Treatment of women in shakespeare

Shakespeares portrayal of female characters

However we view his culpability, Ophelia suffers as a result of Hamlet's patriarchal values of womanhood. King Leontes, unlike Othello, comes to his conclusion by his own means, without any outside verification of truth or logical explanation for his jealousy. Although a flash of her potential self-will shines through at the beginning of the play, when we learn that Ophelia has entertained Hamlet unchaperoned or without paternal consent, this is stifled very quickly by Polonius and Laertes - the double voice of the patriarchy - telling her that she is naive and that her behaviour is unsuitable. In his treatment of Ophelia, Hamlet oscillates between protests of undying love and cruelty such as his cold and accusing speech in the 'nunnery scene'. Her sexual power over men is conveyed boldly, for example, in her descriptions of her former conquests 'great Pompey' and 'Broad-fronted Caesar'. While Ophelia then, silently and obediently accepts the oppression of male power, turning her distress in upon herself in her madness, Desdemona does display some traces of a more Cleopatra-like self-assertion. Cleopatra's masculine qualities counterbalance the play, so Shakespeare provides us with a relationship of surprising equality. Photograph of Mark Rylance in Olivia costume in Shakespeare's Globe's production of Twelfth Night, Mark Rylance plays Olivia in a modern return to the original practice of all-male casting. Neither Cleopatra nor the relationship can be stifled within the confines of the patriarchy of the seventeenth century. Othello's excessive, 'unwise' love for Desdemona is tied up with his perception of her as representing perfect womanhood, and his underlying fear of her - endorsed by society - as whore. Shakespeare shows, however, that it is this obedience of Ophelia's that leads to her own destruction, and illustrates that when the guiding male is like the cynical Polonius or the unperceptive Laertes, the fate of the subordinate female is considerably threatened.

In most cases, they are socially restricted and unable to explore the world around them without chaperones. Photograph of Mark Rylance in Olivia costume in Shakespeare's Globe's production of Twelfth Night, Mark Rylance plays Olivia in a modern return to the original practice of all-male casting.

Like Hamlet, who tells Ophelia 'get thee to a nunnery' in order to protect her chastity and remove his fear of woman's infidelity, Othello too wishes to erase Desdemona's sexuality and potential for infidelity.

Womens roles in the 1600s

Charmian tries to pacify her by telling her 'Good madam keep yourself within yourself', but Cleopatra escapes the bounds of self-composure and the repression of self-hood. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. The patriarchal males view Antony's devotion as shameful - 'His captain's heart The soliloquy brings a compensating intimacy, and becomes the means by which Shakespeare brings the audience not only to a knowledge of secret thoughts of characters, but into the closest emotional touch with them too. Portrayal of Women in William Shakespeare's Plays Essay - William Shakespeare's characterization of women varies immensely from one comedy to another. The second theatrical woman emphatically takes centre stage. Her sexual power over men is conveyed boldly, for example, in her descriptions of her former conquests 'great Pompey' and 'Broad-fronted Caesar'. Shakespeare allows them more freedom to explore their sexuality, perhaps because their low-status renders them socially harmless. Antony does not cease to be a valiant Roman by choosing Egypt over Rome; love over politics, but becomes vanquisher of himself in his suicide. However we view his culpability, Ophelia suffers as a result of Hamlet's patriarchal values of womanhood. Speak not against it. King Leontes, unlike Othello, comes to his conclusion by his own means, without any outside verification of truth or logical explanation for his jealousy. Through death Cleopatra not only transcends the world of oppression and fate, but embraces her death as a positive act rather than as an act of negation: My desolation does begin to make a better life. At this point Desdemona becomes more of a stereotype, her identity disappearing as Othello's jealousy becomes more defined. As Dreher puts it 'following conventional patterns of behaviour for wives and daughters, these women lose their autonomy and intimacy and do not achieve adulthood'.

Cleopatra, unlike Othello and Ophelia, is the dominating force of the play in terms of theme and also her personal presence. Yet through her death, Shakespeare depicts her as enacting the strength of womanhood by converting death into an image of both sensuality and motherhood.

elizabethan womens roles

Elizabethan Great Britain, heading the way of the medieval Renaissance, introduced previously unheard of customs of treating women.

Clare McManus explores gender in the history of Shakespeare performance.

Shakespeares assertion on women

At this point Desdemona becomes more of a stereotype, her identity disappearing as Othello's jealousy becomes more defined. Bernard Partridge: This material is in the Public Domain. Inevitably he returns to Egypt and Cleopatra, and causes a rift which can never again be cemented between himself and Caesar, which ultimately results in war. Ophelia, it would seem, wholly at the mercy of the male figures within her life, is certainly a victim figure. James Hill similarly says of the heroines of the tragedies that we are not shown 'their inner lives' or their 'inner conflicts'. These women show a lust for power that's often on par or surpassing that of the men around them. Usage terms Public Domain At times, though, Shakespeare has become an authority figure for writers to kick against in despair. Although a flash of her potential self-will shines through at the beginning of the play, when we learn that Ophelia has entertained Hamlet unchaperoned or without paternal consent, this is stifled very quickly by Polonius and Laertes - the double voice of the patriarchy - telling her that she is naive and that her behaviour is unsuitable. Velma Richmond claims further that in Cleopatra we can find Shakespeare's 'finest embracing of the feminine'. While Ophelia then, silently and obediently accepts the oppression of male power, turning her distress in upon herself in her madness, Desdemona does display some traces of a more Cleopatra-like self-assertion. Shakespeare allows them more freedom to explore their sexuality, perhaps because their low-status renders them socially harmless.

Shakespeare evidently recognises the existence of both masculine and feminine qualities within females and males. These new readings are produced to comment on issues in the society in which it is explored. Shakespeare tries to show Hamlet and other male characters as assertive men.

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Shakespeare and gender: the ‘woman’s part’