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Literature & Language
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English (U.S.)
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Texts and Traditions (Essay Sample)

Instructions:
The essay asserts that women have been portrayed as the weaker species and undergo great suffering from their male counterparts, as depicted in the texts, \"Hamlet\" and \"Oedipus Tyrannus\". In \"Hamlet\", the two female characters, Ophelia and Gertrude, suffer chauvinistic bias and tragically break loose as the former ends up committing suicide. In Oedipus Tyrannus, male chauvinism drives Jocaster into marrying her own son. It is clear, therefore, that the women in the two texts portray women as being under the firm control of men, driving them them to their tragic ends. source..
Content:
Name Course Instructor Date Portrayal of Women in Hamlet and Oedipus Tyrannus Introduction Traditionally, the society has been heavily tilted against women. Throughout history, the female gender has suffered bias and oppression from their male counterparts. Society generally considers women as the weaker sex and incapable of holding their own (Das 1). Shakespeare and Sophocles have captured the plight of women in their texts Hamlet and Oedipus Tyrannus respectively. The two texts present a woman from a disadvantaged point of view and how she struggles to establish a foothold in a male-dominated society. In Hamlet, analysis of the plight of women falls on Ophelia and Gertrude. The two women endure chauvinistic suffering and finally break loose. Gertrude transgresses the patriarchal bounds of femininity by marrying soon after her husband's death, much to Hamlet's chagrin. Consequently, he refers to her as "frail" (Act 1, Scene 2, line 146). It is apparent that Hamlet would have preferred to make decisions for his mother just because she is a woman. He does not trust her mother to make wise decisions even though she has been queen for quite some time. Ophelia, on the other hand, bears the brunt of male chauvinism as she is not allowed to choose for herself who she should love. Her father prohibits her from having a love relationship with Hamlet. Eventually, she commits suicide. In Oedipus Tyrannus, the plight of women falls squarely on Jocasta, Oedipus' wife. When her first husband dies, she has no free hand in choosing her next husband. Society determines that whoever kills the sphinx would be her husband. Oedipus comes along, kills the sphinx and marries her, oblivious of the fact that Jocasta is actually his mother. This contributes to the tragic events in the play. The thesis of this essay, therefore, states that women in the two texts are portrayed as weaker species that undergo extreme suffering at the hands of their male counterparts. Gender discrimination adversely affects omen in the two plays and contributes to the tragedies in them plays. This essay will also compare and contrast the portrayal of women in the two texts. Portrayal of Women in Hamlet and Oedipus Tyrannus Comparison The portrayal of women in both Hamlet and Oedipus Tyrannus is similar in many aspects. The women in Hamlet experience the ravages of male domination throughout the text. To begin with, Hamlet is visibly enraged at his mother for remarrying too quickly. According to Hamlet, his mother, Gertrude, "Would have mourned longer!" (Act 1, Scene 2, line 151). Moreover, Hamlet seems to be unhappy with his mother's choice of a spouse. When Gertrude gets married to Hamlet's uncle, Claudius, Hamlet remarks "it cannot come to good" (Act 1, Scene 2, line 158). This implies that Hamlet and his mother live in a society where women do not make their own choices, especially when it concerns marriage partners (Heilbrun 201). Similarly, in Oedipus Tyrannus, Oedipus mother cannot choose the man she would like to marry. The capacity to choose her new husband does not lie in her hands in spite of the fact that she is mature enough to make informed and wise decisions. This society stipulates that the man that would kill the sphinx would have her as his wife. Oedipus gets news of the sphinx and comes to the people's rescue. However, both he and Jocasta are unaware that they are mother and son. Consequently, mother and son became husband and wife. This is incest. The situation may have been different had the society allowed Jocasta to choose a new husband for herself. Jocasta is the first to realize the great mistake in marrying Oedipus. Instinctively, she tries to shield Oedipus from the devastating realization that he married his own mother. However, Oedipus does not listen to her only because she is a woman. He quickly dismisses her as being frivolous and petty. Male chauvinism, therefore, corrupts Oedipus' interpretation of Jocasta's speech. This reflects the manner in which society treated women in this community. In this play, women are generally treated as inferior species, prone to frivolities and pettiness, and, therefore, not to be taken seriously. Another similarity in the portrayal of women in the two texts lies in the influence of gender oppression on women. In both of the texts, gender discrimination leads to death. In Hamlet, Ophelia does not have the chance to choose a lover as her father thwarts her association with Hamlet (James, n.p.). She finds it impossible to reconcile to this situation and eventually commits suicide. Gertrude, on the other hand, drinks the poison as hamlet fights and dies. The same fate befalls Jocasta, the sole woman in Oedipus Tyrannus. When she learns that society drove her into marrying her own son, she takes her own life. Therefore, gender discrimination in the two texts drives women to their deaths. Both texts also portray women as being under the power of their male counterparts regardless of their stations in life. Male characters dominate the play, Hamlet. There are only two female characters, Gertrude and Ophelia. Gertrude does not get the respect due for a queen. The male characters, including her own son, Hamlet, subject her to gross insubordination. They regularly yell at her and even order her around. This is evident in the behavior of Polonius, the King's counselor, who treats her offhandedly: "look you lay home to him and tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with" (Act 3, Scene 4, lines 1-2). Polonius seems to be crudely addressing the Queen of Denmark. In Oedipus Tyrannus, there is only one female character, Jocasta. She too does not receive her due respect as a queen. She speaks to Oedipus with reverence and respect, but Oedipus does not reciprocate. This is evident when he misunderstands her reason to shield him from learning the truth about his parentage (Henley 18). She has just learnt that such a discovery would be devastating since he married his own mother. Oedipus dismisses her in the most uncouth manner: "and let her find her joy in her rich family" (line 1225). Oedipus thinks that Jocasta despises his origins. This is because, unlike Oedipus, Jocasta comes from a royal background, having been queen before marrying Oedipus. Contrast Although the portrayal of women in Shakespeare's Hamlet and Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus is mostly similar, there is a remarkable difference between the two. In Hamlet, the men continually tell the women what to do and order them around. The women, on their part, do not participate in any decision-making process as decisions are made for them by their male counterparts. This is the case for Ophelia, who is old enough to make her own conscious decision on who to love (Wagner 94). However, this is not to be as her father, Polonius, takes over this responsibility. Ophelia, therefore, lives under her father's shadow until his death. Hamlet's mother, Gertrude, experiences a similar fate. Throughout the play, the male characters tell her what to do, or what not to do. She never gets a chance to make her own decisions, either personal or otherwise. So confined is she that she eventually take...
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