Integral Roles Of Women Essay

1392 words - 6 pages

William Shakespeare incorporates many themes and ideas into his play, Hamlet. Of the multiple important ideas, one potentially overlooked is the role of women. Only two of the characters in the play are female. Their lines are scarce, but hold huge importance in relation to the progression and plot of the play. Ophelia, the implied lover of Prince Hamlet, and Queen Gertrude, his mother, do not appear significant, but their actions and characters allow for other events to unfold. Gertrude and Ophelia are manipulated and belittled. In their weak will, they end up betraying Hamlet. Observing their manipulation by other people, Hamlet is able to justify and go through with his actions.
Despite Ophelia’s weak will, the male characters respond dramatically to her actions, proving that women indeed have a large impact in Hamlet. Her obedience is actually her downfall, because it allows the male characters to control and use her in their schemes. Ophelia’s betrayal ends up putting Hamlet over the edge, motivating him in his quest for revenge. Ophelia is one of the two women in the play. As the daughter of Polonius, she only speaks in the company of several men, or directly to her brother or father. Since we never see her interactions with women, she suppresses her own thoughts in order to please her superiors. Yet however weak and dependent her character is on the surface, Ophelia is a cornerstone to the play’s progression. One way that her manipulation is key to Hamlet’s plot is when Polonius orders her “in plain terms, from this time forth/ Have you so slander any moment leisure/As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet,” (1.3.131-133). She complies with his wishes, agreeing to return any tokens of Hamlet’s love to him, verify the source of Hamlet’s madness. So despite her seemingly insignificant role, Ophelia’s actions influence Hamlet’s plan of revenge for his father’s death, as well as Claudius’s plan for the death of Hamlet. Hamlet’s sense of betrayal by Ophelia motivates his desire to seek revenge on Claudius. This is because he knows that somehow, Claudius has something to do with the interaction that he’s just had with Ophelia.
Everyone assumes that Hamlet is mad from his love for Ophelia when he shows first signs of insanity. In Act 3 Scene 1, Ophelia meets Hamlet on request of her father to return any love gifts he gave her, and becomes a catalyst to Hamlet’s breakdown. Hamlet is so furious about her betrayal, he speaks the famous line; “Get thee to a nunnery, go. Farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them,” (3.1.38-41). In this quote, Hamlet tells her that she needs to go to a convent where she is forbidden from reproducing. Hamlet not only offends Ophelia with this extreme insult, but all of womankind. Ophelia has merely handed back gifts he gave her, yet he somehow feels it appropriate to respond with negative feelings towards all of women and reproduction....

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