• Essay on Anti-Feminism In Hamlet -- Shakespearean …
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Paraphrased in Philip Kolin, Shakespeare and Feminist Criticism: An Annotated Bibliography and Commentary.

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Shakespeare And Feminist Criticism: An annotated Bibliography and Commentary.
Early feminist critics such as Linda Bamber argue that Gertrude's involvement in the death of the former King Hamlet is not really at issue at all. She focuses on Hamlet's fascination with what he imagines to be his mother's sex life.

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In the later tragedy, Othello, it can also be argued that the tragedy occurs from adherence to patriarchal rules and stereotypes. Gayle Greene summarises this position in her claim that the tragedy of Othello stems from 'men's misunderstandings of women and women's inability to protect themselves from society's conception of them'. Certainly Desdemona's very much feminised qualities of passivity, softness and obedience are no match for Othello's masculine qualities of dominance, aggression and authority. After Othello in his jealousy has struck Desdemona and spoken harshly to her, she tells Iago, 'I am a child to chiding'. Protected by a system which makes women the weaker, dependent sex, Desdemona is unequipped to deal with such aggression; she is helpless against Othello. As Dreher puts it 'following conventional patterns of behaviour for wives and daughters, these women lose their autonomy and intimacy and do not achieve adulthood'. Desdemona thus retreats into childlike behaviour to escape from reality.

 

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Indeed, both masculine and feminine characteristics were parts of what the Renaissance considered "human nature" and each gender participated in both sets of characteristics to varying degrees.


Franco Zeffirelli stages the shots which contain both Gertrude and Caludius (Glenn Close and Alan Bates) in such a way that Gertrude always appears to be looking over Claudius' shoulder. The viewer's surmise is that she is looking for Hamlet; trying to assess where she and Claudius stand in relationship to her son. This stresses Gertrude's role throughout as a mother who is trying to reconfigure her family around her new husband. She tries to pull Hamlet in and to smooth over any rupture that might exist. It also becomes Gertrude's role to paint the verbal portrait of Ophelia's death and to deliver an elegy for her.


Hamlet Reading Log- Act III | AP LITERATURE

Thus when Hamlet murders her father, Ophelia enters a double realm of guilt, believing herself to be to blame for both Hamlet's madness and her father's death. As a result she becomes mad. Although at one level this decline into madness sets Ophelia up indisputably as a victim figure, on a deeper level perhaps her madness itself can be seen as Ophelia's active rejection of patriarchal restraint. Charney Maurice suggests that since within Renaissance drama madwomen were 'more strongly defined than madmen', and women's madness was 'interpreted as something specifically feminine', through depictions of madness dramatists were able to give women a chance to express their selfhood - 'make a forceful assertion of their being' - in a way which patriarchal conventions would otherwise have prevented.

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Although bothgenders cried and were "allowed" by the culture to weep (think of all the tears men shed in Julius over the deaths of other men), tears were thought of as "feminine" but not exclusively female.

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A lot rests on the director's view of Gertrude's sexuality. For Linda Bamber, the focus is on Hamlet's assumed fascination with Gertrude's sexual behavior (which she refers to as "sex nausea"). In order to hilite his pornographic imagination, it is essential that his view be incorrect. Director Tony Richardson, however, presents a Gertrude who justifies Hamlet's portrayal of the relationship. He even goes so far as to have Claudius and Gertrude (Judy Parfitt and Anthony Hopkins) conducting matters of state from their bed. Richardson seems to give credence to Hamlet's accusations:

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In Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare again explores the idea of the victim within a patriarchal society. However, in this play the gender roles are inverted and it is Antony who is the true victim. Stifled by the rules of the patriarchal society of Rome which expects him to retain a masculine side only, and not to adopt the feminine qualities of passion, emotion, and love, Antony's control over his life diminishes. Within such patriarchal confines the role of lover must be subordinate to the male's political role. After finding an extraordinary and powerful love with Cleopatra - which Shakespeare establishes to perfection - Antony is unable to accept the 'business first' principle of the patriarchal laws. Like the typical female heroine of a tragedy, Antony's plight escalates when he is rushed into an arranged marriage of convenience. He cannot remain away from Cleopatra and faithful to Octavia who symbolises Caesar and the power of Patriarchal Rome. He says 'though I make this marriage for my peace,/ I'th' East my pleasure lies'. Inevitably he returns to Egypt and Cleopatra, and causes a rift which can never again be cemented between himself and Caesar, which ultimately results in war.