Feminism in Hamlet

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Despite common belief that Ophelia and Gertrude merely serve as subservient, foil characters among the men in the play, many critics see strong glimmers of feminism within the two. Many feel that the weaknesses in the women are highlighted solely to take attention away from the atrocities that the men commit. In other words, the men fear the weak, feminine characteristics within themselves, so they project the image of promiscuity onto the females in order to secrete their masculine bloodshed. This is found evident in Hamlet’s reaction to Polonius’ death in his infamous scene with Gertrude, where he attempts to “speak daggers to her, but use none.” (3-2-378) Upon the murder of Polonius, Gertrude’s "supposed sin is made to overshadow his actual sin and somehow to justify it." Moreover, it’s only when Ophelia dies that she is finally able to escape the “whore” image that the men in the play had branded her with. She becomes a “worshipped Madonna as Hamlet and Laertes can then safely whore their own self-constructed images of pure love for her as rationale for violence against each other.” (Stanton 179) Furthermore, once Hamlet has been abandoned by his father and engulfed by his mother’s relationship with Claudius, Hamlet believes the only way to remake his mother is to “remake his mother into the image of the Virgin Mother who could guarantee his father’s purity and his own, repairing the boundaries of his selfhood.” (Adelman 31) In order to accomplish this, Hamlet needs to reunify his mother by convincing her to divorce herself from her sexuality. (Hamana 145) Through this Gertrude “remains relatively opaque, [mostly] a screen for Hamlet’s fantasies about her.” (Adelman 34) However, Hamlet is allowed to delude himself in this fantasy and thus gains a calmer, more self-aware perspective. When viewing Gertrude character, it has many correlations with Celtic,
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