How queenly is the current queen in Shakespeare’s tragic drama Hamlet? Is she an unprincipled opportunist? A passion-dominated lover? A wife first and mother last? Let’s study her life in this play.
Courtney Lehmann and Lisa S. Starks in “Making Mother Matter: Repression, Revision, and the Stakes of ‘Reading Psychoanalysis Into’ Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet,” comment on the contamination of the queen in Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
Hamlet, a play that centres on the crisis of the masculine subject and its “radical confrontation with the sexualized maternal body,” foregrounds male anxiety about mothers, female sexuality, and hence, sexuality itself. Obsessed with the corruption of the flesh, Hamlet is pathologically fixated on questions of his own origin and destination — questions which are activated by his irrepressible attraction to and disgust with the “contaminated” body of his mother. (1)
At the outset of the drama, Hamlet’s mother is apparently disturbed by her son’s appearance in solemn black at the gathering of the court, and she requests of him:
Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity. (1.2)
The queen obviously considers her son’s dejection to result from his father’s demise. She joins the king in asking Hamlet to stay in Elsinore rather than returning to Wittenberg. Respectfully the prince replies, “I shall in all my best obey you, madam.” So at the outset the audience notes a decidedl…
… middle of paper …
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Lectures and Notes on Shakspere and Other English Poets. London : George Bell and Sons, 1904. p. 342-368. http://ds.dial.pipex.com/thomas_larque/ham1-col.htm
Jorgensen, Paul A. “Hamlet.” William Shakespeare: the Tragedies. Boston: Twayne Publ., 1985. N. pag. http://www.freehomepages.com/hamlet/other/jorg-hamlet.html
Lehmann, Courtney and Lisa S. Starks. “Making Mother Matter: Repression, Revision, and the Stakes of ‘Reading Psychoanalysis Into’ Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet.” Early Modern Literary Studies 6.1 (May, 2000): 2.1-24 .
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html No line nos.
The Weaker Sex in Macbeth
The Weaker Sex in Macbeth
Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth exhibits a minimum of women among its dramatis personae. And of the two involved in the drama, only one is worthy of consideration – Lady Macbeth. The witches are questionable humans, but will be treated briefly.
In “Macbeth as the Imitation of an Action” Francis Fergusson enlightens the reader concerning the fears weakening Lady Macbeth:
I do not need to remind you of the great scenes preceding the murder, in which Macbeth and his Lady pull themselves together for their desperate effort. If you think over these scenes, you will notice that the Macbeths understand the action which begins here as a competition and a stunt, against reason and against nature. Lady Macbeth fears her husband’s human nature, as well as her own female nature, and therefore she fears the light of reason and the common daylight world. (108)
Clark and Wright in their Introduction to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare contradict the impression that the female protagonist is all strength:
Lady Macbeth is of a finer and more delicate nature. Having fixed her eye upon the end – the attainment for her husband of Duncan’s crown – she accepts the inevitable means; she nerves herself for the terrible night’s work by artificial stimulants; yet she cannot strike the sleeping king who resembles her father. Having sustained her weaker husband, her own strength gives way; and in sleep, when her will cannot control her thoughts, she is piteously afflicted by the memory of one stain of blood upon her little hand. (792)
In “Memoranda: Remarks on the Character of Lady Macbeth,” Sarah Siddons comments on how the feminine role of the leading lady is not a typical one as regards attitude:
[Macbeth] announces the King’s approach; and she, insensible it should seem to all the perils which he has encountered in battle, and to all the happiness of his safe return to her, — for not one kind word of greeting or congratulations does she offer, — is so entirely swallowed up by the horrible design, which has probably been suggested to her by his letters, as to have forgotten both the one and the other. It is very remarkable that Macbeth is frequent in expressions of tenderness to his wife, while she never betrays one symptom of affection towards him, till, in the fiery furnace of affliction, her iron heart is melted down to softness.