Gender Roles : LUSENET : Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet : One Thread

What are the representations of gender in Hamlet, and what would the relevance of these representations be to the 21st century... e.g. the attitudes, values and beliefs?

-- Lauren Slavner (, September 14, 2003


There are heaps of stuff on gender representations in other questions in the forum, especially under questions on the women in the play, which might be a good place for you to start. Just do a word search on the questions page for 'women', 'Ophelia', 'Gertrude', 'mother'. Relevence to the twenty first century? If you mean gender-specific resonances, probably not a lot (although you might find there's a bit of role reversal in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"). But hey, isn't this the age of uni-sex? I think all the representations of both genders have a lot of relevence for twenty first century people of both genders. We girls find relevance in Hamlet. Blokes can find relevance in Ophelia. They're all people. That'd be my tack in an essay, anyway.

-- catherine england (, September 20, 2003.

Perhaps one of the main problems when dissecting identity and gender in any text and attempting to relate it back to modern values are the huge differences in the schools of thought regarding gender. Of course, this is further complicated by the roles that women were expected to conform to in the age of Shakespeare, and the progress that has been made since then. It is important to realise that gender is mere myth; it is a prescribed set of values forced upon the individual at birth with no choice allowed. To demonstate this point more fully, we can look to the body itself for evidence: If you happen to be male, you have almost everything in common with your female counterparts: You both have two arms, legs, eyes, you both eat drink and sleep in the same way, etc..the only thing that truly defines you as male or female is your reproductive systems. This being established, we can begin to deconstruct the fiction that is prescibed gender and the accompanyting roles. Assuming that in theory, setting aside all the assumed knowledge you have of what gender is, (for example, "men are physically stronger than women," or the classic "women are difficult to understand",) we can begin to see that the women in Hamlet are not only misunderstood and abused by the men in the play, but believe they are deserving of it. Ophelia and Gertude seem incapable of living with out a man, and both end up "flawed", as in all Rennaisance plays: In this case dead, but sometimes married, which is also a subservience to men's power. The discussions which could take place regarding the women in Hamlet are almost endless. Try looking at some different schools of feminist thought, (the main two are the French, and the Anglo- American,) and make up your own mind. Toril Moi and Elaine Showalter are a good place to start.

-- Sarah Tittlemouse (, October 08, 2003.

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