The Role of Women in Shakespeare's Tragedies

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The Role of Women in Shakespeare's Tragedies

In Shakespeare’s tragedies and his plays in general, we can come across several types of female characters. Their influence with other characters and their purpose or role, often underestimated like women themselves, will be this essay’s main subject.

Women in Shakespearean plays have always had important roles, sometimes even the leading role. Whether they create the main conflicts and base of the plays, or bring up interesting moral and cultural questions, they have always been put in challenging situations. Some women are stronger than others, and their effect on the play is different for each one. They often even surpass the male heroes. It’s almost unbelieveable, if we take into consideration the status of women, of course with its discrimination and cruel conditions, in Shakespeare’s days - sixteenth century Elizabethan England. But there could have been many reasons, why he gave his characters such qualities. It could have been the Queen Elizabeth I. on the throne, or a certain influence of his marriage with older woman. Some modern critics claim, he was a feminist, or on the contrary it is historically incorrect, because we shouldn’t forget that he wrote maily for a male entertainment. Particulary in his comedies we frequently see a woman take on the strongest character, while often in his tragedies he has a male play the isolated tragic hero.

It’s highly necessary to know the context to fully understand it. The women couldn't do much of anything but cook and clean for their husbands. They were also spoken to and commanded like they were common dogs. Also the women did not get to choose who they married. They were supposed to act like dolls. Their loyalty belonged first to their fathers and then to their husbands. This patriarchal structure has forced them to become repressed and helpless, not only in the eyes of men and society. Overall women were treated horrible compared to today's time. There’s evident inspiration and writer’s reaction.

Nevertheless, in the midst of this male-dominant society Shakespeare portrays women with strengths at least equal to those of men. Shakespeare's views on women clearly define his plays and how, by using the women as some of the most powerful and stage dominating characters, and he shows a remarkable gift for breaking down the barriers that held women captiv...

... middle of paper ... Lady Macbeth’s behavior certainly shows that women can be as ambitious and cruel as men. Whether because of the constraints of her society or because she is not fearless enough to kill, Lady Macbeth relies on deception and manipulation rather than violence to achieve her ends.

Beyond doubt, three witches, as supernatural characters in “Macbeth”, embody an unreasoning, instinctive evil. They represent Macbeth‘s evil ambitions and aspirations.

It is evident the women’s role in Shakespeare’s tragedy is unlike his comedy. In comedies the women are empowered, that means they are mostly strong, independent, and capable, despite the male-dominant society of Elizabethan England. But in fact, women who were gifted and imaginative were not given the chance to develop their skills to become better in their craft. are often depicted as meek, obedient, and vapid creatures who stand behind their husbands. Their biggest role is usually one as wife or sister, hardly ever straying to be different. And that reflects exactly on Shakespearean tragic female characters, along with all difficulties, struggle and despair.

Unfortunately, some of these characters survived not only in drama...

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