Feminist Themes In William Shakespeare's Works

1666 Words7 Pages
William Shakespeare has been accused of many things, ranging from plagiarism to homosexuality, and is sometimes found at the epicenter of wild conspiracy theories. But of all the allegations surrounding the infamous playwright, seldom is he called a feminist. While Shakespeare’s plays feature some of the most powerful female figures in all literary history, his offering of more waif-like characters and tendency toward chauvinism in his personal life overshadow any bold statements he made in the name of feminist progress when, in fact, his ideas helped formulate some of the most prevalent themes of a movement that did not occur until centuries later. Messages of prevailing womanhood are laced into many of Shakespeare’s most widely read works, most often in the forms of female characters who demonstrate incredible intellect, rare courage, unwavering piety, or a deep sense of justice, and the strong Shakespearean women far outnumber the weak or dimwitted girls most stereotypically attributed to his catalog. William Shakespeare, although often accused of chauvinism, broke the norms and expectations of an otherwise sexist era and developed some of the strongest female characters in theatre’s history, thus establishing matriarchs that would later provide examples for the ideals of the feminist movement. Shakespeare’s time, more broadly defined at the Elizabethan era, was bleak for women. Even though Queen Elizabeth I was unmarried, powerful, and highly educated, the society did not heed her example and regard the rest of the female population accordingly. The Queen was an anomaly; most other women were fragile and dependent, not allowed to fend for themselves even if they desired to do so. Women were regarded as inferior. They were to obey and submit to men, those being either husbands or male relatives. As a deeply Catholic society, “disobedience was seen as a crime
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