How Does Shakespeare Treat The Female Characters And Explore The Role Of Women In Hamlet? Considering The Response Of A Modern Audience To This Aspect Of The Play

2265 Words10 Pages
It has been noted in Shakespeare’s text of Hamlet that neither Gertrude nor Ophelia is developed as fully as Hamlet or Claudius; quite simply Shakespeare gives them far less stage time and far fewer lines than the audience or reader might expect. Feminist criticism looks at the ‘silencing’ of these women as an important part of the play’s meaning. A consequence of this ‘silencing’, however, leads feminist critics to examine the ways different productions of Hamlet, on stage and screen, use non-verbal languages to make statements about the place of women in the world of the play. For example, Ophelia takes her fathers advice and warning about Hamlet’s affection for her because of his authority as her father, as such, Shakespeare presents him as authoritarian and insensitive. Shakespeare spices Polonius’s speech with terms of commercial transactions: “tenders for true pay Which are not sterling. Tender yourself more dearly” (Act 1 scene 3 line 105) as such that Polonius questions whether Hamlet’s offers of ‘love’ for Ophelia have any legal or any financial backing. Such criticism reminds the audience forcibly that what they have in Hamlet is something not just to read but also acted and that in performance the words may provide only part of what any audience is asked to respond. A modern response to a modern audience of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is Hamletmachine, by Heiner Müller, who asserts that it is not ‘man’ who has suffered the most egregious enslavement and abasement. The play does not shy away from the litany of horrific victimization to which Ophelia and other women have been subjected. Feminist criticism has also explored the ways in which readers, audiences and other artists have responded to Shakespeare’s Gertrude and Ophelia, particularly through paintings, an icon of women as victims, for example British artist John William Waterhouse painted portraits of
Open Document