Inequality In Gertrude And Ophelia

1021 Words5 Pages
In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir writes that “from patriarchy’s earliest times [men] have deemed it useful to keep woman in a state of dependence” (193), and indeed, nowhere is this intent more evident than in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The Elizabethans were a deeply patriarchal society; women were expected to be meekly subordinate and as such were deprived of any legal independence or right to self-expression. Accordingly, the characters of Hamlet, most notably the titular character, often express extraordinarily misogynistic views. Logically, it would follow that Hamlet’s female characters—Gertrude and Ophelia—would be one-dimensional and submissive, serving only to further Hamlet’s story. However, in actuality, both women defy the traditional Elizabethan standard of femininity—Gertrude in her sexuality, and Ophelia in her madness—serving to create tension in the story and elicit unease in the audience. In Shakespeare’s day, the ideal woman was revered for her youth, beauty, compliance, and purity. Gertrude stands in stark contrast to the ideal, the antithesis of the traditional standard of femininity. When accused by Hamlet of “[living] … in corruption” (3.4.103-5), Gertrude denies nothing, never pretending to be anything but a sexual being. Neither is Gertrude young, nor is she compliant in any way—she routinely defies the wishes of those who, socially, would have been considered her “superiors.” Following the announcement of her marriage to Claudius, Hamlet
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