Hamlet’s observation on the frailty of women

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is known to the literature world as the sun of English literature. “Hamlet” (1603) is one of the steps in his literary career to be the sun. In this tragedy, we come to know the distinct characteristics of a high-birth society. In this writing, we are going to discuss Hamlet’s observation of the frailty of women based on Gertrude and Ophelia. 

More Notes: Hamlet

Frailty means weakness and lack of health. By the word “frailty” Hamlet means that women are morally and mentally weak. According to Hamlet, another name for women is frailty. This comment comes from the bitterness upon his mother Gertrude. Old Hamlet, the former king of Denmark, died about a month ago. His mother remarries his uncle, Claudius. Through the dialogues of Hamlet, we can understand that Gertrude should not have married very soon. Hamlet cannot endure this. 

The Ghost of Old Hamlet demands revenge but tells Hamlet not to go against his mother. He describes Gertrude as merely weak and lustful. The ghost tells him to focus his revenge entirely on Claudius. In Act 3 Scene 4, Hamlet accuses his mother of the murder of his father. Hamlet thinks of his mother as a partial plotter against his father, as the ghost describes her as a lustful woman. He says that- 

A bloody deed-almost as bad, good mother, 

As kill a king and marry with his brother 

But Gertrude replies soon to him by saying in an exclamation that As kill a king! 

It shows that Gertrude has no part in the murder of Old Hamlet. But it will not be rejected that Gertrude is the indirect murderer of Old Hamlet because Claudius uses her. For this reason, we can treat her as victimized. 

Now, the question is raised about whether Gertrude is responsible for Hamlet’s observation of women. Many critics say that Gertrude is fully liable for Hamlet’s observation of women. Whatever the situation, she should mourn for her late husband for a reasonable time. They argue that Hamlet would not be angry with his mother if she had not remarried Claudius so soon. Gertrude’s this type of activity proves Hamlet’s observation true. 

More Notes: Suggestions

There is a relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia. But her father, Polonius and her brother, Laertes do not allow their relationship. They both warn her about Hamlet’s bad side which is not mostly true for Hamlet. Polonius says her that Hamlet will abuse her chastity and leave her. He takes her promise that she will not spend time alone with Hamlet anymore. 

Besides, in Act 2 Scene 1, Hamlet treats harshly toward Ophelia at the time of his madness. He shows his madness for getting the real murderer of his late father. So, he has treated her like this. Being hurt by Hamlet, she cuts off all relationships with him and rejects his letter. Hearing this, Polonius thinks that he has learned the cause of Hamlet’s madness and goes to tell this to Claudius and Gertrude. 

To conclude, we can see that in “Hamlet”, Ophelia and Gertrude are directed by male powers like Hamlet, Polonius, Laertes, the Ghost, and Claudius. These women share a typical feature named social system or male-dominated. As the play progresses, Gertrude and Ophelia are weakened by outer forces. They cannot express their emotions and are dependent on males. So, we can say that Ophelia and Gertrude prove the validity of Hamlet’s observation of women so far. 

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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