Hamlet’s view of women is indeed critical and suspicious. Act III of Hamlet provides an excerpt that best supports the claim. That is to say, this part: “I have heard of your paintings too, well enough. God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another. You jig and amble, and you lisp, you nickname God’s creatures and make your wantonness your ignorance.”
The line continues: “Go to, I’ll no more on’t; it hath made me mad. I say, we will have no more marriages: those that are married already, all but one, shall live; the rest shall keep as they are. To a nunnery, go.” This line is interesting on several levels:
- Firstly, it depicts the arrogance of Hamlet towards female intelligence in general. Finding himself in the position to judge all women’s intellectual ability is illustrative. It works as a manifestation of his firm belief in his place over another gender.
- Secondly, consider Hamlet’s imperative tone in the last sentence, “to a nunnery, go.” This example of Hamlet’s personal view of women indicates their position at that time. The belittlement of female authority and disinterest in a female voice were common. This powerlessness to decide their destiny represents Elizabethan Drama. During the era, women were not allowed to act in the theater. Therefore, young men took female roles. Even in this aspect, readers can understand the lack of authority women had over their bodies and lives.
- Furthermore, this line from Act III highlights Hamlet’s complicated nature towards women. He states that they are the cause of his disrupted mental condition. He blames another gender for making him a madman. According to him, women drove him to insanity by being mentally corrupt.
- Nevertheless, Hamlet tells Ophelia to go to a nunnery despite being deceitful. Yet, it can also be interpreted as an assault. In Elizabethan slang, the word “nunnery” had two meanings. The first one is a place where nuns lived; the second one is “brothel.”
Female characters in Hamlet are portrayed as voiceless and powerless figures. Nonetheless, they do have an impact on male characters. According to Hamlet, a negative one. There are different interpretations of why he feels this way. For example, they can look at Hamlet’s statements through the Freudian framework’s prism. The article Hamlet: A love story explores the perspective. According to it, the prince’s conflict with women results from the Oedipus complex. His sexual desire and its repression lead to such critical judgment.
This excerpt can be viewed through a formalist lens as well. Then the analysis is entirely different. Readers can see that Hamlet is channeling his misogyny towards Ophelia. However, his anger stems from the conflict he has with Gertrude, his mother. He feels betrayed by her and shows distrust in Ophelia due to her gender.