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A Feminist reading of HAMLET


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What "reading" of HAMLET resonates with you?

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A Feminist reading of HAMLET

  1. 1. A Feminist reading of Shakespeare’s Hamlet
  2. 2. What is feminist literary theory? It is a responder’s perspective (or “reading”) of a text which is focused on: • Women's’ role and value in society as portrayed through texts • Woman as a construct through literature (which means the role and value of females is created and perpetuated by literature / texts?
  3. 3. What to focus on when exploring a feminist reading of Hamlet • Evaluate women’s experience • Analyse the representations of women in the play • Challenge the view of woman as “Other”* • Examine and challenge patriarchal roles • Examine language as a tool of gender construction and gender value / roles • Discuss social versus biological difference • Question / challenge the neutrality of mainstream interpretation (a dominant reading of the play).
  4. 4. *The “Other” • The opposite of “the same” • Used to exclude a group • To subordinate those who do not fit in • Gives justification for the dominance and exploitation of “inferior” groups
  5. 5. Feminist terminology • Patriarchy – in a society the male is the centre of authority – This is what is meant by a patriarchal society • Hegemony – leadership; predominance. – A hegemony is a dominant group or a system that creates the rules we live by • Gender – term used when distinguishing male and female in a variety of disciplines
  6. 6. Women’s oppressions under male domination rarely, if ever, consists solely in depriving women of political and legal rights, but also extends into the structure of our society and the content of our culture and permeates our consciousness.
  7. 7. Do the femalecharacters in Hamlet possess any power? • Claudius: “…our sometimes sister, now our Queen…” (Act 1. sc2) [insert language/textual techniques and analysis] – Power in title only – “Chooses” not to speak or use power • Gertrude: ‘I pray thee, stay with us. Go not to Wittenberg.’ Hamlet: ‘I shall in all my best obey you madam.’” (Act 1. sc 2.) [insert language/textual techniques and analysis] – “Mother power”
  8. 8. How dofemale characters act toward each other? • Gertrude: ‘Alas sweet lady, what imports this song?’ Ophelia: ‘Say you? Nay, pray you. mark.’ (Act 4. sc 5.) [insert language/textual techniques and analysis] – Minimal exchange of dialogue – Silences when the king enters • Gertrude: “Sweets to sweet, farewell! I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife…” (Act 5. sc 1.) [insert language/textual techniques and analysis] – Continued exchange after death – Bond with Ophelia – Hoped for daughter
  9. 9. Are the female characters oversimplified? • Claudius: “…our sometimes sister, now our Queen…” (Act 1. sc 2) [insert language/textual techniques and analysis]  Identity is defined by her relationship to men – Queen status – Hamlet’s mother – Married her husbands brother – No feelings or deep thoughts • “I hope all will be well. We must be patient…” (Act 4. sc 5. 73) [insert language/textual techniques and analysis] – Less simplified character
  10. 10. Are the female characters believable? • Ophelia loves Hamlet and is forced to betray him. She then goes mad after her father’s death. – Emotion and feeling?  – Betrayal of a lover?  – Insane with grief?  • Hamlet: “O god, a beast…would have mourned longer! Married with my uncle!” (Act 1. sc 2.) [insert language/textual techniques and analysis] • “Ho Help!” (3.4.27) [insert language/textual techniques and analysis] – Gertrude’s believability – Lack of emotional attachment – Damsel in distress  weakness – needs a man to “save” her.
  11. 11. What roles to female characters assume inthe play? How are they valued in Elizabethansociety? Has this changedin 400 years? How much?• Gertrude: – Queen – Mother – Lack of voice and willingness – Silences for the King • Ophelia: – Subservient to father – “advised and guided” by brother – Pawn and possession used by all the men in her life • Both female characters are merely male possessions and both female characters have unequal expectations of virtue and “obedience” enforced on them by the male characters.
  12. 12. A Game ofChess Act 3 Scene 1 • Lines 1-88 – Ophelia speaks once – Does not agree or disagree Ophelia: “How does your honour this many a day” (3.1.90) [insert language/textual techniques and analysis] – Incorrect passage of time? – Nervous or embarrassed? Ophelia: “Could Beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with Honesty?” Hamlet: “Ay, truly. For the power of Beauty will sooner transform Honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of Honesty can translate Beauty into his likeness. This was a paradox, but now the time gives it proof. I did love you once.” (3.1.107-114) [insert language/textual techniques and analysis] – Beauty and Honesty (chastity) – Ophelia shifting subject – Hamlet redirecting focus – Male personification
  13. 13. AGameof ChessContinued Act 3 Scene 1 Ophelia: “I was the more deceived” (3.1.119) [insert language/textual techniques and analysis] – By Hamlet’s love – By Polonius  reveals that_______________________________________________________? Ophelia: “And I, of ladies most deject and wretched, /That sucked the honey of his musicked vows” (3.1.154) [insert language/textual techniques and analysis] • obeyed Polonius  ? • Unhappy but complies with being pawn  ? • Ophelia’s love is not valued by Hamlet or Polonius ? Branagh Film?  Checkered Floor – visual metaphor for the game being played as the male characters “move” Ophelia” around the room.  The mirrored gallery  symbolic of recurring motif of ________