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Kyndall Lipsky
Gender Stereotypes in Hamlet
The play of Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare during 1599-1601, depicts the path
of a young man attempting to cope with the death of his father and the remarriage of his mother
to his uncle. Though many trials and tolls of both the main character and a variety of side
characters, the play proves its name as a tragedy. But the play is much more than just trouble on
the surface. Throughout Hamlet, readers are shown effects of internal turmoil, mental disorders,
and gender stereotype, all of which effect multiple characters within the span of the play. Not
only are the women shown with poor judgement and weakness, but the men are mocked for their
unmanly actions. Gender stereotypes within Hamlet cause the characters to become irrational,
which often lead to poor judgement, and sets the foundation for their deaths.
Within one of the first scenes of Hamlet, the reader learns not only has his father died, but
within months his mother, Gertrude, has remarried Hamlets uncle, Claudius. The wedding was a
happy occasion for everyone except Hamlet, who feels his mother has not only betrayed his
father, but downgraded through her second marriage. Hamlet continues to mourn the death of his
father, which displeases his mother and her new husband. Though the reader understands that a
few months is not enough time to move on from a death, especially dealing with a relationship of
father and son, Gertrude blatantly denounces Hamlet for his actions. But Hamlet stays true to his
grief of his father, within reasons, and grows angry towards his mother for the lack of respect she
gives towards his late father.
Gertrude is not the only one who worried that Hamlet is overdramatizing his fathers
death. His uncle, Claudius, grows angry towards him, criticizing, In filial obligation for some

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term to do obsequious sorrow. But to preserve in obstinate condolement is a course of impious

stubbornness, tis unmanly grief (1.2. 91-95) Here King Claudius comments on the grief of a
boys father, calling the boy stubborn and unmanly. Not only is this not the way a man
speaks to a grieving son, but not the way a stepfather should talk to his stepson. Tension is clear
between Claudius and Hamlet from the beginning of the play, and continues until the last scenes.
The comment made by Claudius was rude, uncalled for, and overall unsympathetic towards
Hamlets feelings or the situation, but made the assumption that due to his grieving towards his
father, he was less of a man. Through the unthoughtful words from those surrounding him,
Hamlet becomes enraged at his new step-dad and mother, and begins hatching a plan that could
only lead to pain for himself, and many others.
Hamlet not only is mocked by others, but also receives self-inflicted ridicule as well. It
seems that the stereotype of masculinity was very common, and Hamlet, being a sensitive and
thoughtful character, had difficulty dealing with these issues. Hamlet often has the problem of
overthinking, and even when he attempts to talk about his feelings, is again faced with the
ridicule of his peers. After deciding to catch Claudius by putting on the play, he worries if he is
man enough to proceed. O vengeance!- Why, what an ass am I? Ay, sure, this is the most brave
that I, the son of the dear murdered, prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, must, like a
whore, unpack my heart with words and fall a-cursing like a very drab (2.2.559-564). Hamlets
feelings toward himself are obviously negative, but his dismissive references towards women are
not unpunishable. This is a perfect example of the treatment of woman in their culture, and the
lower class status they held. During the lowest point in Hamlets life, he compares himself to
women, commenting on the comparison of his actions to that of a woman. While men had their

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issues regarding masculinity, women still had lower standings, and increased judgement,
effecting many characters within the play.
Not only are the men in this play perceived incorrectly and based off inaccurate social
norms and assumption, but women have a major problem as well. On many occasions, such as
his discussion with his mother in her room about Claudius and the discussion with Ophelia after
she gave back the love letters, Hamlet has associates a womans actions on her sexual desires,
and not based off reasoning or personal opinion. He blames both his mother and Ophelia, the
opening love interest, for this and both have no choice but to comply with his words and say
nothing towards him.
Ophelia was a young sweet girl, daughter of Polonius, who fell madly in love with
Hamlet. The text leads us to assume they had a sexual history during their relationship, which is
seen by many as unholy, especially during the time period. However, after Hamlet dedicates all
his time to the revenge of his father, he begins to ignore Ophelia. Polonius notices his actions and
immediately forces her to cut off their relationship. This outrages Hamlet, sending him into a fit
of rage and condemning Ophelia, Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of
sinners? I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were
better my mother had not bore me?(3.1 122-125) He not only calls her a whore, but also a liar
and a tempest. Both Hamlet and Ophelia participated in the infidelity, yet Hamlet blames her
solely and continually says he could never marry a non-virgin, though her virginity now lies with
him. This news crushes Ophelia, who is still profoundly in love with him, but as a woman, she
must receive these words without response. This scene shows the double standard, often seen in
society today, where the male is free of judgement, while the female is persecuted for the same

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The play of Hamlet has many amazing characteristics and really dove into the troubles
caused by a family in crisis. But it also brought out issues both within Shakespeares time period
and our society today, such as discrimination between genders and acting accordingly. Often
times men are valued based on their pride, and when any weakness is shown, their manliness
disappears. This is an unfair stereotype, which can cause pent up aggression within the male
characters and create serious damage to themselves and others. As for women in the earlier
times, they were mainly seen for their obedience and sexuality. If they were not pure, or did not
abide by a mans rule, they were often thrown out from their homes. This gives women the
impression they are nothing more than what the man values them, which gives each woman an
unhealthy view towards themselves. Many characters judge others based on their emotion or
actions, and associate them with only one gender, causing hardship and conflict between them.