217). One might interpret the each distributed flower as being specifically chosen for the receiver, as each flower holds a deeper meaning, proving the “method” to Ophelia’s madness. Ophelia could be distributing the flowers to the characters in order to reveal their faults. For instance, she may give fennel and columbines to King Claudius, as fennel is representative of flattery, and columbines represent disloyalty and ingratitude. King Claudius is disloyal to his brother --having killed and married his brother’s wife -- and, as a king, he is met with flattery and admiration, adulation that is presented by Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, Polonius, and Osric, showing how these particular plants portray King Claudius’ hidden actions. This motif of flowers demonstrates Ophelia’s observant nature, and how reason and madness are interwoven: madness simply clouds rationale. However, Gertrude demonstrates her intelligence through the hiding of the truth, rather than the revealing of it. For example, upon returning from witnessing Polonius’ murder, Gertrude tells King Claudius that: “He [Hamlet] weeps for what is done” (4.1.191). When describing Hamlet’s murderous