What is Hamlet's attitude towards women?

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It is as though, in Hamlet's mind, women can be only either virgins or whores. There seems to be no in-between for him. After Ophelia has, essentially, broken up with him, he tells her, "Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?" (3.1.131). While...

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It is as though, in Hamlet's mind, women can be only either virgins or whores. There seems to be no in-between for him. After Ophelia has, essentially, broken up with him, he tells her, "Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?" (3.1.131). While a nunnery, in most contexts, refers to an actual convent where nuns live and pray, it can also be used, mockingly, to refer to a brothel, a place where prostitutes live and work. It is possible that Hamlet is accusing Ophelia of playing the nun while really acting like a whore. Perhaps they have slept together (an interpretation supported by the songs she sings in her madness later in the play), and her leaving him has surprised him and caused him to feel betrayed by her?

Hamlet goes on to say that, even if Ophelia were as pure as fresh snow, she would not be able to escape slanders on her reputation. So, it would be better to go to a "nunnery." Or, if she wants to marry, then she should marry a fool, because wise men know that she will cheat on them. This is a terrible list of options: she can lead a blameless life where she will still be thought of as a whore; she can live in either a convent (boring) or a brothel (repugnant to a woman of her station); or she can be married to a fool because no intelligent man would have her. It shows that Hamlet only sees two real options for women: questionable sainthood or confirmed whoredom.

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Perhaps the best one-line summation of Hamlet's attitude towards women is where he concludes an early soliloquy with the words: "Frailty, thy name is woman!" (Act 1, Scene 1, line 146) He has come to this conclusion because of his mother's infidelity to her death husband. He thinks she married Claudius, not because she was wicked, but because she was weak and therefore easily persuaded. Something very similar takes place very early in Shakespeare's Richard III. Richard approaches the widow of the king he has just murdered and persuades her to consider marrying him while she is still walking in her dead husband's funeral procession.

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Hamlet doesn't trust women. He says that they are two-faced and never say what they mean.  The best description of his attitude toward women can bee seen when he is talking to Ophelia:

        "God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves    another. You jig, you amble, and you lisp, and nickname God's creatures, and make your wantonness your ignorance. Go to, I'll no more on't. It hath made me mad. I say we will have no more marriages. Those that are married already --all but one-- shall live. The rest shall keep as they are. To a nunnery, go" (Hamlet 3.1.142-148).

Clearly, he is traumatized by what his mother did to his father (betrayal/murder) and is through with women. He believes that if his mother could do something so horrible, then every woman is capable of such trechery. Any feelings he may have had for Ophelia are dubious, now and he tells her to go be a nun and never get married.

 

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