Frailty Thy Name Is Woman: Hamlet’s Attitude To Women

In this exclamation, “Let me not think on it — Frailty, thy name is woman—”, Hamlet is stating that he envisions women as a symbol of weakness. This is one of the first lines that demonstrates Hamlet’s misogynistic personality. In this case, the personality was inflicted due to his anger towards his mother. Due to the heartache he experiences as a result of his father’s death, his misery further develops witnessing his mother’s second marriage. As seen in the next few lines, Hamlet says, “A little month, or ere those shoes were old / With which she followed my poor father’s body'. The negative wording towards Gertrude’s new marriage to Claudius shows his extreme hatred towards his mother because as a woman she couldn’t last a month without a male figure by her side. Essentially, he is saying that womankind is weak, delicate and will always depend on a man. 

In most Shakespearean plays, women are portrayed as frail and incapable of being on their own. In Hamlet, Gertrude is portrayed as weak because she has committed many sins like her incestuous crimes, and potentially assisting with the murder of her husband. In addition, she continuously supports and encourages all that Claudius utters. It is Gertrude’s tragic flaw of poor judgement that led to her downfall. The one time she did not obey Claudius, and drinking the poison in the chalise, she pays her consequence and eventually was poisoned to death. I assume it was a way to show the women in the Elizabethan time period, the outcome of not obeying the standards. 

Another woman Hamlet could have been speaking about is his innocent love, Ophelia. Ophelia’s tragic flaw of being easily manipulated, led to her downfall. She was used in many occasions by Claudius and her own father, Polonius, as bait to test Hamlet’s madness. Polonius speaks negatively about her relationship with Hamlet, Hamlet shows misleading emotions, often leading to mistreating her and the heartache of her father being killed her father, ultimately turns her mad. It is these chains of unfortunate events, that ruins her emotionally and mentally. She is unable to continue with her life because her main thoughts are madness and death. Women in literature such as Hamlet, are reasons why feminism movements should be advancing. 

Back in that day and age when Hamlet was written, women did not have as many rights as men. Often women were presented as inferior to men. It was only up until the late 1900s when they started fighting and gaining their rights to vote and people started movements to raise awareness. If I was born during the time that Hamlet was written and presented, I may have been convinced that women were the symbol of weakness. However, since I am reading this literature in the 21st century, and have seen and heard about the advancement of women's rights, I do not agree with Hamlet’s exclamations.  

16 December 2021
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