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Hamlet From A Feminist Perspective Essay

1153 words - 5 pages

Shakespeare’s Hamlet, shows strong prejudice against woman especially with such characters of Ophelia and Gertrude. Shakespeare created an interesting character with Gertrude; he created a character that sits in the middle of all the conflict and appears to not partake in much of it. However Gertrude does seem intent in defusing it at every possible chance she receives. Gertrude is a central figure in the play. She appears a great deal but doesn’t say much – implying mystery and creating an interesting uncertainty in the audience. Hamlet spends a lot of time dwelling on her marriage to Claudius and Shakespeare leaves many questions unanswered with Gertrude such as did she have an affair with Claudius behind old hamlets back? Why does she drink the poisoned wine that is intended for her son? Does she know it is poisoned? Gertrude is the mother of Hamlet and although they do not have a typical mother son relationship she does love him. Queen Gertrude is often interpreted by many as an adulterate, incestuous woman. Catherine Belsey states that typical interpretations of Hamlet maintain: ‘Gertrude a slut; and Shakespeare a patriarchal bard’ (Belsey,1997:34). Gertrude’s actions throughout the play could be read to show her to be a very passive character, far from a strong independent woman. This is shown with her obedience to Claudius, three times during the play, Gertrude is told to leave and each times she complies without hesitation. In Act 1, scene 2 Claudius says to Gertrude, ‘Madam, come’ (122). Then again, Act 3, scene 1, Claudius says to her, ‘Sweet Gertrude, leave us .’ (28), she complies with ; ‘I shall obey you’ (37). And finally, in Act 4, scene 1, Claudius say, ‘O Gertrude, come away!’ (28). This obedience that Gertrude shows is characteristic of a woman who is scared of going against the wishes of her husband, and against his male dominance, Gertrude comes across as only wanting to obey her husband and be the perfect renaissance wife. However her behaviour could be read in a different way and Gertrude could be a very intelligent and clever woman. Feminism has altered our perception of sex and gender; however we are still affected by sexism and gender stereotypes even today. The problematic area that occurs with the feminist premise is that women are equal to men in many areas such as intelligence but not in others such as aggression and strength. This also adds to our acknowledgement of Gertrude's guilt. Patricia Pearson confronts this directly "awkward paradox in feminist argument": if we concede that women are ambitious, like men, and possess a will to power as men do, then we need to concede that women, like men, are capable of injuring others who thwart them. We cannot insist on the strength and competence of women in all the traditional masculine arenas yet continue to exonerate ourselves from the consequences of power by arguing that, where the course of it runs more darkly, we are actually powerless. (Pearson,1992:32) She...

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