Intellectual, self-reflective, alienated, and seemingly paralyzed by doubts about both himself and the circumstance in which he is called upon to act as an agent of revenge, Hamlet has come to be considered the quintessential modern hero. For the subject of his drama, Shakespeare turned to a story already popular in English theaters; at least two earlier productions of the sad tale of the Danish prince had appeared in London playhouses. Most of these were bloody spectacles in which almost every character dies in the final act.
English Literature Books Shakespeare, it is claimed by many modern critics, was a feminist. Shapiro for example goes so far as to claim that Shakespeare was 'the noblest feminist of them all'. Essays revenge in hamlet I Essays revenge in hamlet inclined to agree with McLuskie that as Shakespeare 'wrote for a male entertainment', it is historically incorrect to regard him as a feminist.
I believe that Shakespeare because of his extraordinary genius for portraying human behaviour, necessarily depicted the condition of women within a patriarchal system and created women characters which in their richness, transcend the limitations of his time.
In this essay I will explore chiefly Shakespeare's treatment of the three heroine's Ophelia, Desdemona and Cleopatra, of the tragedies Hamlet, Othello and Antony and Cleopatra, beginning with an exploration of Shakespeare's representation of the effects of a patriarchal system upon the characters.
Ophelia, it would seem, wholly at the mercy of the male figures within her life, is certainly a victim figure. Although it has been claimed by critics that Hamlet is unique amongst Shakespeare's tragic heroes for not being to blame for the tragedy of the play, if we are to consider the death of the heroine as part of this tragedy then surely we must question Hamlet's innocence.
In his treatment of Ophelia, Hamlet oscillates between protests of undying love and cruelty such as his cold and accusing speech in the 'nunnery scene'. In short, Hamlet throughout the play uses Ophelia as a tool in his revenge plan. To examine this culpability more deeply however, it could be suggested that it is Queen Gertrude's behaviour that has instigated Hamlet's unforgivable treatment of Ophelia: She transgresses the patriarchal bounds of femininity by marrying so soon after her husband's death and not remaining in passive grief and obedient devotion to his memory.
This provides Hamlet with a model of women's inconstancy. His bitterness leads him to believe that all women are untrustworthy - 'Frailty thy name is woman' and as R.
White puts it, Hamlet projects upon Ophelia the 'guilt and pollution' he believes exist in Gertrude's behaviour. However we view his culpability, Ophelia suffers as a result of Hamlet's patriarchal values of womanhood. With regard to her father and brother, the two direct ruling male forces in her life, Ophelia is also very much a victim.
Unquestioningly obeying their remonstrances against pursuing a relationship with Hamlet, she rejects his advances - which of course she believes to be genuine - and thus when he pretends to be mad she believes it to be her fault.
Her speech reflects her deep and genuine sorrow: And I of ladies, most deject and wretched That sucked honey of his music vows O woe is me. Ophelia's feeling of guilt is reinforced by Polonius's insistence to King Claudius: But Yet I do believe The origin and commencement of this grief Sprung from neglected love Polonius's conviction, in which one can't help believing, stems from a mercenary desire to marry his daughter off to such an eligible husband as the prince of Denmark, rather than a genuine belief in his daughter's role in causing Hamlet's madness.
Thus when Hamlet murders her father, Ophelia enters a double realm of guilt, believing herself to be to blame for both Hamlet's madness and her father's death. As a result she becomes mad. Although at one level this decline into madness sets Ophelia up indisputably as a victim figure, on a deeper level perhaps her madness itself can be seen as Ophelia's active rejection of patriarchal restraint.
Charney Maurice suggests that since within Renaissance drama madwomen were 'more strongly defined than madmen', and women's madness was 'interpreted as something specifically feminine', through depictions of madness dramatists were able to give women a chance to express their selfhood - 'make a forceful assertion of their being' - in a way which patriarchal conventions would otherwise have prevented.
In the later tragedy, Othello, it can also be argued that the tragedy occurs from adherence to patriarchal rules and stereotypes. Gayle Greene summarises this position in her claim that the tragedy of Othello stems from 'men's misunderstandings of women and women's inability to protect themselves from society's conception of them'.
Certainly Desdemona's very much feminised qualities of passivity, softness and obedience are no match for Othello's masculine qualities of dominance, aggression and authority.
After Othello in his jealousy has struck Desdemona and spoken harshly to her, she tells Iago, 'I am a child to chiding'. Protected by a system which makes women the weaker, dependent sex, Desdemona is unequipped to deal with such aggression; she is helpless against Othello.
As Dreher puts it 'following conventional patterns of behaviour for wives and daughters, these women lose their autonomy and intimacy and do not achieve adulthood'. Desdemona thus retreats into childlike behaviour to escape from reality.
With regard to men's misunderstandings of women, Greene points out that Iago's manipulation of Othello - the cause of the tragedy - occurs only because of 'the views of women the moor already possessed'. This is certainly a convincing argument, for Othello all-too-easily accepts a stereotypical view of his wife based on the authority of a male voice.Hamlet Resources Please see the main Hamlet page for the complete play with explanatory notes and study questions for each scene.
Introduction to Hamlet Hamlet: Problem Play and Revenge Tragedy The Hamlet and Ophelia Subplot The Norway Subplot in Hamlet Introduction to the Characters in Hamlet Hamlet Plot Summary The Purpose of The Murder of Gonzago The Dumb-Show: Why Hamlet .
Hamlet Resources Please see the main Hamlet page for the complete play with explanatory notes and study questions for each scene. Introduction to Hamlet Hamlet: Problem Play and Revenge Tragedy The Hamlet and Ophelia Subplot The Norway Subplot in Hamlet Introduction to the Characters in Hamlet Hamlet Plot Summary The Purpose of The Murder of Gonzago The Dumb-Show: Why Hamlet .
Hamlet, in full Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, tragedy in five acts by William Shakespeare, written about – and published in a quarto edition in from an unauthorized text, with reference to an earlier leslutinsduphoenix.com First Folio version was taken from a second quarto of that was based on Shakespeare’s own papers with some annotations by the bookkeeper.
Hamlet study guide contains a biography of William Shakespeare, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. Hamlet is a revenge play.
At this time, Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, this was a very common genre.
It had certain conventions: a villain commits a murder; the son of the murdered man insists revenge; he carries out his duty and pledge, but in so doing destroys himself. In Hamlet, the entire action of. Jonathan Bate is a passionate advocate of Shakespeare and his introductions are full of striking and convincing observations footnotes at the bottom of each page gloss unfamiliar items of vocabulary, paraphrase tricky meanings and uncover bawdy puns.