“Frailty, thy name is woman” | Hamlet | Explanation

Frailty thy name is woman
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“Frailty, thy name is woman”

Frailty, thy name is woman’ is actually William Shakespeare’s quotation who has in fact spoken it from the mouth of his character Hamlet in the play ‘Hamlet’.

The quotation above is in old English as used by William Shakespeare in his plays. In modern English today, we can translate this quotation as ‘Woman is the name of weakness’.

Hamlet had uttered these words for his mother Gertrude for her sexual and psychological weakness. He considered it her weakness that after the death of her husband, she didn’t wait but married his brother-in-law Claudius.

What irked Hamlet was the thought that by doing this his mother was proved to be unfaithful to his father.

Hamlet has spoken this line in his first soliloquy in Act-1, Scene-2.

‘Frailty, thy name is woman’ isn’t just a quotation used in the play; rather it holds a traditional view about women’s frailty. Historically, every philosopher and thinker considered women as a weak and inferior creature who has to be protected by men.

But today, women are no more to be considered frail provided the achieved sense of equality, psychological, physical, and financial freedom.

‘Woman’ is also one of the main themes of Hamlet. The play itself depicts the painful struggles and fates that women had to suffer throughout history.

Was Hamlet justified, the way he accused his mother of being frail?

In his book Exploring the World of English, Sayyid Saadat Ali Shah has penned down a complete essay on this quotation. At one point in his essay, he wrote;

As for frailty in the sense of inconstancy with which Hamlet accuses his mother, why a woman should remain faithful to the dead to the point of rejecting the living, is incomprehensible. Life with its resistible force beckons; it has to be lived and the dead could best be left alone or at the most locked away in the heart.

What Hamlet had said depicted the mentality of men who considered women frail, inferior, and their property lacking the free will to decide what is best for them.

Objective Analysis of ‘Frailty, thy name is woman’

No doubt, women are made different from men. They are physically, mentally, and biologically different.

But are they frail too?

The answer is a big No!!!!

Women bear the pain of giving birth to a child. It is sufficient to prove that women can bear the pain beyond limits, the pain men cannot imagine.

Women are emotionally strong too. They have to leave their parents and adjust to a completely new family, the new atmosphere at husband’s home. They even compromise on multiple things for the sake of her husband’s happiness.

Are women mentally weak? Do they lack reasoning? Are they capable of making good decisions?

Since, in the past, women were limited to the private sphere, their true potential could never be tested. But, once unleashed, they are proving themselves with their abilities and capabilities.

For instance, the way Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand’s Prime Minister) governed the country during the Covid-19 crisis is absolutely commendable. This is sufficient to prove that women can not only administer their homes but also the whole country too.

There are multiple examples of single women whose husbands had either left them or died, etc. but these women have raised their children alone along with running other affairs successfully.

Women might be dependent on men in many cases, but this does not prove that they are frail or weak.

Bottom Line

‘Frailty, thy name is women’ is an old view. This belief is older than the publication of the play ‘Hamlet’ itself.

However, this view does not hold water anymore. Women have challenged this belief back in the 18th century and proved themselves.


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