Timeless Aspects of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark and Trifles
William Shakespeare is considered the greatest playwright, if not the greatest writer in the history of literature. His criticisms of society in his works have passed the “test of time,” and still are as significant today as they were when they were first written. There are many similarities in Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare, and Trifles by Susan Glaspell, written in the early 20th century, that further support the timelessness of Shakespeare’s works. Despite the fact that Shakespeare’s Hamlet was written many centuries ago, his analyses of certain values in society are not only similar to those portrayed in the much more recent play, Trifles, but also to certain issues in modern society such as gender roles, family honor, suicide, and guilty conscience. For this reason, as well as, the complex structure, and intricate characters in the play, Hamlet is considered as Shakespeare’s greatest work of all his thirty-seven plays and one hundred and fifty-four sonnets.
This timelessness of Hamlet is also evident in the many issues and values that it shares with the more contemporary play, Trifles. The most apparent similarity between the two plays is the way women are viewed in each of them. In both plays, women are viewed as inferior to men in many different instances. In Trifles the women are made a mockery of, despite the fact that they are the ones who find the evidence that would eventually solve the murder mystery that the men are working on. At one point, the women find a half made quilt and begin to converse about it, then, the sheriff comes downstairs and says “They wonder if she was going to quilt it or just knot it!” (1621). The sheriff, then, begins to laugh at the women, and, in turn, makes a joke out of them. This is ironic, because the women actually find the key to cracking the case, which is the similarity between the knot on the quilt and the knot on the rope that strangled Mr. Wright. Unaware of this clue, the men struggle, and end up with no evidence to prove who murdered John Wright. Furthermore, in Trifles, the mistreatment that Mrs. Wright has endured from her husband, which has turned her into a different person from her former self, Minnie Forster, is often overlooked. In fact, John Wright has “extinguished” “the light” (Boyle 57) in Mrs. Wright’s eyes, much like the Astronomer has done to his wife in “Astronomer’s Wife.” The little things around the house, especially the bird that the women find dead, with its neck broken, symbolize Mrs. Wright’s mistreatment. According to D. C. Browning in Dictionary of Literary Biography, “the bird is a symbol for all that was Mrs. Wright, and its death represents the death of Mrs. Wright’s spirit.”
Similarly, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark women are also put in inferior roles. One example of this is Ophelia, and how her brother, Laertes, and father, Polonius, take...