Hamlet: Patriarchy, Biological Essentialism, And Ownership

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There was No R-E-S-P-E-C-T for Gertrude: Patriarchy, Biological Essentialism, and Ownership in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Hamlet is a play consisting of three sons who seek revenge for their father’s murders, but there are multiple deeper themes Shakespeare explores. He never makes clear though, if Gertrude was part of the mastermind's plan to kill her husband, late King Hamlet, or left in the dark, which in turn makes her character especially interesting. During the original Renaissance performances of Hamlet, women did not have power in society. Instead, they needed to get married and stay out of government affairs, according to Priyanka Lamichhane’s thesis. For example, “...if a wealthy widow chose to live alone, she was often seen as …show more content…

In marrying her husband’s brother, Gertrude eliminated the chance of losing her son Hamlet, because she was still part of the same family. William Shakespeare, in Hamlet constructs a patriarchy invested in biological essentialism, and ownership. As a result, none of the conspirators would have trusted Gertrude with the knowledge of Old King Hamlet's murder.

There is a patriarchy of Denmark throughout the whole play to make clear that Gertrude did not have a leadership role in the kingdom or the main murder. In her report, Lamichhane noted, “Women were expected to perform the duties of a housewife; they had no political rights...This was the case for the majority of women no matter her class...” (ii-iii) One notable example of this is that the Queen was first to die in the final scene. In a toast to Hamlet’s initial success during the sword fight, in Act 5, scene 2, Queen Gertrude decides to drink from the poisoned glass of wine. …show more content…

Because of the patriarchy, biological essentialism, and women being owned by their men, there was no way that Claudius told Gertrude about the plan to murder old King Hamlet. Her family and friends viewed her as too weak both physically and emotionally, dependent on male characters, and inferior in the male society. Women had a very tough life at this time. Men were able to explore their interests and indulge in the innovative ideas of the Renaissance, but women only supported their husbands and sons on these journeys. There was even a new movement called humanism, focused on free thought of humans, but the movement was not extended to women, albeit they are humans too. If men allowed their daughters, wives, and mothers to be more independent, form their own lives, and share ideas, a more equal modern world could have developed

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