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Portrayal of Women in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Portrayal of Women in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Shakespeare was possibly the first writer to portray women as strong, crafty, and intelligent. However, he has still received criticism from feminists about his representation of women. Some have even accused him of misogyny. There are only two female characters in the play Hamlet – Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother and Ophelia, daughter of Polonius. Any debate based upon gender roles must therefore focus upon these two characters.

Shakespeare portrays Gertrude as a woman of power and intelligence – she was Queen for a considerable amount of time – we can safely assume at least 30 years – and she is asked advice on matters by King Claudius – “Do you think ’tis this?” (II.2.152). Gertrude is a woman who married her own brother-in-law; perhaps to remain in her position of power. It is often debated whether or not Gertrude was involved in the killing of King Hamlet – either way, Gertrude seems to have complied fully in her marriage to Claudius – she doesn’t seem at all offended by Claudius’ presence – perhaps reason to suspect that she was unaware of Claudius’ role in Hamlet’s death, if she was uninvolved.

The ghost tells Hamlet not to judge his mother, or to seek revenge upon her, telling him “leave her to heaven” (I.5.86). This pours doubt upon Gertrude’s ‘guilt’. Further, her seeming innocence, when confronted by Hamlet as she exclaims “As kill a king!” (III.4.31) would indicate her lack of guilt in or even knowledge of, the murder of old Hamlet. Hamlet himself is certainly convinced, as he tries to ‘win her over’, later on in the scene: “Throw away the worser part of it, and live the purer with the other half.” (III.4.158-159).

Gertrude’s apparent innocence would highligh…

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…rch 1897), 70-76. Rpt. in Women Reading Shakespeare 1660-1900. Ed. Ann Thompson and Sasha Roberts. New York: Manchester University Press, 1997.

Pennington, Michael. “Ophelia: Madness Her Only Safe Haven.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. of “Hamlet”: A User’s Guide. New York: Limelight Editions, 1996.

Pitt, Angela. “Women in Shakespeare’s Tragedies.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint of Shakespeare’s Women. N.p.: n.p., 1981.

Sardone, Frances J.: Gertrude: Queen of Denmark, Available:

Shakespeare, William: Hamlet. Published by Penguin 1996.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995.

Celie’s Growth in The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Celie’s Growth in The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple is an award-winning novel written by Alice Walker. Originally published in 1982, the novel tells about a black woman’s life struggles. Celie, the main character, is a dynamic character and changes from an abused, insecure character to a strong, loving woman. She learns to love and fight for the things she needs and desires. Most importantly she fights back against the cruelty by Mr. .

In the beginning, the reader is immediately engrossed when Celie is forcibly raped by her father and forced into an incestuous relationship with him, resulting in the birth of two children. Her fathers controlling character then forces her to marry a man that she does not love. This shows the reader the sense of insecurity that Celie has in the beginning of the novel.

Moving in with her new husband, Mr. , Celie puts up with continual verbal and physical abuse. Regardless of whether or not Celie does what Mr. says, he beats her. This is where Sofia and Harpo’s, Mr. son, relationship comes into the novel. Celie is confronted with Sofia, who she wishes she were like in some ways. She learns a lot from Sofia and Harpo’s relationship; like the fact that a wife does not have to take abuse from her husband. She also learns about Sofia’s outlook on life, which is important to her growth. “You ought to bash Mr. head open. Think about heaven later.” (47).

This quote is said by Sofia while she is talking to Celie. She is trying to open Celie’s eyes and make her realize that she does not have to put up with the way Mr. treats her. This is one of the first steps in which Celie starts to care about her life and makes gradual steps to better it.

Shug Avery enters the novel …

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…ch shows us that she is finally feeling equal or better than the “male” and no longer feels inferior to him, and second, because she finally has control of something of her own, with people who work for her.

Celie’s growth through almost the whole novel is shown through her letters to and from Nettie. The letters are the key to her knowledge of the outside world, and her children. With those letters she sees the world and watches her children grow up. She learns that she is not the only one going through a struggle and it gives her strength to carry on. When she finally gets her own house and is reunited with her sister, it is a huge step in her growth because she goes from a woman who has nothing, to a woman who owns a house and has friends, family and control of her life.


Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. Pocket Books New York, 1982.

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