Femininity In Hamlet

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One early modern definition of masculinity that still holds true to today is an aversion to femininity. Males were de facto forbidden from displaying or internalising any trace of femininity. Hamlet calls this into question by centring around a protagonist that does indeed display femininity. Tony Howard points out that Hamlet himself is aware of his femininity: ‘my weakness and my melancholy,’ (2.2.520). Melancholy meaning femininity, as Howard shows by drawing attention to a contemporary text stating that melancholy ‘turns a man into a woman’ (Howard, 2007, 18). Shakespeare encourages the audience to question this male ideal requiring unadulterated masculinity by making Gertrude and Claudius disagree on the merit of Hamlet’s femininity. Gertrude positively describes him, calling him ‘As patient as the female dove,’ while Claudius ‘despises his ‘unmanly grief’’ (Howard, 2007, 18). Hamlet’s femininity is hated by Claudius, a lying murderer, and not by Gertrude, one of the play’s most sympathetic characters (even the ghost of King Hamlet requests that Hamlet have mercy on her: ‘O, step between her and her fighting soul’). The audience is left to wonder if they agree with antagonist Claudius’s traditional views, or the more likeable Gertrude.…show more content…
Its own eponymous protagonist seems to be the epitome of anti-femininity. He himself denounces the idea that he could be feminine by comparing pandering to plebeians to being a
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