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Dhafinne Fonseca

Mr. Gallagher

English 12CP, Period 2

3 December 2009

“Thy name is woman!”

Hamlet’s view of women is most definitely influenced by his mother’s behavior

after his father’s death. All of his anger and thoughts about women are based on what his

own mother has done. I believe Hamlet is a male chauvinist, Shakespeare says that men

think women are weak, and that women can’t give in to temptation. Hamlet’s views of

women are generalized by one woman, Gertrude his mother.

In act 1, scene 5 Hamlet seeks his father’s ghost, in lines 58-64 shows that the

reason why Hamlet thinks the way he does is because his father thinks the same way.

Ghost Hamlet says:” upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor to those of mine. But

virtue, as it never will be moved, through lewdness court it in a shape of heaven, so, lust,

though to a radiant angel linked, will sate itself in a celestial bed and prey on garbage.”

Ghost Hamlet says that even angels sleep with garbage, he means that no matter how

beautiful or angelical a woman is at the end of the day she will settle for anything. He

says women have lust, women are weak. Hamlet is obviously very disturbed and

bothered by the fact that his mother married his uncle within a month. These very specific

lines spoken by ghost Hamlet highlight the way that Hamlet views women; this shows
that it’s not only Hamlet that thinks this way his father thinks the same way as well. In

act 1 there are many parts at which Hamlet says things are absurd, things that are

excessively imagined about his mother.

In act 1 scene 2 in Hamlet’s first soliloquy lines 147- 164 he is extremely upset

and he says: “must I remember? Why, she (would) hang on him as if increased of

appetite had grown by what it fed on. And yet, within a month (let me not think on’t;

frailty, thy name is woman!)….she followed my poor father’s body like Niobe, all tears-

why she, (even she)….married with my uncle, my father’s brother, but no more like my

father than I to Hercules. Within a month ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears had

left the flushing in her galled eyes, she married. O, most wicked speed, to post with such

dexterity to incestuous sheets! It is not, nor it cannot come to good…” in this soliloquy

Hamlet calls the marriage of his mother and his uncle “incestuous” meaning a violation

of the laws against intercourse between close kin. He is disgusted by the thoughts of his

mother and uncle together. Hamlet directs the insult ‘frailty thy name is women’ at

Gertrude, and in some ways this remark is justified. Hamlet is disillusioned with her

because of her hasty marriage to Claudius. He thinks it is incestuous and at times seems

angrier about it then his father’s murder. Hamlet seams repulsed by sex. By the word

frailty he means moral weakness, flaw, and a defect that all women do not have the

liability to yield to temptation. Hamlet only sees the incestuous behavior from Gertrude

though and as for him, she represents women in general, he is suspicious of all women.

Hamlet says how sad she was after his father’s death that “ she followed my poor

father’s body like Niobe…” in Greek mythology Niobe was a woman filled with grief at

the lost of her children that she could not cease crying, she was transformed into a stone
from which water continually flowed. He makes this comparison to Niobe to contrast the

fact that she remarried not only to another man but to his uncle, his father’s brother

within a month of his death. He also adds that the salt from her tears had not even dried

form her face, and yet she remarried meaning that there wasn’t even enough time for her

to get over King Hamlet’s death, but yet she married.

In act 1 scene 5 he promises to remember the Ghost, and not harm his mother But

immediately afterwards he disobeys the Ghost's command to "taint not thy mind" against

his mother, and exclaims "O most pernicious woman!" lines 111-112 the thought of his

mother brings with it the thought of his step-father and Hamlet cries out "O villain,

villain, smiling, damned villain!". "One may smile . . . and be a villain." “O my prophetic

soul!” he cries (act 1 scene 5). The ghost exhorts Hamlet to seek revenge, telling him that

Claudius has corrupted Denmark and corrupted Gertrude, having taken her from the pure

love of her first marriage and seduced her in the foul lust of their incestuous union. But

the ghost urges Hamlet not to act against his mother in any way, telling him to “leave her

to heaven” and to the pangs of her own conscience. Gertrude's marriage to Claudius has

shaken up Hamlet's world, leaving him with a sense that the world is contaminated, like

an "unweeded garden" that's "rank and gross in nature" (act 1 scene.2). His disgust with

Gertrude also seems to spread out to encompass all women. Hamlet’s anger towards his

mother surpasses the fact that she is HIS mother, and for him to even plot such revenge

knowing that it will potentionally hurt his mother and possibly kill her. His hatred speaks

louder than his relationship with his mother, its almost as if Gertrude was not his mother.
Shakespeare created the interesting character of Gertrude. Gertrude is wholly

ignorant of Claudius' successful plot against her first husband and equally oblivious of

Hamlet's tenderly possessive feelings towards her. Hamlet’s characterization illuminates’

the theme because he shows that its not only him that thinks this way, all the men in the

story think the same way. Though there has not been many line of Ophelia I can imagine

that the way Hamlet thinks about his mother that it will not be different about the way he

thinks about Ophelia. Hamlet is a character that has anger and grief because his father has

died and now that he knows that his very uncle King Claudius killed his father the anger

in him will continuously grow. Modern legends suggest women look at a man's

relationship with his mother to predict how they will treat other women in their life. A

characteristic of Hamlet's personality is to make broad, sweeping generalizations and

nowhere is this more evident than in his treatment toward women. His characterization

illuminates the theme because it proves that he is a male chauvinist, and is repulsed by all

women.