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The Understatement of Women

Women could just be named dummies. That is how they are repeatedly exposed within
Shakespeares plays. As an audience, we see them struggle with confusion as they live throughout their
societies. History speaks about how women of the Middle Ages were to overlook themselves, and to
more devote their attention and life to their families. Most of these women had little to none education,
therefore they could be a bit nave. This caused them to be blindsided to reality. They dont recognize
when someone is using them. To go a step further, these women are property, without any rights of
their own. Shakespeare does a marvelous job portraying exactly this with the book Hamlet. People of
the period saw women as nave. The idea of a classic husband and wife relationship was also portrayed
throughout the book. Shakespeare uses two women, Ophelia and Gertrude to show how easily fooled
and manipulated women can be. Each woman falls unto the manipulation of a man. Until overpowering
is completed, women will just be categorized as nave. These women may get tired of feeling
overpowered causing them to feel the need to defeat mans power.
Mans power revolves around the ability to control and to manipulate. Queen Gertrude is under
such power. She has lost her late husband to death, but is not quite aware of how she truly lost her late
husband, murder. Queen Gertrude decides to move on with her life and pick up the broken pieces. By
moving on, she marries her late husbands brother, King Claudius. Little does she know, she has just
married her late husbands murder. Hamlet, the son of Queen Gertrude is very disturbed by her actions.
He struggles with the mourning of his father and begins to form hatred for his step father-uncle as well
as his mother. Queen Gertrude is appalled by his demeanor and tries to encourage Hamlet to move on
just as she did. Good Hamlet, cast thy knighted color off, and let think eye look like a friend on
Denmark. Do not forever with thy vailed lids seek for thy noble father in the dust. Thou knowst tis
common. All that lives must die, passing through nature to eternity (25). Queen Gertrude does not
really seem to understand why Hamlets fathers death weighs so heavy on him; she explains that death
is common and that everyone must go. Hamlet informs his mother, that something much more is
deterring him. Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not seems.
Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother, Nor customary suits of solemn black, Nor
windy suspiration of forced breath, No, nor the fruitful river in the eye, Nor the dejected
havior of the visage, together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief, that can denote
me truly. These indeed seem, For they are actions that a man might play. But I have
that within which passeth show, these but the trappings and the suits of woe (25-
26).When will she understand?
When will Queen Gertrude also understand that she is a victim of manipulation? There
is a question if King Claudius married Queen Gertrude for love and all the right reasons, or did
he marry her to conquer Denmark and for all the wrong reasons? Not knowing that Claudius
has murdered her late husband, she decides to marry him. She gives all of her trust and loyalty
to Claudius. Did she make the right decision? Does Claudius really care for his nephew-son
Hamlet? Or is he pretending to be caring and loving just so he can gain more trust with the
Queen in hopes of hiding his dirty little secret.
Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet, To give these mourning duties to
your father. But you must know your father lost a father, that father lost, lost his, and
the survivor bound. In filial obligation for some term to do obsequious sorrow. But to
persever in obstinate condolement is a course of impious stubbornness. Tis unmanly
grief. It shows a will most incorrect to heaven, a heart unfortified, a mind impatient, an
understanding simple and unschooled. For what we know must be and is as common as
any the most vulgar thing to sense, why should we in our peevish opposition take it to
heart? Fie! Tis a fault to heaven, a fault against the dead, a fault to nature, to reason
most absurd, whose common theme is death of fathers, and who still hath cried, from
the first corse till he that died today, This must be so. We pray you, throw to earth this
unprevailing woe, and think of us as of a father. For let the world take note, you are the
most immediate to our throne, And with no less nobility of love than that which dearest
father bears his son do I impart toward you. For your intent in going back to school in
Wittenberg, it is most retrograde to our desire, and we beseech you, bend you to
remain here un the cheer and comfort of our eye, our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our
son (27).
Queen Gertrude is so blind, that she doesnt question whether King Claudius love is genuine of
her son as well as herself.
The act of being blind by Claudius's real intentions is not the only issue here. Given that Queen
Gertrude has married her husband's brother, isn't that referred to as Adultery? Hamlet confronts his
mother about her hideous actions. He announces all the crimes she has committed unto his beloved
father. As a reaction, Gertrude lies not only to herself, but also to others. She lies about the
consequences of her actions. But you must ask the question, why? Why does Queen Gertrude feel the
need to lie about her wrong doings? It is projected that she lies to protect. She must lie to keep others
safe emotionally and physically.
"Look here upon this picture and on this, the counterfeit presentment of two brothers.
See what a grace was seated on this brow, Hyperion's curls, the front of Jove himself, an
eye like Mars' to threaten and command, a station like the herald Mercury new lighted
on a heaven kissing hill,...this was your husband. Look you now what follows. Here is
your husband, like a mildewed ear blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes?
Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed and batten on this moor? Ha! Have you
eyes? You can not call it love, for at your age the heyday in the blood is tame, it's
humble and waits upon the judgement; and what judgement would step from this to
this?(Sense you have, else could you not have motion; but sure that sense is apoplexed;
for madness would not err, nor sense to ecstast was ne'er so thrilled, but it reserved
some quantity of choice to serve in such a difference.) What devil was 't that thus hath
cozened you at hoodman-blind? [eyes without feeling, feeling without sight, ears
without feeling, feeling without sight, ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all or
but a sickly part of one true sense could not so mope.] O shame, where is thy blush?
Rebellious hell, if thou canst mutine in a matron's bones, to flaming youth let virtue be
as wax and melt in her own fire. Proclaim no shame when the cimpulsive ardor gives the
charge, since frost itself as actively doth burn, and reason (panders) will" (175).
When Hamlet begins to interrogate her about her wrong doings, she suddenly realizes why her
actions are so wrong. "O Hamlet, speak no more! Thou turn'st my eyes into my (very) soul, and there I
see such black and (grained) spots as well (not) leave their tinct"(175). Is guilt taking over Queen
Queen Gertrude obviously did not know her son that well. Along with her husband Claudius, she
though Hamlet acted so crazy and distraught because of his possible love for Ophelia. Claudius decides
to put the thought to test by overseeing a conversation between Ophelia and Hamlet. "Sweet Gertrude,
leave us too, for we have closely sent for Hamlet hither, that he, as 'twere by accident may here affront
Ophelia. Her father and myself (lawful espials) will so bestow ourselves that seeing unseen, we may of
their encounter frankly judge, and gather by him as he is behaved, if't be the affliction of his love or no
that thus he suffers for"(125). Being the controlled and manipulated woman that she is, Gertrude steps
aside and let the job be done. "I shall obey you. And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish that your good
beauties be the happy cause of Hamlet's wildness. So shall I hope your virtues will bring him to his
wonted way again, to both your honors"(125).
Last but not least, Shakespeare uses Queen Gertrude to show how women were portrayed as
nave and controlled back in the old days, how she denies the fact that Claudius had anything to do with
her late husband's death. "A murder and a villain, a low-life who's not worth a twentieth of a tenth of
your first husband- the worst of kings, a thief of the throne, who took the precious crown from a shelf
and put it in his pocket"(177). When this information is presented to her by Hamlet, all she can do is
deny and say, "STOP." Queen Gertrude denies Hamlets theory of Claudius being the murder of his
brother. She is so busy being controlled and manipulated by Claudius that she overlooks the fact that
maybe what Hamlet is saying just may be true. Being that she is controlled, even if she has any
suspicion, she remains quiet and does not let her wonders show. She continues to remain loyal to
Claudius despite her son's accusations.
Other than Queen Gertrude, Ophelia is also controlled and manipulated. First and foremost,
Ophelia is the daughter of Polonius. Everyone, including herself seems to think that she is the reason
why Hamlet has been acting "insane". In the beginning, her brother Laertes warns her to stay away from
Hamlet because he will only bring about heartache and trouble.
"Think it no more. For nature, crescent, does not grow alone in thews and bulk, but, as
this temple waxes, the inward service of the mind and soul grows wide withal. Perhaps
he loves you now, and now no soil nor cautel doth besmirch the virtue o his will, but you
must fear. His greatness weighed, his will is not his own, for he himself is subjects to his
birth. He may not, as unvalued persons do, carve for himself, for on his choice depends
the safety and health of this whole state. And therefore must his choice be
circumscribed unto the voice and yielding of that body whereof he is the head. Then if
he says he loves you"(41).
Disregarding her brothers warnings, Ophelia insists that Hamlet truly loves her.
Hamlet is using Ophelia so that people will think he is really insane because of her. He acts as if
he is really in love with her, but poor Ophelia does not know what to think. She has a conversation with
her father and lets him know about the offers Hamlet has proposed. "He hath, my lord, of late made
many tenders of his affection to me(45). "Affection! Pooh, you speak like a green girl, unsifted in such
perilous circumstance. Do you believe his "tenders," as you call them"(45)? "I do not know, my lord,
what I should think"(45). "Marry, I'll teach you. Think yourself a baby that you have ta'en these tenders
for true pay, which are not sterling. Tender yourself more dearly, or not to crack the wind of the poor
phrase, running it thus- you'll tender me a fool"(46). Along with her brother Laertes, her father has also
tried to warn Ophelia of Hamlet's intentions, but will she listen?
Ophelia has not only let Hamlet control her mind and heart, but she has let her father
manipulate her as well. Polonius demanded that she not see the love of her life which is Hamlet because
of his awful intentions. Ophelia obeys and Hamlet reacts in a crazy way. "At last, a little shaking of mine
arm and thrice his head thus waving up and down, he raided a sigh so piteous and profound as it did
seem to shatter all his bulk and end his being. That done, he lets me go, and, with his head over his
shoulder turned, he seemed to find his way without his eyes for out o' doors he went without their
helps, and to the last bended their light on me"(79). Her father questions her to see if she has done
anything to make Hamlet mad, but she replies that she has ignored Hamlet just as he has commanded.
"No, my good lord. But as you did command I did repel his fetters and denied his access to me"(79). As
you can see, Ophelia has dug herself deeper into the world of control and manipulation by a man.
Ophelia is unaware that she is being manipulated by man. She is unaware that she is simply
being used like a pawn. Both Claudius and Hamlet is using Ophelia as one. Claudius uses her as a pawn
to see if Hamlet is really acting insane because he is in love with her. "Sweet Gertrude, leave us too, for
we have closely sent for Hamlet hither, that he, as 'twere by accident may here affront Ophelia. Her
father and myself (lawful espials) will so bestow ourselves that seeing unseen, we may of their
encounter frankly judge, and gather by him as he is behaved, if't be the affliction of his love or no that
thus he suffers for"(125). Hamlet uses Ophelia as a pawn so that he can allow others to think that he is
insane because of her. This action is just a disguise. Though, he loves Ophelia, he is not insane, and
definitely not in love with her like they think he is. During the conversation, Hamlet lets it be know that
he does not love Ophelia and he denies giving her any offerings that she so seems to talk about. He only
does this because he knows that he is being watched. "Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play
the fool now where but in 's own house. Farewell."(131).
Ophelia lets all the confusion, manipulation, and the stronghold of control over her, get to her.
She lets all these acts overwhelm her. In the end, Ophelia is the one who becomes insane, but not for a
show. After her father is killed by Hamlet, she looses it. But, despite the fact that Hamlet is the murder
of her father, she still loves Hamlet. "Where is the beauteous Majesty of Denmark"(207)? This is because
she has been truly manipulated and brain washed by her love for Hamlet. With nothing left to do,
Ophelia decides to take her life. "One woe doth tread upon another's heel, so fast they follow. Your
sister's drowned, Laertes"(233). Ophelia could no longer take the life she was living, so she decided to
end it.
This play, Hamlet, has been an illustration of how women were labeled in the days of
Shakespearian times. Shakespeare used men within this play to dictate what the women did and how
they felt. Ophelia and Queen Gertrude were manipulated by a common tool, LOVE. Love can make
people do some strange things. These women were so in love that they were blinded to the reality of
their society those they lived in.

Shakespeare, William, and Edward Hubler. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. New York: New
American Library, 1963. Print.