Examine how Shakespeare presents the female characters in Hamlet and what the response of a modern audience might be to this aspect of the play.

Essay by wingisCollege, UndergraduateA+, March 2008

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William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" presents an ambiguous theme concerning women's importance in Elizabethan era, specifically their relevance in the royal court. The female characters, Ophelia and Gertrude, are both victims of Hamlet's insanity and eccentric accusations, he names them "Monsters" and "smiling damned villain"s. Ophelia's responses to Hamlet's allegations are sorrowful and loving "Heavenly Powers restore him" , she does not apprehend his contradictory moods, as on the one hand he says "I did love you once" and then denies "I loved you not". After the death of her father Polonius, the King's personal advisor, Ophelia turns to madness. "Not allowed to love and unable to be false, Ophelia breaks. She goes mad rather than gets mad. Even in her madness she has no voice of her own, only discord of other voices and expectations, customs gone awry." ( Leverenz, 1992). The relationship between Hamlet and his mother Gertrude goes through sharp alteration after the death of his father and her remarriage.

The Queen's markedly sensual nature and her passionate fondness for her son provokes Hamlet to even more fierce revulsion. Ophelia and Gertrude highten the theme of love and betrayal surrounding Hamlet. Their significance within the plot is unparalleled, their betrayal causes Hamlet's collapse into madness.

Ophelia as relatively young, innocent and extremely obedient, is the most virtuous victim of Hamlet's revenge. She has been living under her father's control for all of her life. Used to spend her days with needlepoint and flower gathering, "Pretty Ophelia" finds it difficult to cope with harsh realities of life in the middle of corrupted circle of court. Polonius has been overprotecting her in her life of privacy hitherto. When Laertes advises her to be "out of the Shot and Danger of Desire" of Hamlet's, she finds that Laertes' words are "thorny...