Portrayal Of Female Characters In Hamlet

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Shakespeares portrayal of female characters in the play Hamlet mirrors the way in which women were perceived in his day. The actions of the characters Ophelia and Queen Gertrude are often heavily swayed by the words of the male characters. In the play, the male characters think of the women as archetypes, who do not make choices for themselves, and thus the female characters behave as though they are helplessly caught up in the plot and unable to change their situation’s. Hamlets lover, Ophelia, is by far the most piteous character in the play. Although it was Hamlet who wooed her, and with whom she was intimate it is Hamlet himself who later chastises her for her impious actions. “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. To a nunnery, go,/and quickly too.” (III.i.131), he commands her, leaving her without a response. By saying these words to her he is crassly calling her a harlot, and making to appear that he never really loved her. Ophelia made one decision and that was to love Hamlet, and now he is using her actions to make her feel inferior and sinful. Up to this point in the play, Shakespeare depicted Hamlet as a mad man hell-bent on avenging his fathers suspect death, however: his cruel outburst at Ophelia is not a turning point in the story in which he goes from being a hero to being a cold-hearted oppressor. Hamlet tells Ophelia that she will have to ‘marry a fool’ because ‘wise men’ would know better than to marry her; he yells at her ‘get thee to a nunnery’, and yet the way it fits into the plot makes it seem almost expected. As the plot progresses Ophelia begins to lose her mind, resulting in her eventually suicide, but at no point his Hamlet called out for his harsh words against her in a significant way. Shakespeare makes Ophelia appear helpless; she

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