One particular phrase in the play that works powerfully to communicate William Shakespeare’s central idea that remarriage comes with many complications, specifically including an angry child throwing out emasculating jokes and bringing up broken religious vows, is the phrase “man and wife is one flesh,” or in other words, Hamlet can’t handle his mother, Gertrude, moving on with her life; Hamlet makes Gertrude and his stepdad, Claudius, feel like crap every chance he gets (IV.iii.54-55). In context, Hamlet says his “farewell” to Gertrude, and purposely ignores Claudius; Claudius feels left out of the goodbye so he expresses his fake love towards Hamlet, and Hamlet responds with “Father and mother is man and wife,” adding on, “man and wife is one flesh,” in other words, Hamlet replies with a simple witty response (IV.iii.52-55). On its surface, the phrase “one flesh” basically suggests this is Hamlet’s way to cover the fact he left Claudius out of his goodbye because Hamlet has a deep-rooted hatred for Claudius, or Hamlet wanted to make one last slick comment about his father’s murderer before he left to England that no one really will read into. However, the implications of the phrase “man and wife is one flesh,” are revealing emasculation tools used against men.
For one, the phrase “man and wife is one flesh” can also suggest the emasculation of Claudius because Hamlet implies Claudius is his mother, or more clearly: a woman. Hamlet could have easily called Gertrude his “father” since she and Claudius technically are “one flesh,” however, he chose to use the word mother, since mother is directly linked to femininity, in order to bruise Claudius’ masculinity. Men in the play seem to be very insulted if called any word linked to a woman because women are emotional, hysterical, and evil during the time of the play. Heck, even modern men become offended if one single person calls them any word relating to feminine features, characteristics, ideas, etc.
A male’s pride is a fragile subject and the men in Hamlet show this fragility often. Hamlet’s emasculation tactic shows that Hamlet will never truly accept Claudius as his step-father and the reader sees more perspective on the negative connotations the word “woman”. For another, the word “flesh” also suggests an allusion to The Bible because God uses Adam’s rib for Eve’s creation, and Adam goes as far as to say, “Eve is now bone of my bones” also adding that she is the “flesh of my flesh ” so, this allusion to The Bible has many layers (Genesis 2:23). Hamlet could be suggesting the religious importance that came with marriage because God hears the sacred vows, therefore, Gertrude technically broke her vow by marrying her dead husband’s brother because she remarried, even though she is still “flesh” of the dead king. Perhaps Hamlet uses the specific wording of “Father and mother” because he does not consider Claudius as a father, and the reader realizes Hamlet is referring to the late king. Hamlet perhaps believes he is God’s voice telling Gertrude she is unfaithful. The audience can see Hamlet shame Gertrude for her new union with Claudius, and it reveals a lot about Hamlet’s view on holy matrimony.
Since Hamlet so passionately shames his mother about Claudius, there’s insight to remarriage during Shakespeare’s time and further proves Shakespeare conveys the theme of remarriage being hard. Ultimately, Hamlet represents a small angry child going through a change he cannot handle, which many kids have to go through. Small, rebellious children say ignorant things that degrade their mom’s “boyfriend” by using terms linked to women, and that must mean the male cast members are all tiny toddlers since they use the terms and are insulted being called anything remotely close to a woman. The main point is that men are weak (at least in this play), sorry not sorry dudes. And by calling out Gertrude’s unfaithfulness, Hamlet addresses the religious issue of women being shamed as they get into relationships after losing their spouses. Men do not have the same “stay a widow” standard and Hamlet clearly shows the generic male view on women remarrying.