In the Elizabethan Era, the people of the time valued and held a patriarchal society. In this type of society, women had a lower ranking compared to men and were held to authority and control by men. Gender equality is a primary and central issue in Shakespeare plays because they were an accurate representation of woman back in the 15th and 16th century. Men had an empowerment over woman thus woman did not have equal rights or a voice to stand up for themselves. The female characters in the play are portrayed as delicate, obedient and are manipulated by the male figures in their lives which is different from modern day as woman have strong voices and are allowed to stand up for themselves which shows gender equality back in the Elizabethan Era. Thus, by examining gender inequalities within the Shakespearean play Hamlet, it is evident that the male social hierarchal dominance is reflective of the Elizabethan era’s social, political and economic perspectives and values of the time.
Shakespeare’s plays demonstrate an accurate representation of women back in the 16th century who were voiceless and deprived of their right to speak as well as they were inferior to men. Men having more advantages than women was a common aspect in historical times. Women have always been seen as weak people and as if they are less than men. Due to this, women did not gain many rights up until the twenty first century. “The Elizabethan society was patriarchal, meaning that men were considered to be the leaders and women their inferiors. Women were regarded as “the weaker sex”, not just in terms of physical strength, but emotionally too. It was believed that women always needed someone to look after them. If they were married, their husband was expected to look after them. If they were single, then their father, brother or another male relative was expected to take care of them” (Sharnette). In Hamlet, Shakespeare very accurately shows the way women were treated in the Elizabethan era. Beginning with Gertrude, who has the power of a queen but is treated as if she has no value. When Claudius decides that he must send Hamlet away to England, Gertrude has no say, even though Hamley is her own son. Gertrude is seen as weak, as she is unable to tell Claudius how she feels about sending Hamlet off. Gertrude must agree with Claudius’ decision, as he is the man in the house who decides each and everything. Along with that, Gertrude is again portrayed as a weak woman when she remarries quickly after her former husband’s death. The fact that Gertrude remarries so quickly simply shows how she is unable to control the kingdom alone and needs a man in her life. Gertrude’s inability to control the kingdom on her own shows that women in this time were unable to do anything on their own and were dependent on men for everything. It is evident that the male social hierarchal dominance reflects the Elizabethan era’s social, political and economic perspectives and values of the time, as it is obvious that the women were always seen to be weaker than the men. Moreover, Ophilia is also portrayed as a weak woman in this play….
Secondly, women were supposed to comply, trust and obey and the men’s orders in their lives whether it is their father, brother, or husband. They were voiceless and powerless underneath men and did not have their own rights. In the Elizabethan Era a man was the head of a marriage for life because there was no divorce, the couple would be together for as long as they both lived. The husband was able to command his wife to do anything as he pleased, however he was expected to take care of her, make sure she had everything she needed, and most importantly to love her and be a good father to any children they had. They were not supposed to inflict bodily harm or cruelty, if did abuse his wife, he would be prosecuted (Sharnette). In the play Hamlet, Gertrude is seen as obedient to her husband throughout out the play numerous times. Claudius shows his concern for Hamlet’s mental illness as he says “His liberty is full of threats to all—/ To you yourself, to us, to everyone. /Alas, how shall this bloody deed be answered? / It will be laid to us, whose providence / Should have kept short, restrained and out of haunt, / This mad young man. But so much was our love” (IV.l.15-20), and he expresses his kindness and emotion and fake love towards Hamlet when he says that he is a threat to all of us—to you, to me, to everyone. How will we deal with this violent deed? I’m the one who will be blamed for not restraining and confining this mad young man. But I loved him so much I didn’t want to think about what I had to do
“O Gertrude, come away! /
The sun no sooner shall the mountains touch / But we will ship him hence,
He tries his best to be nice caring to the queen so that he could seize the crown easily. Gertrude is objectified by Claudius e.g. third in the triplet “my crown, mine own ambition and my Queen” – shows she does not come first to him.