Heaven and earth,
Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on, and yet, within a month—
Let me not think on't—Frailty, thy name is woman!—
Hamlet Act 1, scene 2, 142–146
Hamlet, in his first soliloquy, recalls tender scenes between his mother, Queen Gertrude, and her deceased husband. What irks Hamlet is that, after his mother had seemed so sexually dependent on the old king, she could turn around within a month of his death and marry her brother-in-law Claudius, who, Hamlet claims, is "no more like my father/ Than I to Hercules" (lines 152–153) and compares to his father as "Hyperion to a satyr" (line 140)—as the sun-god to a deformed goat-man.
To Hamlet, his mother is the archetypal woman. Her incestuous inconstancy moves him to exclaim, "Frailty, thy name is woman!" It's not so much that Hamlet is a misogynist as that his mother's sexuality has poisoned his own, as we shall see in his relations to Ophelia [see GET THEE TO A NUNNERY].
Hamlet is referring to his mother's weaknesses: morally, spiritually, and physically. Morally she is "frail" because she betrayed her husband by marrying Claudius, and has the indecency to do so a mere two months after King Hamlet's death. Spritually she is frail because (in Hamlet's mind, as all these judgments are) she has committed an unforgivable sin. Physically she is "frail" because she is a woman, though this obviously is the least of Hamlet's concerns.
The Elizabethan audience who would have first paid to view this play would have been very used to the theme of revenge plays; they were exceedingly popular during the 16th and early 17th centuries. The revenge play was a very established genre and had very fixedcodes and conventions for the playwrights to work between. Elizabethan playwrights were known to base their works on myths and in particular the Roman dramatist Veneca. Veneca's work heavily featured sex, intrigue and violence. This...