Frailty, thy name is Woman

Hamlet begins the play extremely upset by his mother’s remarriage: in his first soliloquy, he pours contempt on his mother, and he extends that contempt to all women. Here he blames the “frailty” of women for his mother’s decision. As the play progresses, Hamlet reveals his obsession with a specific form of what he sees as female frailty: his mother’s vulnerability to sexual temptation. When Hamlet finally confronts his mother, her sexuality is what seems to offend him. He accuses her of “honeying and making love/Over the nasty sty” (III.iv.).

I have heard of your paintings well enough. God hath given you one face and you make yourselves another[…] It hath made me mad.

During an angry tirade against Ophelia, Hamlet blames his madness on women, particularly on what he sees as women’s habit of disguising themselves with make-up and feminine behavior. Hamlet often struggles with the difficulty of separating disguises from reality, but he also seems obsessed with female sexuality. Earlier in his tirade against Ophelia he tells her: “Get thee to a nunnery” (III.i). Although it’s impossible to pin down the exact nature of Hamlet’s madness, his misogynistic outbursts suggest that his feelings about women play an important role in it.