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Hamlet: The Problem with Women

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Presentation on theme: "Hamlet: The Problem with Women"— Presentation transcript:

1 Hamlet: The Problem with Women

2 But "Soft you now, / The fair Ophelia"
Hamlet's "To be or not to be speech" runs into Ophelia: --Soft you now, The fair Ophelia!--Nymph, in thy orisons Be all my sins remembered. What follows is the famous “nunnery scene”: pp ; 1) Shown last week in Branagh’s Hamlet with Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet and Kate Winslet as Ophelia (1996) 2) Today: scenes of Polonius (Bill Murray) with Ophelia (Julia Stiles) before she goes mad, and including the “nunnery scene” with Hamlet (Ethan Hawke) from Almereyda’s Hamlet (year 2000), 15 mins.

3 Why is Hamlet so mad at Ophelia in this scene?

4 What does Hamlet mean when he keeps saying “get thee to a nunnery”?
Live pure in a convent Convert to Catholicism Be a whore A and B A and C

5 Hamlet says to Ophelia at ll
Hamlet says to Ophelia at ll , “I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in.” Does this sound like an accurate self-description by Hamlet to you? A) Yes  E) No

6 Ophelia's Madness Branagh film clip of Ophelia's madness, pp ; : Kate Winslet as Ophelia (5 mins.)

7 Why does Ophelia go mad? Because Hamlet has yelled insults at her and rejected her Because she has no mother to comfort her Because women are by their fragile nature prone to going off the deep end Because her father was her mind—he did her thinking for her—and now he’s dead Because she can’t have sex

8 The mad Ophelia sings bawdy love songs: e.g., pp. 104-105, 4.5.48-66
Why does her madness take the form of bawdy love songs (songs about lovers having sex)?

9 Ophelia Pictured Paintings of Ophelia have captured the full array of her qualities: innocent child, nymph, madwoman, sexually repressed, natural beauty: Arthur Hughes: childlike Nymph O James Sant: childlike innocent O John Everett Millais: beautiful part of nature O Ernest Hébert: beautiful, sultry, and crazed O John W. Waterhouse (1): sexy, crazy O Lemaire's Ophelia Madeleine: really sexy, crazy O

10 In 1.5.165-180 (p. 34), after talking with the Ghost, Hamlet says to Horatio,
Here as before, never, so help you mercy How strange or odd some’er I bear myself (As I perchance hereafter shall think meet To put an antic disposition on), That you, at such times seeing me, shall With arms encumb’red thus, or this headshake, Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase, As, “Well, well, we know,” or “We could, an if we would,” Or “If we list to speak,” or “There be, an if they might,” Or such ambiguous giving out to note That you know aught of me—this do you swear, So grace and mercy at your most need help you.

11 In what way are Ophelia’s madness and Hamlet’s “antic disposition” NOT alike?
Both are caused by grief over a dead father Both utter meaningful nothings Both consider or result in suicide Both are feigned or put on for a purpose Both express an obsession with sexuality

12 At the beginning of the play, Hamlet feigns madness:
as a way of functioning in a world where everyone works by indirections as a way of protecting his identity from everyone who is trying to penetrate to the heart of his mystery as a way to give expression to his own troubled sexuality and the mingled visions that he cannot keep separate (e.g., "nunnery") as a way to prevent himself from actually going mad like Ophelia.

13 Ophelia's Madness versus Hamlet's Madness:
In sum, Hamlet's madness protects and expresses his identity while Ophelia's reflects a crushed ego.

14 Do you think Hamlet ever actually goes mad in the course of the play?
A) Yes  E) No

15 Harping on Mothers: Gertrude
One of Hamlet's obsessions, expressed through madness, is female sexuality, especially in relation to his mother. These feelings explode in Hamlet's meeting with Gertrude in Act 3, scene 4, the Closet Scene: Closet Scene (3.4): Zeffirelli Film Clip with Mel Gibson as Hamlet and Glenn Close as Gertrude (5 mins)

16 The Gibson Hamlet and (Too)Close Gertrude:
The Zeffirelli production draws on Freud's interpretation of the play: according to Freud, Hamlet cannot easily avenge his father's death because he has an Oedipus complex he wishes (or wished) to kill his father and to sleep with his mother he thus cannot bring himself to act against the man who has done what he himself wanted to do

17 To the extent that the Oedipus complex operates here, I would take it one step further:
Claudius has become the stand-in father that Hamlet must remove to possess his mother Hamlet's killing of "Claudius" (actually the other father figure, Polonius) is "doable" in this scene because Hamlet's repressed love for his mother drives him to such distracted aggression. But, of course, Hamlet kills the wrong father and his "real" father resurfaces.

18 Gertrude's Failed Vision
Why doesn't Gertrude see the ghost?

19 The Woman Within Gertrude, like Ophelia, is a projection of Hamlet's vision of himself: in attacking Gertrude's sexual perversion, Hamlet is attacking an aspect of himself: his strong feelings for her, which he has not yet come to terms with. As with Ophelia, Gertrude is the receptacle of Hamlet's double image of himself as ideal and depraved. This is why it is so important for him that she repent and change.

20 But the fact is that the women in Hamlet’s world cannot save him.
The answer must come from within.

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