Frailty, Thy Name is Woman Examples
This phrase originates in Shakespeare's Hamlet, as Hamlet laments that his mother, Gertrude, will marry his uncle Claudius only a month or so after his father's death:
By what it fed on, and yet, within a month-
Let me not think on 't. Frailty, thy name is woman!-
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she followed my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears. Why she, even she-
O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourned longer!-married with my uncle,
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules. Within a month,
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her gallèd eyes,
She married. O most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good,
But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.
Hamlet is calling his mother weak, and essentially calling her faith to his father into question, as he questions her marriage to Claudius so soon after becoming a widow. He is not only calling her emotionally weak, but also morally weak for marrying so soon.
During Shakespeare's time, in Elizabethan England, women were considered weak and frail. In a patriarchal society, women were seen as needing protection-not only physical protection, but protection from themselves. They were not allowed to have the same freedoms as men in society because they could be "corrupted" or "ruined." Women needed to be protected so that they would remain "pure," and they were considered too frail-physically and mentally-to remain so under their own devices.
Today, the phrase is sometimes still used to refer specifically to women as the "weaker sex," but the phrase has also been modified to refer to other things. For example, James Joyce played on Shakespeare's words by stating, "Frailty, thy name is marriage."
Literary Terms Examples