Sexism in Hamlet

Throughout the play, Ophelia is the subject of degrading and disparaging remarks and actions made by the men around her. Hamlet accuses her of being a whore and spends much of a scene hurling verbal abuse at her, and Ophelia’s brother and father order her to stay away from him. As a direct result of these controlling and misogynistic behaviors, Ophelia possesses very little control over her own fate. This was a direct cause of her madness and ensuing suicide, as she had very little personal agency or ability to control her own life. This matters because it may provide insight into Ophelia’s behavior, suicide, and character as a whole. She is portrayed as rather timid and passive throughout the play, but this may be because of the conflict and expectations created by social ideas and conceptions about gender both in Shakespeare’s time and in that era in Denmark.  These cultural ideals largely called for a woman like Ophelia to be be demure and accepting of her position and fate, which was arguably impossible given the stresses placed on Ophelia by both her circumstances and the actions of the men around her and may have contributed to her eventual suicide.

Sexism in Hamlet