Relation of Shakespeare's Hamlet and Barbie Doll by Marge Piercy

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Table of Contents

  • The Literary Elements
  • The Main Poem
  • Relation to Shakespeare’s Hamlet
  • Allusions and Application of Symbolism
  • Conclusion

A poet conveys diverse information, often tackling sensitive topics affecting the public. To communicate, Poets utilize different strategies, for example, through the application of literary elements such as grotesqueness or morbidity, to influence rhyming and structure. However, in trying to integrate these literary elements, a poet might consider strong tools such as enjambment that presents diverse ideologies. Poems touching on sensitive issues such as a woman's fertility would often require the poet to find the use of different literary elements or tools. Piercy applies various literary elements to reveal how society shapes the way females are to look and act and how society places judgments on those who do not conform to those ideas.

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The Literary Elements

Grotesque presents artists with tools defining the literary terms that are understood through a particular mode of artistic and literary representation. Shakespeare applies grotesqueness and morbidity when defining the struggle of teenage girls during puberty. These views are also echoed in “Barbie Doll” by Marge Piercy. Both poets utilize grotesqueness and morbidity, with both Hamlet and Barbie Doll representing, strangely and comically, an idea that contradicts existing social beliefs. Shakespeare manages to present the problem statement applying grotesque words, such as suicide, helping in ideological development.

The Main Poem

Marge Piercy is an American poem writer who is known for writing poems about important topics women face in society. Marge Piercy's 1969 poem Barbie Doll reflects on the life of a young girl who has the idea that beauty has been hijacked by feminists’ ideologies, destabilizing the child between childhood and adulthood, feminism and beauty. The author presents the life of the girl as an intelligent individual filled with passion (Stanza 2), showing ideal attributes such as forgiveness. Once a girl who loved nature and natural food, she is now inclined to dieting and wearing cosmetic make up. Given the extent of brainwashing, she is driven towards being feminine as defined by society. The cosmetic effect is not compatible with the child’s expectations; and in fact, the symbolism of a Barbie doll is used to reflect young girls who are misjudged by ideas that beauty defines what is feminist. As such, young girls are encouraged to continue on a path that teaches them to keep glittering in the eyes of society.

Relation to Shakespeare’s Hamlet

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet presents a variety of themes, including one which advises Piercy’s girl on how she should represent herself in society. Shakespeare's touching line, 'To Thine own self be true,' encourages the dogmatized girl to see all is possible by just remaining true to oneself in character and beliefs. Ideally, both authors seem to confirm that society usually is unrealistic for children who do not understand themselves.

Allusions and Application of Symbolism

The author applies several levels of symbolism to help drive diverse opinions on the purity and innocence of girls, despite body changes that influence personal thoughts. The author is more concerned in defining the innocence of girls following the rapid, even possibly unwanted and embarrassing changes (Park 53), such as, the development of breasts or experiences of monthly periods that influence the consciousness and morality of girls facing puberty. Young girls struggling with puberty are often inclined to social norms that shape their status. The allusions of pink equating to femininity guide a young girl towards her self, confirming to Shakespeare's notion To thine own self be true. Pink is primarily associated with the feminine girl and female fertility; as such, society determines a girl’s primary color as pink. This indoctrination affects their personality, forcing them to live with standards that may cause alienation. In Piercy’s Babie Doll, society wrongfully advises her that prosperity and success are all about Playing Coy as a girl. While Shakespeare’s play communicates the importance of self-acceptance rather than damaging one’s body in order to fulfill society’s standards as to what is feminine:

She was advised to play coy,

exhorted to come on hearty,

exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.

Her good nature wore out like a fan belt.

So she cut off her nose and her legs and offered them up. (Piercy et al.)

Alternatively, Shakespeare inspires a young girl on the need for self-confidence. The young girl facing puberty is welcomed to a world of critique on what kind of woman she will become now and in the future. Shakespeare’s secondary opinion on feminist ideology is best defined by Piercy, who notes that the girl-child is born usual, but the puberty body’s changes influence her feminine thoughts. The allusions of white equating to chastity denote the girl remains pure, free from sexual indulgence. Instead of being attracted to sexuality given her body changes, she is attracted to toys such as dolls that assure her of her innocence.

The author applies the blank verse of enjambment, which influences the quality of syntax development throughout the poem. The syntax is encountered through the mixed message produced throughout the process. The lines from Piercy’s poem below present enjambment which emphasizes the contradictory idea that even in death we should strive to be beautiful.

In the casket displayed on satin, she lay

with the undertaker's cosmetics painted on,

a turned-up putty nose,

In Shakespeare’s lines,

“This above all: to thine own self be true/

And it must follow, as the night the day (,”

the enjambment operates efficiently, with the rhyme and structure of the poem, emphasizing that oneself and truth are complementary as day and night. Features of the poem are closely linked with the verse structure, which includes rhyme and meter for various syntactic phenomena arising from the inversion, separation, and transposition of the different syntactic elements as evidenced (Kim 33). The language structure is applied parallel with the rhyme, allowing the poet to present infinite ideas, such as a description of false social paths that a girl is forced to live in. Some of the ideas grown from enjambment are relativists and skeptical in that the poet presents a subjective idea and a range of views that are organized and concise.

In addition, Shakespeare applies other strategies for enjambment in the play. A prominent and influential approach is the use of unstressed syllable for the feminine ending that presents a composite method of handling literature. For example, in the first for lines,

To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ‘is nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them. (

Shakespeare’s arguments on feminine teenage puberty supply a carryover effect between line 1 to line 5. The questions of suffering or taking up arms are set with similar punctuations, to indicate there is a choice, unlike Piercy’s poem which conveys the idea of self-harm to achieve beauty. In the play, enjambment best explains the feminine ending, allowing the author to convey that women have a choice, to either accept society's expectations or fight against it and set their standards.


Grotesqueness and morbidity have proved to be useful literary elements used to explain the juxtaposition of the authors' diverse opinions. Piercy presents literary elements in revealing how society dogmatizes teenage females to look and act in a specific way while placing judgments for those who do not seem to conform to such indoctrination. Shakespeare’s philosophical advice communicates to the girl that these are mechanisms preventing her from achieving success. The application enjambment assisted both poets in developing grotesqueness and morbidity allowing, deeper tackling of the problem of feminine teenage indoctrination. 

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