Comparing Gertrude And Ophelia In Arthur Miller's Death Of A Salesman

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In literature, the role and function of women varies depending on the author. Particularly in the past, there were playwrights who portrayed women as frail, submissive figures to be used as pawns by men. Some critics find this kind of depiction in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, as well as in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. They consider the female characters in these plays as essentially two-dimensional characters that serve only to help develop their male counterparts' characters. I, however, argue that Gertrude and Ophelia in Hamlet and Linda in Death of a Salesman may be interpreted as prominent characters. I will make my case for this position by examining key comments and actions of each of the three women. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet,…show more content…
It seems as though the men in her life give her no chance to develop an independent conscious of her own, which makes her incapable of living in a world she has no part of. Hamlet’s mistreatment towards Ophelia stems from his belief that all women are deceitful and unfaithful. In Hamlet’s famous line, “Get thee to a nunnery!”, where he commands Ophelia to go to a covent for unmarried woman. Hamlet even insults Ophelia’s father by arguing that married men are fools and marriage should not exist. However, Ophelia’s heart has her convinced that Hamlet loves her, though he swears he never did. Ophelia is trapped in her choice-less existence, contradicted by her obedience to her father and brother and her love for Hamlet. From the start she must define herself by male judgments, however her strength comes to light when in the most gracious way she defends herself against Laertes. “I shall the effect of this good lesson keep as watchman to my heart. But, good my brother, do not, as some ungracious pastors do, show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, whiles, like a puffed and reckless libertine, himself the primrose path of dalliance treads and recks not his own rede” (Act 1, Scene 3, 49-55). After Laertes warns his sister to remain chaste, she points the double standard in his advice. Her remarks demonstrate that she is not weak and is able to voice her opinion when she feels strongly towards the subject at hand. I believe that the contradicting expectations of Ophelia from Polonius and Hamlet caused her to lose her sense of self. As Ophelia’s mother is dead, men dominate her world. She has no way to reconcile the contradictory selves her men demand that she be and therefore loses her selfhood. I argue however, that Ophelia is not a weak women in relation to her death. Her suicide is actually an act of independence and freedom

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