Shakespeare's Portrayal of Female Characters in The Merchant of Venice and Henry V

913 Words4 Pages
Shakespeare's Portrayal of Female Characters in The Merchant of Venice and Henry V Shakespeare's presentation and portrayal of his female characters in The Merchant of Venice and Henry V follows a typical pattern that is present in all of the Shakespearean plays that I have read so far. When looking closely at the fate of his female characters, this pattern becomes even more evident for it repeats itself no matter how different the plays are. For instance, Henry V and The Merchant of Venice are different in every respect. The female characters not only come from different backgrounds, they also have very different personalities. However, as different as these plays and their characters are, the female characters end up suffering the same fate. It doesn't seem to matter whether they are born into a life of peasantry, nobility, or come from royalty, for they ultimately will end up being no better than a piece of land, or cattle, or some possession that a man can own and do with as he pleases. Scholars have been debating for centuries now as to whether Shakespeare's women reflect his society's attitudes or that of his own. Henry V is definitely geared more for the male audience. There are only two or three acts in which a female character is present at all. When we first get a glimpse of Katherine, she is trying to learn the English language. This scene is supposed to be somewhat comical, but are we really supposed to believe that while there is a war raging throughout her country, that all Katherine is concerned about is the fact that she can't speak the language of her enemy? This scene in which we get our first glimpse of Katherine is somewhat degrading to her character as well as misleading. This leaves the audience with the inaccurate perception that Katherine, and thus all women in general, care very little about what's going on around them, and more about making themselves presentable. Afterall, isn't Katherine the "Grand Prize" that will be awarded to the winning side? I find it very insulting that Shakespeare's only significant female role in the whole play, is being used as a " Prize" to be given away. Shakespeare doesn't even try to hide the fact that he is setting Katherine up as a prize. I find this kind of arrogance to be offensive and very belittling to women.

More about Shakespeare's Portrayal of Female Characters in The Merchant of Venice and Henry V

Open Document