Women and Frailty in Shakespeare's Hamlet

1342 words 6 pages
Women and Frailty

The two women in Shakespeare's tragic play Hamlet play larger parts than meets the eye. These two women embody the saying, "there are no small parts, only small actors." While Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, and Ophelia, Hamlet's lover, are very different and lead different lives, they suffer similar fates. Both women have control not of their lives but of their deaths.Gertrude and Ophelia are anything but independent women. The two women need and rely on the strength of the men in their lives. Once they stray away from these influential men, the women find their ultimate demise.
Gertrude, the Queen of Denmark, appears to have no genuine thoughts. She agrees with her husband each time he opens his mouth. While Hamlet
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What devil was't/ That thus hath cozened you at hoodman-blind?/ Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,/ Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all,/ Or but a sickly part of one true sense/ Coul not so mope./ O shame, where is thy blush? Rebellious hell,/ If thou canst mutine in a matron's bones,/ To flaming youth let virtue be as wax/ And melt in her own fire. Proclaim no shame/ When the compulsive ardor gives the charge,/ Since frost itself as actively doth burn,/ And reason panders will. (III, iv, 72-89)
Hamlet viciously attacks his mother for her marriage to Claudius. He calls her stupid and says that she has no sense. What Hamlet may not have considered was his mother's dependence on a male figure in her life. Without her husband, Gertrude may have thought that she needed a King to help her not only rule the country, but rule her own life. Gertrude shows a glimmer of strength when she lies to her husband. While speaking with her song, Hamlet reveals that he wants to kill the King and that he not actually mad. Gertrude hides this from her husband. When asked by the King how Hamlet is, Gertrude replies, "Mad as the sea and wind when both contend/ Which is the mightier" (IV, i, 7-8). Gertrude shows that she can develop her own ideas but her newly formed independence leads her to make mistakes. At the end of the play, Gertrude raises a glass to drink to her son. The King yells out for Gertrude to not drink the wine. Instead of listening to her husband,


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