Ophelia's Representation Of Women In Hamlet Essay

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William Shakespeare was a 16th century playwright, actor and poet, and, a rare breed in the artistic arena. His work was celebrated in his lifetime, popular with scholars, noble men, the poor and both of the monarchs, King James I and Elizabeth I, in whose reign his work was written and performed. His work maintains the cultural status, academic reputation and public popularity through the decades right up to an including the 21st century. However, over the years there has been great debate as to whether Shakespeare’s representations of women were misogynistic and degrading, or in fact just appropriate accounts of the patriarchal society in which he lived. The portrayal of women in Shakespeare’s Hamlet support this theory of gender inequality, particularly through the construction of the character Ophelia. By constructing…show more content…
As the dominating male figures in her life begin to disappear so does Ophelia’s identity. The death of her father and loss of her lover, in Act III, concludes the loss of her defining qualities, unable to find independence in their absence. In the midst of her mental break down Ophelia admits that she can’t help but cry at the thought of her dead father; ‘I cannot choose but weep, to think they should lay him i' th' cold ground’ (Act IV, Scene V). Present at the time of her break down, Claudius clarifies that he too believes the loss of her father has driven Ophelia mad; ‘Oh, this is the poison of deep grief. It springs all from her father’s death, and now behold!’ (Act IV, Scene V). Ophelia’s dependence upon her male relationships leave her without direction or guidance and so Ophelia is eventually driven into madness. An Elizabethan audience would view Ophelia’s madness, and ultimately death, as the appropriate consequence for her promiscuity. Whereas a contemporary audience would believe that Ophelia’s madness developed due to her lack of support during the process of

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