Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Play or Misogynist Propaganda?

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Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Play or Misogynist Propaganda?

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Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Play or Misogynist Propaganda?

Fictional As Non-Fictional: Shakespeare’s Hamlet – Play or Misogynist Propaganda?

While a play written in the 17th century may not seem to hold utmost importance in society, the truth is that William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a piece of media that is analyzed by majority of the student population at least in North America, at some point in their academic career.

Being a piece of media that shapes many students’ learning and understanding of the world, it is extremely irresponsible that this literary work continues to be taught in curriculums today, without the proper discussion and analysis of its downfalls and its perpetuating of prejudicial behaviour against woman. Hamlet’s character fashioned by William Shakespeare, is not only an actual psychopath with an Oedipus complex larger then the depths of the deepest oceans, but is also a misogynistic mad man.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Play or Misogynist Propaganda?

This literary work is important to study because it utilizes both obvious and subliminal messages to reinforce overriding social understandings of gender, which we must then deconstruct.

First things first, even if you have not read this play, or honestly just don’t remember what happens, embrace yourself for a super simplified, oversimplified might I say, plot summary for Hamlet. Spoiler alert!

“Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is home from school to mourn the death of his father, King Hamlet, who has died two months earlier. Hamlet is disgusted by the marriage of his newly widowed mother, Queen Gertrude, to his Uncle, King Hamlet’s brother, Claudius, who now has the throne.

Shortly thereafter, a ghost has appeared to guards on nightly watch as well as Hamlet’s good friend, Horatio, who thinks the spirit has a likeness to the former King Hamlet. When prompted to speak by Horatio, the ghost will not. Horatio asks Hamlet to wait for the ghost and see if it will speak to him. The ghost of his father beckons Hamlet to follow him and reveals that his brother Claudius poisoned him in the ear. Hamlet vows to avenge his father’s murder.

Meanwhile, Laertes, son to the King’s advisor Polonius is set to return to France. Before he leaves, he tells Ophelia, his sister, to be weary of Hamlet’s affections towards her. Polonius gives Laertes advice on how to act abroad and orders Ophelia to stay away from Hamlet.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Play or Misogynist Propaganda?

Hamlet’s sanity begins to be questioned by all. Claudius and Gertrude are both concerned; Polonius suggests it is Ophelia’s rejection of his advances. Claudius and Polonius decide to spy on Hamlet and Ophelia. Claudius further employs Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two childhood friends of Hamlet, to spy on him further. Hamlet quickly realizes their intentions.

A troupe of players happens to be in town and Hamlet utilizes the actors to determine the validity of his father’s murder. He will have them perform the very act of murder, killing a king through poison in the ear, which the ghost has claimed. He asks Horatio to watch Claudius’ reaction throughout the play. While the court is watching, Claudius is enraged and leaves the play convincing Hamlet that he is the murderer.

Hamlet comes upon Claudius in the chapel, kneeling down to pray. He considers killing him then and there, but since Claudius is in mid-prayer, and will therefore go to heaven if he dies, Hamlet decides to wait until Claudius is committing some sin, so that he will go to hell like Hamlet’s father before him.

Hamlet meets Gertrude in her room and an argument ensues. When he hears Polonius who is hiding behind the curtain shout for help, he stabs him thinking it is Claudius. The ghost appears to Hamlet to refocus him on the task of killing Claudius.

Fortinbras, Prince of Norway, whose father’s lands were seized by the late King, decides to head to Denmark. Claudius demands that Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern head for England. Claudius has sent a letter with them ordering Hamlet’s execution during the trip. While at sea, however, Hamlet discovers his planned murder and switches the orders, causing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to be executed. Hamlet returns to Denmark.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Play or Misogynist Propaganda?

Meanwhile back at Elsinore, Ophelia has gone mad with grief. Laertes returns from France and learns it was Hamlet who has killed his father, Polonius. Claudius suggests that Laertes duel with Hamlet and poisons the tip of Laertes foil for a fatal blow. If Laertes loses the duel, Claudius will put poison into a drink for Hamlet. Gertrude enters and announces that Ophelia has drowned.

In the graveyard, Hamlet reminisces on a friend of his whose skull he has found. When the processional arrives with Ophelia’s corpse, Laertes and Hamlet argue. A duel is scheduled.

During the fight, Gertrude accidentally drinks from the poisoned chalice and dies. Hamlet is wounded with the poisoned sword, but in a scuffle, the foils are switched and Laertes is also wounded with the poisoned foil. In dying, Laertes confesses Claudius’ plot to kill Hamlet. Hamlet stabs Claudius and Hamlet dies asking Horatio to tell his story. The Norwegian forces arrive at Elsinore, and Prince Fortinbras seizes control of Denmark.”

This wonderful summary is provided by Hartford Stage; check out more details Now, let’s analyze.

The patriarchal system illustrated in this work of media conveys to the millions of readers who study this piece of literature, that the objectification and dehumanization of women is in many ways, just the way things are. When looking at this form of propaganda from a feminist standpoint, it can be understood that this piece of work showcases the limiting nature of media through the constant dehumanization of women, as well as the disgust of women’s desire and value placed in a women’s virginity. This strongly reinforces patriarchal views of gender roles and creates stark binary oppositions, thus altering the reality of many readers by presenting these views as true facts.

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