One of the most obvious and prevalent themes throughout Shakespeare’s works is the theme of love. Many of his plays feature very typical love scenarios, like two people falling in love, lovers experiencing conflict or separation, and lovers reuniting.
Other plays feature more complex love scenarios, like when two people experience different kinds of love for each other, or when one person loves someone but that person does not love them back.
Often, in Shakespeare’s dramas, characters who are in love with someone else experience a sort of delusion or false perception about that person. They may believe they are in love with someone who does not care for them in return, or they may believe their loved one is perfect when they are not.
This theme appears in many of his plays, including Hamlet. Within Act III-Scene II of this play, there is a specific excerpt that supports the conclusion that Hamlet is critical of women.
When women get old
In this excerpt, Hamlet is very critical of women and how they age. He notes how women get old and lose their beauty, which is one of the biggest sources of their pride.
He also says that they are faithful until death, but he doesn’t seem to believe this. He mentions that they are adulterous and that they nag.
He makes it clear that he believes women are not worthy of respect after a certain point in their lives. He even mentions his mother at this point, so it seems like this attitude towards women may stem from a place of hurt or anger.
Overall, it is clear that Hamlet does not have much respect for women, and this may be another source of his internal conflict.
When women break hearts
In Act III, Scene II, Queen Gertrude mentions a woman who broke a man’s heart. This is the first time we hear about this specific occurrence, but it is not the last.
Later in the scene, Ophelia mentions that Laertes hates all women because his mother and sister drove him to madness. Again, this is not the only time we hear about men being driven to madness by women.
These comments show how strongly women are associated with breaking hearts. It also shows how easily a woman can ruin a man’s life – all it takes is one relationship ending badly.
Earlier in the play, when Polonius advises Ophelia on how to behave towards Hamlet, he specifically mentions keeping him away from other women as an important task. This reinforces the idea that women are dangerous and negative forces in men’s lives.
When a woman moves in with her boyfriend
In this excerpt, Hamlet is very critical of women in general. He seems to have a strong dislike for them, but not for all of them.
He makes a distinction between what he calls “women” and his mother, who he says is not a woman but a lady. This shows that even though he has this strong dislike for women, he still has respect for at least one woman.
He also mentions Ophelia, his girlfriend, and how she would not betray him like all the other women would. This shows that even though he is critical of women in general, he still has faith in at least one of them. He also mentions that they are prone to emotion which could be seen as a negative quality.
However, the reason he criticizes women in general is because they are described as being fickle and unreliable which could lead to betrayal.
Women are not to be trusted
In Act III, Scene II, Queen Gertrude mentions that Ophelia has been spending time with Laertes. This is not a good thing, as it is mentioned that he is not a wise man.
Ophelia goes to meet with him and she comes back in a state of confusion. She drops all her flowers and water and runs to her room, where she furiously rips off her dress and wig.
It is heavily implied that Laertes has sexually assaulted her. She calls what happened to her “filthy / deeds” (5) and says she was forced to do something she did not want to do.
This indicates a level of sexual coercion, which supports the theory that Laertes is not a wise man because he is sexually abusive. More evidence for this theory comes from the fact that Ophelia goes mad shortly after this event.
Women are weak and incapable of action without male influence
In Act III, Scene II, Hamlet encounters Ophelia and she tries to speak with him. However, he cuts her off and tells her to leave him alone.
He mentions that she is incapable of action and that she is a virgin who should stay out of affairs that she cannot understand. This is very offensive to women and does not allow them any power or influence.
He also alludes to the fact that women are weak. He says that women are simply “sweet-scented bags” full of jewels. This comparison implies that women are simply objects, things that have no real value or influence outside of their appearance.
This critical attitude towards women is another reason why many believe that Hamlet is a misogynist character. Many scholars believe that he has a strong dislike or distrust of women due to his constant use of sexist language.