Men were given force and power while women had to content themselves to be obedient and submissive. In this paper we will try to analyse the female characters in some of Shakespeare comedies The Twelfth Night, As you like it, The Comedy of errors, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing either by studying their inner world or by contrasting them to men.
A man during that period, in contrast, had to be well-educated, have polished manners and grace, be considerate, have high standards of proper behaviour and know the arts and sciences.
Both men and women had to have elegance and be of noble birth. But a more detailed study of each of them indicates that the situation was not as simple as it seems to be at first glance. Women were only allowed on stage after , following the downfall of Cromwell's puritanical government. The female character who has the most lines is Rosalind, the heroine of As You Like It , who has more lines than any of Shakespeare's female characters.
Cleopatra comes in second with lines and third place belongs to Imogen Cymbeline , with lines. Portia and Juliet complete the top five. The dramatic use of disguise is one of the most ancient elements of the European theatrical tradition, and is found in comedy, above all, as a means of misunderstanding, intrigue and confusion.
Shakespeare’s dealing with women in his tragedies and comedies Essay Example
In this collective paper we are going to deal with three of these comedies : The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It and Twelfth Night, and we will try to analyse the relevance of this fact within the plays. Women disguise as men, most of the times as page boys. As for the production, in the Elizabethan theatre, feminine roles were played by young men.
So, the fact that a young lady, as a main character, decided to disguise as a man, created a difficult play of identities: the young actor will end playing a woman who is trying to play a young man at the same time. Moreover, this leads to an interaction between appearance and reality.
However, actresses disguised as men seem to be a provocation for the church. Although said disguise was seen as provocative, it comes up as a mechanism which allows the liberation or the social emancipation for those people who adopt it: all the heroines manage to overcome all the imposed restrictions on women of the epoch thanks to the use of the disguise.
The Love Story in Shakespearean Comedy
Besides, this offers Shakespeare the possibility to allow disguised women to make subtle comments about the social interaction between the man and the woman. In addition, the effectiveness of the disguise also implies that women have to adopt an appropriate discourse to their new role, a masculine register. So, the disguise becomes an instrument for women to put them at the same social level as men.
It also provides women the authority and free movements that are required by the circumstances in which they are involved. On the one hand, the use of disguise leads to the following conclusion: due to the fact that other characters in the play and also the audience do not realize the real identities that are hidden behind the costumes, the tension of the moment is very peculiar. This is because the audience does not feel that they can be found out due to their possible mistakes if we pay attention to the linguistic features they use or the way they behave.
So, the tension is rather due to the uncertainty provoked by the tragicomic aspects of the action. On the other hand, the disguise provokes confusing situations. This happens when another feminine character falls in love with the disguised characters. Act 1, end of scene V. Greenblatt, Stephen.
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The Norton Shakespeare: "Twelfth Night". Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W. Pages Act 2,scene VII,lines Another element related to the external perception that other characters have about the disguised characters seems to be the fact that everybody is always insisting on emphasizing beauty and youth. This on one hand helps to build dramatic tension, because the audience is made aware of the possibility that the disguised characters could be found out imminently.
On the other hand, this situation also allows the audience to become involved in the dramatic irony and the resulting humour. On the one hand, the use of disguise involves certain linguistic features that affect the dramatic building in order to understand what is happening on stage. Basically, the disguise requires a verbal adaptation and a specific behaviour that, on the one hand, is vital to the realism and complexity of the play. On the other hand, it can be considered a source of humour and satire. We are witness to a certain unfamiliarization which is understood to be typical of the masculine gender.
However, we cannot talk about a standard masculine discourse, but rather we are interested here in the individual use of the characters that answer their purposes and contribute to their characterization in a wide variety of styles and kinds of humour. Apart from this, it is important to mention that disguised women also experience the feeling of shame. One of the most important aspects that disguised women have to take into account are ingenuity and verbal skills. The ingenuity that disguised women make use of has nothing to do with temerity, but rather with care and wisdom.
Finally, with regards to the ambiguous moments of the play, we have to mention those occasions in which women make use of indirect reference in order to defend themselves. This situation has to do with their situation as women and as disguised characters. When they are referring to their own situation, not from their personal and subjective plane, but from the public and masculine plane, they are giving their thoughts an objectivity that would be socially unacceptable if they were talking as women.
Thus, they make use of the third person to refer to themselves to give their words objectiveness. It is well known fact that women during the Renaissance and for a long period throughout history were viewed as inferior to men who were considered intellectually superior. But maybe this inferiority has been too exaggerated throughout history. Portia from The Merchant of Venice annihilates that myth. When Shakespeare introduced her in Scene II, Act I, we immediately notice her quick wit, originality, sharpness and smartness.
Her speech is eloquent and reveals a high level of education. Neither does Nerissa. Scene-indexed HTML of the complete text. Nerissa is equally intelligent. Comparing the female characters in The Merchant of Venice , Shakespeare seems to emphasize their superiority.
But despite all this we see how women were limited in their rights to heir titles, to choose a husband and in general to behave in accordance with their own free will. In The merchant of Venice we deal with such a father. The situation is doubly ridiculous because her father is dead, but even so she must obey. But the fact that he put her portrait in a leaden chest reveals something about her father. He sought intellectual fulfilment for his daughter. And although she could not attend the university because only men were allowed to do that at that time , we see that he did everything he could to cultivate her mind.
So in all probability he wanted Portia to have a place for herself within a masculine world. Maybe he chose the leaden chest as the most suitable because he wanted to avoid a marriage for convenience or maybe by doing this he wanted to prevent men from treating Portia as an inferior being or as means to obtain comfort, luxury etc.
That is why he seeks a rich heiress to become his wife. Here a woman was viewed as an object useful to obtain a comfortable life with a lot of money and plenty of comfort. Judging by these lines we cannot avoid the perception of inequality between men and women. A woman had to be rich enough in order to buy a husband and not the other way round. In that sense Portia, being a woman can even be viewed as superior to a wide range of noble men from all over the world ranging from England to Morocco.
Portia sense of humour and witty remarks confirm this suggestion. She also rejects the County Palatine. She also makes fun of the young German. She says that when he is best he is a little worse than a man, and when he is worst he is a little better than a beast. Trying to avoid it she finds a way out: for example, in order not to marry the young German she asks Nerissa to put a glass of rhenish wine on the wrong casket for she knew he would choose it.
She is so resolute that nobody can oblige her to do anything she does not please and her resourcefulness helps her in this undertaking. So the noble men from all over the world: England, France, Spain, Germany, Scotland, Morocco prove to be ridiculous, preposterous, vain and useless near Portia, the embodiment of intelligence, common sense and reason. Her comments on the suitors are full of subtle humour. This makes us see a woman in a new light during Shakespeare epoch. There is no doubt that Portia is intellectually higher than any of the candidates mentioned above.
Portia, apparently capricious, hang to her own principles and her own free will with a firmness which carries her through every phase of her life. This cannot be said about the men in the comedies under analysis. Men, unfortunately do not display an equivalent intellectual performance.
7 Types of Female Characters in Shakespeare's Plays
The Prince of Morocco is greedy and preposterous. What is more, he is vain. Why, that is the lady: I do in birth deserve her and in fortunes, in graces and in qualities of breeding. The readers can not help laughing at his excessive pride in his own appearance and accomplishments. Prince of Aragon is too superfluous: he would have chosen the leaden casket if it had been fairer. He lacks depth of intelligence, feeling and knowledge. In The Merchant of Venice the female characters are brighter than male ones. Besides she is obliged to renounce her faith and be converted to Christianity.
Among the men in The Merchant of Venice only Antonio, perhaps being in love with Bassanio, is capable of sacrificing himself: he offers Antonio his credit.