A Feminist Improvement of Hamlet

How to improve Hamlet…

Bianca from Taming of the Shrew should befriend Ophelia. She is exactly the sort of woman Ophelia needs. She is a strong self-reliant type who can explain to Ophelia that the world does not revolve around men. They could meet at the market, their respective fathers having sent them out for supplies. Ophelia would be sent because she is the only woman in the house and therefore the only choice to go to market and Bianca because the stall-owners refuse to deal with her sister. This would be before Kate’s marriage in Taming of the Shrew and after the nunnery scene, but before the Mousetrap play in Hamlet.

Bianca and Ophelia would first talk of ordinary things and slowly become more intimate. Bianca would mention her many suitors and her inability to choose one because of her sister. After hearing Bianca’s problems, Ophelia would then trust her enough to open up about her own. By this time, they would have moved out of the market square and to somewhere more private, perhaps the local fountain or well, somewhere where women gather. Ophelia would talk about how Hamlet had ordered her to a nunnery of all places and how devastated that had made her feel. Yet she also would talk about her hopes that he did not mean it and had somehow found out that her father and his uncle were listening to them. Bianca would express her horror both that a lover would treat Ophelia in such a manner and that her father and his uncle would spy on them in such a way. She would also suggest that perhaps Ophelia look for a man who would treat her right. Anyone that would yell at her surely is not worth the time of day. For in Bianca’s world lovers are people who whisper sweet nothings in your ear, bring you gifts, and not only promise you the world, but do their best to give it to you. Bianca would also explain how a woman can do as she wishes without interference if she makes a pretence of obedience or finds a man she can control.

Ophelia has never been fortunate enough to have a devoted sort of lover. She is, instead, stuck with Hamlet, who while he has in the past written her love letters, mainly either yells at her or ignores her. She would be fascinated to hear of how Bianca’s suitors treat Bianca and how Bianca controls them. Ophelia, of course, is very much in love with Hamlet and would never take Bianca’s advice to throw him over for someone who treats her better but hearing of the treatment Bianca receives at the hands of her suitors would get her thinking once she calmed down. The conversation would end here as Ophelia would storm off since Bianca had dared to speak ill of her dear Hamlet.

Yet later she might think back to that day at the market. First, at the Mousetrap play when she thought Hamlet had come round and was acting as he should. His actions were inappropriate to be sure but he was kind and flirtatious and she likely had great hopes for the future at that moment. Then that night he killed her father. After that ultimate betrayal, she is never again seen sane onstage and soon after kills herself. Would this change if one day at the market she met Bianca and was told what a caring lover should be like and the power a woman could wield? For yes Hamlet has loved her, but he has chosen the pursuit of revenge over her and she is left to deal with that.  Even worse, this pursuit has blinded him to the point where he has killed her father. That day at the market would give her something to hold on to. When grief overwhelms one a person needs something to hold on to or their mind snaps and they go mad. Without Bianca Ophelia has nothing to hold on to and when her grief over her father and the manner of his death comes it overwhelms her and her minds snaps. Yet with it, she would be able to see her way out of the darkness. She could understand that Hamlet does not need to be her world and neither does her father. A woman can stand on her own if she has to.

So inserting Bianca into Hamlet would stop the suicide of Ophelia as she would be better able to cope with her grief. Meeting an independent woman with many suitors who treat her right would allow Ophelia to see that men do not need to be the center of her world and that she can survive without them. It would also allow her to see that Hamlet does not treat her the way he should and that perhaps because of this he is not worth so much of her life.

What Shakespeare character do you think should be added to a different play and why?


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