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Have Not We Affections: The Romantic Power Struggles of Shakespeare’s Women

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From the bitter Emilia to the pious Isabella, Shakespeare was a champion of crafting women. With a wide range of personalities, professions, and situations, Shakespeare mastered early in his illustrious career the art of creating diverse, dynamic, and multidimensional female characters. When stepping outside the traditional roles for female characters in theater, Shakespeare pushed boundaries by giving his women intelligent wit, innate humor, motives and goals which the Elizabethan and Jacobean audiences could relate directly to their own experiences. More than anything else, Shakespeare created a race of theatrical females who were first and foremost described as complete human women with virtues and vices which were believable and realistic. With these attributes, Shakespeare’s women were able to perceive unequal distributions of power in their worlds, particularly the distribution of power in the romantic relationships which in many cases were chosen for them. Comprehending with a bitter distaste the lack of control they held over their future lives, the women of Shakespeare took matters into their own hands more often than not, utilizing revolutionary or unconventional means to gain dominance in the power dynamics of their relationships. William Shakespeare offered his female characters the abilities and opportunities to recognize their subordinate positions concerning romantic relationships as well as the initiative to attempt a shift in these power dynamics.
Perhaps the most conventional example of Shakespeare’s powerless women, Juliet Capulet of Romeo and Juliet begins her tragic love story in a state of docile servitude which was wholly “accordant with the manners of the time.”(Jameson) The young girl, not yet fourteen, fo...

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...women after her discussion with the soothsayer: “… how weak a thing / The heart of woman is!” (II.iv.1182-1183)

Works Cited

Buccola, Regina. ""The Story Shall Be Changed": The Fairy Feminism of A Midsummer Night's Dream." Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.
Davis, Lloyd. "Embodied Masculinity in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar." Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.
Jameson, Anna. "Juliet." Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.
Shakespeare, William. "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Open Source Shakespeare. George Mason University, n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.
Shakespeare, William. "The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet." Open Source Shakespeare. George Mason University, n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.
Shakespeare, William. "The Tragedy of Julius Caesar." Open Source Shakespeare. George Mason University, n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.
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