Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Examine how Shakespeare presents the female characters Essay

Examine how Shakespeare presents the female characters in ‘Hamlet’ and what the response of a modern day audience might be to this aspect of the play. As ‘Hamlet’ was set in the Elizabethan period it is necessary to consider the portrayal of woman in the play as a comparison with women in a modern day society. Similarly to most literature written during this period, ‘Hamlet’ conveys women’s lower status to men. This can be thought of as the stereotypical view in Elizabethan society. We know that women were not even able to act in plays and that young men had to play the parts of women. One of the main ways we may interpret the portrayal of woman is through the language, and in some cases stage directions of various characters, in various scenes. It may be true to say that the characters of Ophelia and Gertrude are portrayed as weak and submissive, this is seen by men as well as themselves. They can be seen to be merely driving factors of the play rather than main elements such as Hamlet. It may also be suggested that due to these facts, the play ‘Hamlet’ may be written differently if written today, in terms of language, in order to suit a modern day audience. It can be argued that the way Shakespeare has presented women, reflecting society in the Elizabethan period, may not be acceptable in today’s society. One of the principle aspects to consider is how female characters are portrayed and therefore treated by others in the play. Ophelia is an interesting character, and it is important to explore her relationships, her language, and also her death prior to concluding her portrayal. This may be noticed in her relationship with the men in her family. In Act one, the relationship shared between Polonius, Laertes and Ophelia may be compared. When looking at Polonius’ relationship with his daughter it may be noticed that he is not quite as willing to give in to her wishes. Instead he gives her strenuous warnings about how to behave in relation to Hamlet. â€Å"Do not believe his vows, for they are brokers†, Polonius tells Ophelia not to believe what Hamlet says to her. . However, he does show his concern for her, because he is warning her to be very careful in this business. Polonius forbids Ophelia to associate herself with Hamlet, telling her that he is deceiving in his declaration of love. It is extremely doubtful that he is simply doing this to deny her of what she wants; however the audience becomes aware of the domination and power he has over his daughter. Another view is that daughters were merely supposed to bring fortune and honour to the family and that Polonius may have been more concerned about his reputation, rather than the happiness of his daughter. Ophelia dutifully obeys her father, responding minimally with â€Å"I shall obey, my lord†. This type of attitude was thought of as normal in the Elizabethan times. It must also be noticed that the protective role of a father over his daughter, and a brother over his sister would not be thought of as abnormal in today’s society. It is the extent to which this protectiveness is present, and the fact that Ophelia shows no intention to disobey their wishes, that would both surprise and amaze a modern day audience. The extent of domination, particularly over a daughter’s personal matters such as marriage would be normal in Elizabethan times. However, similar to today, a father would not be as protective over his son as he would over his daughter. Earlier in Act 1, Laertes warns Ophelia about Hamlets love, describing it almost as youthful infatuation. He explains to her that as Hamlet is a prince he cannot choose his own wife and must marry in the interest of the state. Again, this type of advice and awareness of status would not be criticised by a modern day audience. Laertes’ approach is indeed blunt, and Ophelia is told directly not to be so foolish as to trust the Prince outright. Ophelia says that she will keep his advice as a â€Å"watchman† close to her heart â€Å"I shall th’effect of this good lesson keep as a watchman to my heart†. She hints to him that he should not give her advice that he does not follow himself. â€Å"show me the steep and thorny way to heaven†, â€Å"himself the primrose path of dalliance treads†.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.