When we say the name Shakespeare, does it sound familiar? It would be pretty shocking if someone said no. Shakespeare is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, Western literature names known to man. If English Literature is recognized anywhere in the world, it is because of Shakespeare himself.
He was not just a writer but an institution. But just like any other larger-than-life artist in the world, Shakespeare’s work has been a center of attention, debate, and criticism, and that too because it has been around for a very long time. It has given people plenty of time to go through it and talk about it.
One of his most famous works is the epic tragedy, Hamlet. Hamlet is the play under discussion because it has many themes set against the backdrop of feminism, so we look at this masterpiece by Shakespeare from a feminist perspective, a Hamlet analysis to be more specific.
Hamlet and Feminism
Harold Bloom, part of the canon school of thought, speaks up about how there is a lack of representation in Hamlet of women, and one of the significant factors of this is that the story is told from the perspective of a male character. There is further analysis of Hamlet that states that women are objectified and sexualized, a key characteristic of Western drama that makes feminists furious.
Harold Bloom supports this claim that women are indeed misrepresented in the play. It seems as if there is hardly anything that feminists seem to not criticize or be happy. Even a Shakespearean masterpiece has led to some conflict regarding the basic women’s “rights.”
According to feminists, Shakespeare’s work is linked deeply with the intense patriarchy typical in those times. Since that is the case, patriarchy would be a key feature and similar literary works. Brenda Cantar, a feminist, states that the differences between the psyche of a man and a woman have a lot to do with many factors. It included historical backgrounds, culture, and experiences.
But if the play is from a male’s perspective, it is no news that it fails to represent the female perspective. Feminists argue this very thing in the light of Shakespeare’s tragedy.
The irony of the situation here is that Shakespeare’s work has been known to man as impersonating all possible human emotion. According to literary experts, Shakespeare has left no stone unturned when it comes to representing humans. However, this vast example of one of his famous plays shows that even Shakespeare might have missed a thing or two here and there.
Feminists who dare to question the mighty Shakespeare’s work had concluded that at a time when these plays were written, male dominance was quite prevalent. Since that was the case, women and their bodies (because that is what most knew them for) were considered “properties” of men.
And feminists highlight that this was a common theme in all of Shakespeare’s works, including Hamlet. On the other hand, since a man writes this, he will not represent the female perspective with such clarity as he did with the male perspective, which is also an added factor.
Misrepresentation of female characters
The two female characters that are a part of the play are Gertrude and Ophelia. In the light of the theme of cuckoldry (a wife’s unfaithfulness towards her husband), it was shown in the play this was the main problem of disturbance in society.
The main point of criticism here by feminists is that Hamlet’s main reason for his anxiety and being upset is shown to be his wife’s unfaithfulness. This portrayal of women being the unfaithful gender is what drives feminists to the point of madness.
In the same way, feminists point out yet another theme of female unfaithfulness where there is whole intense imagery and theme of Hamlet’s mother’s infidelity. And according to the play, it is shown again and again in his behavior. In the play, the queen’s views are not written, but instead, Hamlet’s feelings towards what he thinks of her are shown to be the point of focus.
Ophelia, who is shown to be the “object of Hamlet’s desire” is one of the female characters to be highly objectified in the play. It is like Shakespeare was looking to create trouble with feminists in the future.
The solution in the end
It seems as if Hamlet is a joining force between the canons and defenders of feminism, and it is quite a surprise that there is a common ground between both the parties for a change. With the discussion of Hamlet, both groups can easily give their opinions, and these opinions will not go unnoticed. There is no doubt that is a clear imbalance of gender portrayed in Hamlet, and according to feminists, this can only be done with the involvement of female writers. And these writers should have a say in the story.
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