Shakespeare 's Hamlet - Subversive Feminist Messages Essay

1144 Words Feb 18th, 2015 5 Pages
Some scholars have interpreted Shakespeare’s works as replete with subversive feminist messages. At face value, the play is extremely sexist. The worth of the women in Hamlet is intrinsically tied to their sexuality. Shakespeare adopts this premise regarding women and adds to it their incapacity to govern themselves. As a result, women succumb to their own sexuality because men establish their power by manipulating women to their own ends. The phallocentric world of Hamlet is sexist, and the only feminist act possible is to exit from it.
The only female characters in Hamlet, Gertrude and Ophelia, derive their self-worth from male judgments of their sexuality. Because women had limited career options, their only economic activity was marriage. As a result, the culture arose to place a premium on the preservation of virginity and chastity. Ophelia is the recipient of this cultural norm. Fearing Hamlet’s ensnarements of his sister, Laertes urges Ophelia to avoid further contact with the prince lest she lose her value: “Then weigh what loss your honor may sustain / If with too credent ear you list his songs, / Or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open / To his unmastered importunity” (I. 3. 28-31). “Honor” is an obvious euphemism for her virginity. The metaphor of weighing out this virginity emphasizes financial transactions, which is further reinforced by the reference to it as a “chaste treasure.” Ophelia faces such judgments from males outside of her family as well.…

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