“Gender hardly determines the nature of a character, in the plays of Shakespeare. It is for this very reason, that his plays are read, viewed and enjoyed by both the sexes equally, even after five hundred years of their composition” (Singh). Gender is not something that defines what a character is going to be like in Shakespeare’s plays. This quote illuminates that in Shakespeare’s writings females and males were on equal level playing fields when it came to their traits. Females during the time period were considered inferior to men.
Over the course of the semester, we have read some beautiful plays from comedies to tragedies; Shakespeare’s later plays exhibited an extensively wide range of female characters from the weak, obedient to the strong, empowering woman. One of the examples of this would be Ophelia in Hamlet exhibits weak and obedient characteristics whereas Viola in Twelfth Night is a strong female role that breaks the gender roles by disguising herself as a male and proving women are equivalent to men. Even Shakespeare’s weakest female characters seem to break some of the stereotypical role of the period. For example, Ophelia does listen to her father, however, talks back to Hamlet which during the Renaissance breaks the stereotypical role. Shakespeare was an early feminist because of his nontraditional female characters; despite his weak female characters, Shakespeare still provides his female characters with some trait that follows a nontraditional role. I will focus on in this paper are King Lear, Twelfth Night, and Hamlet. I will use Hamlet to show that even the weakest of female characters have gender breaking characteristics.
A feminist is someone who is trying to advocate for the equality of women. I believe through research and reading many of Shakespeare’s later plays exhibit signs of Shakespeare’s small attempts to be an advocate for female equality. A presented argument in readings that I came across was the in the end the female falls to a patriarchal society; I find this argument invalid. In the Renaissance Period to even to have a woman break her role of being subservient, obedient, and quite was controversial. If Shakespeare had a female character who was triumphant the entire play might not have drawn a crowd. In light of this I found a quote, “Often he has challenged the patriarchy and patriarchal values in these comedies. He does provide the occasional glimpses of the women in control of their environments, with all possible qualities attributed to women,” (Jajja 119). This quote states that although he did not necessarily keep a strong, triumphant female character throughout the entire play he still always gave a positive outlook on female’s roles in society especially in comedies.
King Lear is one of Shakespeare later plays that exhibit women in a powerful posotion. King Lear is getting old and decides to give away his kingdom to his daughters: Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia. He asks his daughters how much they...