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What does the line, "Frailty thy name is woman," in Act 1 of Hamlet mean? In what way...

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kristina89 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 3, 2007 at 1:04 AM via web

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What does the line, "Frailty thy name is woman," in Act 1 of Hamlet mean? In what way does it foreshadow events to come?

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prof-c | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 31, 2008 at 4:19 PM (Answer #3)

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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. 


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sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 3, 2007 at 7:41 AM (Answer #1)

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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.


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dbralexander | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted December 4, 2007 at 10:52 PM (Answer #2)

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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.


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lovelynotes | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 1, 2013 at 9:11 PM (Answer #4)

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women are weak...basically

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