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Please explain Hamlet's accusation "Frailty thy name is woman" in Act 1 of...
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Hamlet utters this phrase in reference to his mother. He believes that her quick marriage to his uncle is a sign of her weakness. He actually indicates that nothing good can come of this action. This does foreshadow a few things. One is the death of Ophelia, who succumbs to her own grief and confusion and is drowned. Also, the death of Gertrude herself. Her marriage to Claudius did bring this about, as she mistakenly drank the cup he poisoned for Hamlet.
Posted by sullymonster on December 3, 2007 at 7:41 AM (Answer #1)
High School Teacher
In Shakespeare's plays in general, female characters in the comedies are the protagonists, the stronger, clever ones. In the tragedies, they are the weaker characters, the frail ones (there's a topic for an essay: what is Shakespeare suggesting about life in general by this conceit? Was Shakespeare the first feminist in English literature?).
In Hamlet Act I, Hamlet is speaking directly about his mother whose "O'erhasty marriage" offends him to his core. It most directly points to Ophelia's betrayal of Hamlet in Act III. "Where's your father?" \ "At home, my lord". Hamlet knows he is being watched and he confronts Ophelia. In her moment of truth, she decides to side with her father (somewhat understandable considering Hamlet's treatment of her for the previous two acts). But in Hamlet's eyes, this is just one more betrayal.
Posted by dbralexander on December 4, 2007 at 10:52 PM (Answer #2)
Your answer lies in the lines following that statement:
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears:--why she, even she--
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn'd longer--married with my uncle
He's angry that his mother's emotions were so fickle.
How could she so quickly marry after burying her husband?
And that she married her husband's brother makes it not just
improper, but immoral.
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month:
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
she married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
Again, he focuses on the speed of the marriage and makes his
disgust for the immorality of it clear to the audience.
It is not nor it cannot come to good
He's doing more than foreshadowing the tragic ending of the
play, it's almost as if he's committing to himself to make sure it
will end tragically.
Posted by prof-c on March 31, 2008 at 4:19 PM (Answer #3)
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