Did you know that over 300, 000 women per year suffer from some form of violence and of this 300, 000 one a week per year within just Australia die? Did you know that only 17% of the speeches throughout Shakespeare’s Hamlet are done by the women in the play therefore the other 83% are done by the men? Did you know that out of the top 1000 earning companies in the US only 54 of those CEOs are female? Kind of how only two members of the cast in Hamlet are female characters. Still don’t know how Shakespeare is relevant in today’s society? Allow me to elaborate.
The Shakespearean play ‘Hamlet’ continues to show relevance over the years as it portrays many values, attitudes and beliefs that are still seen throughout todays modern society such as misogyny; a very central theme throughout the play as the hate for women is expressed in several ways. Gertrude and Ophelia the only two women in the play, both of which were originally played by men, projected as an incestuous whore the other naïve and ignorant. The role of women within the play is nothing short of misogynistic, therefore, making it relevant in today’s society. These two women were continuously degraded and objectified by their brothers, fathers and lovers similar to the experiences women are currently dealing with.
Gertrude, the Queen of Denmark is the first women to be introduced into the play. Although she is of high order once she recognises something of her concern, she struggles to stay strong in her opinion of critical matters. The lack of confidence in her work and beliefs is obvious and evident when Hamlet is accused of stalking Ophelia. Gertrude does not have the gumption to stand up to the men, within the play and simply surrenders to their needs. The perpetuating madness Hamlet is known for is apparently powered by his love for Ophelia which Gertrude cannot reject. By Hamlet finding the inability to do what the ghost (his father) asks of him he struggles to accept his weaknesses therefore he turns to the women in his life to “bully”. Act III Scene III is an example of how Hamlet pushes his concerns onto is mother by accusing her of being a slut. She replies with pleading an honest answer to her innocent question of “what have I done?”.
Gertrude’s low self-esteem and fear for losing her place in the kingdom gives her the risk of be easy prey for manipulated by men. Shakespeare repeatedly characterizes women in Hamlet and his other plays as simple minded, impulsive, and under the ownership of male figures. This lack of consciousness is clearly evident in the opening act of the play when Gertrude is introduced as a lustful tramp, married hastily to Claudius. “With an auspicious and a dropping eye, with mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage, in equal scale weighing delight and dole” (Act I, scene ii. 11-13). Although these beliefs have been underpinned by the social-cultural context of the time this would now be considered harassment or discrimination in most cultures across the world.
The relevance applies to many people who go out of their way to watch his plays and continue to support the messages that Shakespeare aims to teach his audience. Although Shakespeare’s plays were written more than 400 years ago for the people in that social construct of time the basis for human nature does not change. The same behaviours are still being carried out by men with Shakespeare holding a mirror on what is still being depicted in our society today. Throughout high school we are surrounded by the most influential people of our lives. We are continuously taught our rights and learn to be the empowered women of our generation.
Shakespeare teaches us exactly what toxic relationships, corrupted governments and misogyny looks like. He teaches us young women who are about to go out and be exposed to these 3 things and know that is isn’t acceptable. He teaches us how to be stronger than those within his plays. He teaches us how to stand up and not retaliate but to be the better person and to know within ourselves our true value of young women within our social-context. This is why studying Shakespeare is still relevant in the 21st Century world.
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