| Quote #1
'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,
Translation: stop acting so ridiculous about your dead dad. According to King Claudius, Hamlet's excessive grief for his father is "unmanly." Why? Bereavement, says Hamlet's new stepdad/uncle, makes him appear weak, unreasonable, and without discipline —all things associated, in Claudius's mind, with women. Gee, with a role model like this, it's no wonder Hamlet's so messed up.
| Quote #2
Hamlet may start with his mom, but he ends with all women. He's disgusted by his mother's sexual "appetite," and blames that for her treacherous remarriage. Ergo, somehow, all women are "frail." He doesn't say "Frailty, thy name is Gertrude!"; he says, "Frailty, thy name is woman."
| Quote #3
[…] Then if he says he loves you,
Laertes tells her to guard her "chaste treasure" —not because he's interested in chastity as a moral issue (this isn't about Promise Keepers), but because he believes Ophelia's virginity is literally valuable. It'll determine what kind of marriage offers she'll get, and what kind of family she—and he—can align themselves with.
History Snack: In Shakespeare's day, there were plenty of handbooks on this matter, including Juan Vives's Education of a Christian Woman, which says a maid "hath within her a treasure without comparison." (Vives's handbook was translated from Latin and published in English in 1592.) Another handbook called A Godly Form of Household Government (1603) says that a woman's virginity is "the best portion, the greatest inheritance, and the most precious jewel" of her dowry. Why all this talk of treasure? Well, in the 16th and 17th centuries, eldest sons inherited all their fathers' wealth, titles, and lands (this is called "Primogeniture"). Marrying a virgin insured (theoretically) that a man's children were legitimate and that the family wealth could be passed on from generation to generation. So, literally, marrying a virgin was like insuring your fortune: just good business.