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An Exploration Of Femininity I Essay

3822 words - 16 pages

An exploration of Femininity in Shakespeare's Tragedies.(Hamlet).In a patriarchal structured society femininity and the female are restricted or defined by the socio-cultural precepts imposed by the male hegemony. Therefore, in order to examine the feminine as presented in Hamlet and other plays, I believe, we must have at the fore-front of our minds the masculine system which surrounds the feminine. For this reason, I propose the most satisfactory means of examining the role of the female is by comparison with that of the male. In order to examine the notion of friendship, bonding and duty between men and women and in purely male relationships, I intend to establish a number of comparisons ...view middle of the document...

This fact is highlighted when Hamlet finally decides to confide in his friend; Hamlet mentions that Horatio is "not a pipe for Fortune's finger/ To sound what stop she pleases" (3.2.70-1). This is echoed in Hamlet's fear that Guildenstern "would play upon me;/[that he] would seem to know my stops" (3.2.373-4). For Hamlet, by the Ghost's commands, has become "easier to be played on than a pipe" (376). Therefore, Horatio distinguishes himself in friendship from that of Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, but also Hamlet himself by not being fallible to Fortune's play .But the bonding between Horatio and Hamlet is not purely defined by the Ghost, or Hamlet's inadequacies. There is also the question of his masculinity. Horatio is let into Hamlet's confidence with the lines: ... Give me that man That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him In my heart's core, ay, in my heart of hearts, As I do thee.(3.2.71-4) Horatio acts in very much the same way as Kent in King Lear. Kent devotes himself to restoring Lear's "frame of nature" to "the fix'd place" of "manhood" (1.4.268, 269, 297). For Horatio is a clear example for Hamlet of male rationality, "noble reason", and therefore is the antithesis for the woman within Hamlet, who "must like a whore unpack [his] heart with words" (2.2.585). Hamlet has adopted feminine characteristics, so Horatio maintains some stability. The reversal of the convention distinctions is prevalent throughout Hamlet and King Lear; in particular on the Heath in Lear, where the normal superiority of Civilisation over Nature is overturned. For example, Edgar's and Lear's naked vulnerability is contrasted with the imagined sumptuous clothes of Goneril and Regan ("Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear'st/ Which scarcely keeps thee warm" [2.4.267-8]).The intimacy and masculine respect between Hamlet and Horatio is demonstrated in the final scene. Hamlet, referring to Horatio, exclaims "as thou'rt a man", and the power of Horatio's feeling is expressed through his lines on Hamlet the 'sweet prince's' death, as his "noble heart cracks". This is a particular formula used again by Kent upon Lear's death; the intimacy and tender warmth of these lines is unmistakable. Horatio's masculinity is more clearly set in focus when contrasted with Ophelia's femininity.The relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia is closely bound up with Hamlet's relationship with his mother; as Hamlet contemplates what he considers to be Gertrude's treachery, so Ophelia suffers his misogynistic rage. Ophelia, the only other woman in the play, becomes an extension of Gertrude (as does the whole of womanhood, "Frailty, thy name is woman" [1.2.146]). This extension is created in Act Three, Scene One, where ironically just Polonius attempts to prove Hamlet's love for Ophelia, Hamlet chooses to deny it. This denial, essentially dichotomous, demonstrates Hamlet's diverging views. At the meeting of Ophelia and Hamlet, the protagonist blames only himself for his loss of...

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