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Hamlet”: A Misogynist

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Shakespeare’s literature has given his audience the grounds to believe that his tragic hero Hamlet is somewhat of a misogynist. A misogynist can be defined as a man who shows exaggerated aversion towards women. The word “misogynist” comes from ancient Greek words “misein” meaning hate and “gyne” meaning women. Hamlet’s demeanor leads the reader to believe that Shakespeare could have shared the same views as his protagonist Hamlet. In the play, there are many examples of speech from Hamlet, which convey misogynic beliefs. These quotes are directed at both his mother, Gertrude, and to some extent his “love,” Ophelia. Hamlets remarks at the two women in his life can lead a reader to believe he is a misogynist.

The way Ophelia is treated by Hamlet shows his vision towards all women. He treats Ophelia as just another women as he judges her like the rest, who are all the same. He says “Or, if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them” (Act 3, Scene 1, Line 136-138). The way Hamlet speaks to Ophelia in the play shows his belief of how women manipulate the men in his society at the time. When Hamlet says “if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them,” he generalizes women in two different views. In one sense, he is stating that all women seduce men as a way to get what they want or in other words, manipulation. The other way to look at this statement is by taking the comment on marriage, and interpreting it as how all women believe that they can trick their foolish husbands, and cheat on them. Hamlet considers marriage a trap for men set by all women and that only the foolish men fail to realize it for what it is. Ophelia is made to be the love of the hero in the play, but Hamlet views her and all women as unfaithful and deceiving individuals.

Hamlet can be seen to treat women poorly but he also regards his mother in the same manner. Soon into the play, Hamlet realizes that his mother is just like the rest of the women in his world. His mother Gertrude, soon after her first husband passed, didn’t spend much time in finding her new partner. Hamlet shows his feelings towards his mother in his first soliloquy. He states “Let me not think on ‘t. Frailty, thy name is woman! A little month, or ere those shoes were old…” (Act 1, Scene 2, Line 146) In this passage, Hamlet expresses a lot of his feelings for his mother and women in general. He begins by saying “Frailty, thy name is women,” which is interpreted as “women you are so weak.” This is Hamlet saying that women are pathetic and are not sure of them-selves. He also goes as far as saying that even a beast would mourn the death of its partner longer then his mother did his father as she remarried under a month time. Comparing his mother to a beast demonstrates how he believes his mother showed no compassion to her husband and how women cannot be trusted. Further into the soliloquy, Hamlet speaks of how his mother remarried before the tears from his father’s death had dried, which exaggerates how quick his mother decision of betraying loyalty to Old Hamlet took. Hamlet is obviously disgusted at his mother and he sees her and the rest of women in general as soft and disloyal

The one scene in “Hamlet”, which shows the most disregard for women is that of which he gets Gertrude, Ophelia and King Claudius to quiet in thought. This is the scene where Hamlet holds a play, “The Mousetrap” in which he plans to catch the conscience of Claudius into admitting that he murdered Hamlets father, Old Hamlet. The scene begins with hamlet giving advice to the actors before he leaves into the stands to sit and watch. As he sits beside Ophelia he says, “Lady, shall I lie in your lap?”(Act 3, Scene 2, Line 109) asking Ophelia to lay his head between her lap, which turns into an awkward conversation involving sex. In this conversation, Hamlet immediately takes a higher position and is the one asking the questions having Ophelia respond to his questions with yes and no answers. Hamlet treats Ophelia as a lesser form of human in the scene and in the whole play.

As that section continues, Hamlet and Ophelia’s conversation continues to lead up to an important line in the play. When Ophelia says ” ‘Tis brief, my lord” referring to the prologue of the play set up, Hamlet goes “As woman’s love” directed towards his mother who was sitting with King Claudius. After he hounds Ophelia making her feel weak as a women he directs a comment, which points out Queen Gertrude’s unfaithfulness. This makes not only Ophelia and Gertrude quiet but also Claudius as they all know that his words are true and proven by the actions which have occurred in the last month. Hamlet gets both his mother and his “love” in one time, making them both see themselves the way he does, deceitful.

The way Hamlet speaks to the two women in his life allows us to consider him a misogynist. In one way, the character Hamlet can be seen as an interpretation of the thoughts of Shakespeare himself. He uses many quotes in his plays, which make his central character, Hamlet, a misogynist. His quotes are directed at his “love” Ophelia and his mother Gertrude, demeaning them both. There are only two main women in Hamlet and within the play, Hamlet makes repeated feministic remarks on both of them. Ophelia is considered crazy in the play and Gertrude is portrayed as a very unloyal wife. Hamlets views of all women are reflected on the views he has of Gertrude and Ophelia. Hamlet’s views have been repeatedly proven to be misogynistic.

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