Tamed Shrews And Twelfth Nights The Role Of Women In Shakespeare

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It is curious to note the role of women in Shakespearean literature. Many critics have lambasted the female characters in his plays as two-dimensional and unrealistic portrayals of subservient women. Others have asserted that the roles of women in his plays were prominent for the time and culture that he lived in. That such contrasting views could be held in regards to the same topic is academic. It is only with close examination of his works that we are able to suppose his intent in creating characters that inspire so much controversy. Two works, Taming of the Shrew, and Twelfth Night, stand out particularly well in regards to Shakespeare's use of female characters. After examining these two plays, one will see that Shakespeare, though... View More »

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Curiously enough, both women voluntarily accept the roles that society would impose on them again at the close of the plays. It is important to note though, that they freely resume these roles, and that they do so out of their own sense of self. For each woman, it is a personal choice based on their desires. In the case of Katherine, she realizes that propriety is as much a signature of self-respect as respect for others, and she has a husband whom she need prove nothing to because he already respects her. In the case of Viola, she is in love with the young Orsino. Having found the man she would be willing to wed, the pretense of her male identity is no longer necessary, as she desires to be his wife.

Having seen the similarities between Viola and Katherine, one should take notice that they do have different circumstances regarding their behavior. The reason for Katherine?s shrewish demeanor is never given in the play, though many directors have interpreted it as an act to discourage suitors, much like Hamlet?s feigned madness. Others have attributed it to sibling rivalry between Katherine and her sister Bianca. In any case, no clear rationale is given to the audience as to the reason for Katherine?s behavior. It is enough to say that the actions of her father and sister do not relieve the situation as well. Throughout the whole of the play, her father treats her as a commodity to be bargained away to whoever is willing to take her. Granted that he doesn?t view Bianca as anything more than a commodity as well, but he clearly favors her over Katherine as unspoiled ...

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