This quotation appears in Act III, Scene I, when Hamlet is speaking to Ophelia in the room where Claudius and Polonius are hiding. After Ophelia tries to return gifts that Hamlet has given her, he goes on a rant about goodness, beauty, and evil. Here, he speaks about women using cosmetics to deceive others and be someone who they are not. He gets angry with their fake behavior, including the way they move their bodies, which acts like makeup. It acts like makeup since it is used to cover and create a “new face”. He then says that there will be no more marriage between them, and that those who are already married will stay together. In this essay, Hamlets character and actions to Ophelia illustrates the theme of male superiority.
This passage serves to develop Hamlet’s character. It shows that he is very hotheaded, disrespectful, and misogynistic. This is because he keeps relating the actions of women and using makeup to negatively describe them. This could develop the plot since it could lead to Hamlet being more disrespectful to others, which could lead to more conflict. In result, this could cause more fights, or even more deaths.
Throughout the play, men show superiority towards women. For instance, when Polonius tells Ophelia to stay away from Hamlet, she agrees and says, “I shall obey my Lord” (1.3.135). Since she does not even object or question, it shows that her voice is inferior to men. In addition, Hamlet makes comments about female sexuality. He shows anger and hatred towards women including Ophelia and Gertrude. This is evident when he tells his mother that her acts of marrying her dead husband’s brother and her desires for sex make her morally corrupted. He states that she is living in the “rank sweat of an enseamed bed / Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love / Over the nasty sty” (3.4.90-92). This shows misogyny since the male is acting sorrowful due to his father’s death and is telling the female that her actions are weak and morally corrupted. In this passage, Hamlet tells Ophelia to go to a nunnery/convent to not experience corruptions of sexuality. His verbal abuse states that women only fool men by pretending to be someone else and that they excuse their “sexy” tricks to pretend to be ignorant. Therefore, this passage connects to the theme of male superiority since Hamlet believes that women are sexual and deceiving, and never connects them with anything else besides appearance (such as intelligence).
The lines in this passage state that women always paint another face on top of the face that was given by God. Hamlet describes that women dance and use pet names, and acts ignorant with their sexual tricks. It is evident that he has had enough of it, and that Ophelia should get herself to a convent. In this case, makeup and cosmetics is a symbol of deception used by females. The nunnery is also a symbol of purity that Ophelia should go to, to not be corrupted. This passage can target an Elizabethan audience because the audience would have understood these metaphors right away and Hamlet’s way of offending Ophelia. In that period, insults were common. Hamlet was pushing Ophelia away by insulting her and saying how their marriage was cut off. The audience would have also understood what Hamlet meant when he said that women ‘paint on a face,’ since makeup was used frequently during this period of time. They would understand that a lot of makeup could generally be used to create a different appearance.