"My Heart cleft in Twain" : The Aspects of the Feminine Virtues in Hamlet


Kang Kim

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The aim of this paper is to reexamine Gertrude's and Ophelia's part in Hamlet as the women who follow and consequently devote themselves to the conventional female roles as a wife and a daughter respectively. The traditional Shakespearean scholarship of criticism has overlooked them to be a simple scapegoat in the male-dominated society. However, they are not the women who intend to desert their love in order to fulfil their own purposes and interests but the ones besieged with the traditional—oppressive in a modern feminist sense—customs of the Renaissance, who should make a sacrifice of their own ego in a passive and submissive way. In the play we come to fully understand that the two female characters' senses of selfhood depend on a traditional pattern of femininity—wife has to follow her husband and daughter must obey her father. Therefore, ironically enough, their tragic flaws can be interpreted in terms of conventional virtues which at the time women have to possess, not of a challenging or subversive power. Although their greatest mistakes are that they are too much engaged in their duties to husband and father without wisdom, the implication of their affection and obedience toward their male mates needs a reconsideration in the context of the traditional concept of women.


I. Introdution
 II. Gertrude : "Thou hast cleft my heart twain"
 III. Ophelia : "Frailty, thy name is woman"
 IV. Conclusion
 Works Cited


  • Kang Kim Honam University


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