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The Eves of Elsinore

Among the lush grasses and cool springs of paradise, it is She who thirsts for the sinfully
sweet juices of the forbidden fruit. It is She who places her lips to the blood red apple that will
forever stain her tongue with sin. It is Eve who gives into the temptations of the devil, and Adam
subsequently suffers from feminine betrayal. This biblical damnation of womans vice is a
reoccurring theme among literary circles, and William Shakespeares critically acclaimed
Hamlet is no exception. Hamlet suffers from misogynistic tendencies birthed from the similar
complexes witnessed in Eve that plague his female foils. This harsh denouncement of the
feminine spirit exists as a pathway with which Hamlet can attribute to his lack of fulfillment
within himself.
Though there are only two female characters (Gertrude and Ophelia) within the entirety
of Hamlet, the women assert a strong presence that propels the plot and introduces implements of
feminine mystique that both enamor and enrage Hamlet. His warped relationships with Gertrude
and Ophelia contribute to his growing cynicism of humanity. He argues that a woman is a
breeder of sinners, so women are inherently responsible for physically giving birth to all the
evils of the world (Act III, Scene I, Page 55). He blames Gertrude for all his unhappiness and
moral failings on Earth, since her begetting him commenced his earthly torment. Hamlet
frequently fabricates generalizations about women, resulting in his constant obloquy of the
innocent Ophelia. In bitter response to his mothers swift remarriage, he declares, Frailty, thy
name is woman (Act I, Scene II, Page 11). He does not say, Frailty, thy name is Gertrude,
because he callously stereotypes all women as being weak and fickle. Hamlet does not resent his
mother for unfaithfully replacing her late husband with his murdererHamlet resents all

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womankind for being a distrustful, ignoble sex. His expansive mind thinks monumentally, and is
consequently prone to exaggeration and amplification of the truth.
William Shakespeare uses an abundance of metaphor and a litany of shockingly risqu
puns to attribute to the blatant objectification of women. Ophelias father Polonius shrewdly
interprets Hamlets tenders of affection into meaning tenders of true pay (Act I, Scene III,
Page 18). Ophelia represents very pretty furniture in the realms of Polonius twisted mind. She is
to be sold for gain, manipulated for information, and abused for meaningless whim. Even
Laertes, who loves Ophelia dearly, concedes the notion that men value women for sensual
pleasures, grossly alluding to the canker [that] galls the infants of the spring too oft before their
buttons be disclosed and to Ophelias chaste treasure (Act I, Scene III, Page 16). Throughout
the play, Hamlet adopts the views of Polonius and Laertes, and appeals to Polonius, What a
treasure hadst thou! (Act II, Scene II, Page 44). Hamlet speaks before of Ophelias excellent
white chest, but after she shuns him, he begins viewing her as a treasure chest. These
undertones of masculine oppression that bear heavily upon Ophelia further contribute to
Hamlets disregard of her. He begins to taunt her as if she is a tawdry harlot, referring to her as
metal more attractive and to her lady parts as country matters (Act III, Scene II, Page 60).
Hamlet speaks more of the lustful nature of female sexuality in embittered terms of incestuous
sheets (Act I, Scene II, Page 11) and rank sweat of an enseamed bed stewd in corruption
(Act III, Scene IV, Page 75). When bantering with Polonius, Hamlet compares the thought of
Ophelia becoming pregnant with child to that of a rotting, maggoty carcass of a dead dog.
It is not only of the ladies of Elsinore that Hamlet makes such disparaging remarks.
Guildenstern and Rosencrantz speak of their good fortune by ensuring, on Fortunes cap [they]
are not the very button, and Hamlet cannot resist quipping that they then must livein the

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middle of her favours (Act II, Scene II, Page 40). He refers to Lady Luck as a strumpet,
signifying that all ideals of womankind are shattered, apparent virtue is a sham, and that a
maidens only escape from promiscuity is lifelong chastity. Moreover, the two most important
women in Hamlets life have deceived him. Gertrudes inconsistency toward King Hamlet and
Ophelias stinging rejection have left Hamlet skeptical of feminine goodness. He transfers many
of Gertrudes transgressions onto Ophelias character so he can expel all his anger and frustration
on her. Hamlets evident misogyny is a brutal manifestation derived from his uncertainty and
This coping mechanism allows Hamlet to placate his burning guilt by comparing the
virtue of the other members of the court to his own. He expresses in one exceptionally selfdeprecating soliloquy that his inactivity marks him like a whore, unpack[ing his] heart with
words, and fall acursing like a drab, admitting that he himself has womanly qualities, which he
finds deplorable. His conception of masculinity is defined by strength and resolution, the very
converse of womans frail and fickle nature. His hatred originates from his insecurity. He
admires stalwart men like Fortinbras and Laertes, who possess the native instinct to act boldly
with gusto.
Hamlets criticism of the opposite sex is so consistent that his two admissions that he
once loved Ophelia remain as literary controversy. He informs Ophelia of his former love, and
precedes this confession with an enlightening, You should not have believed me; for virtue
cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. I loved you not (Act III, Scene I, Page
55). The first person plural pronouns used by Hamlet reveals that he (representing all men) takes
some responsibility for lust and indulgence. Men and women join together in sin and no amount
of righteousness can overpower the latent carnal desires embedded within mankind. Hamlet has

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admitted in a round-about fashion that men relish in desire as well, just as Adam participated in
eating the apple. Original sin (old stock) condemns both men and women. However, Hamlet
cannot shake that notion that men know what monsters [women] make of them (Act III, Scene
I, Page 55).
In truth, it is mans own sexual objectification of the female that makes her seem so loose
and immoral. Hamlets distrust of Gertrude and Ophelia stem solely from their relationships with
other men, i.e. Claudius and Polonius. The theme of misogyny in William Shakespeares Hamlet
is made evident by Hamlets crude commentary and slander of Gertrude and Ophelia. Hamlets
demonstration of the hatred of women highlights his overall contempt for society in general.
Hamlets dearth of faith in humanity offsets the overgrown, festering garden of what was once
paradise for Adam and Eve. The beguiled inhabitance of Earth condemned themselves with the
very taste of inexorable sin. Hamlet makes a conscious choice to reject women, so he will not
fall into the prisons of lustfulness, nor will he fall victim to it.
March 12, 2012