In the midst of a male-dominant society - sixteenth century Elizabethan England - Shakespeare portrays women with strengths at least equal to those of men. By so doing, he opens the door for them politically as well as socially, well in advance of any legal rights being granted to women. It has been argued that Shakespeare's views of women can be logically traced to the characters he has created (Kolin 11). He "came as close to exposition of a system of practical values as he could, without creating characters to serve as mouthpieces for his own ideas" (Greer 39). If this is true, he had very modern views of women, men, and equality, believing that women are equal to men. Germaine Greer confirms this with, "Shakespeare views marriage as a partnership between equals, sexually vibrant, committed, constant, and practical" (39).
In his Comedies, Shakespeare empowers women over men in two distinct ways. First of all, focusing on the idea that they are the agents in Elizabethan society of happiness and order (Pitt 48), he allows for major female roles. Perhaps he felt, too, that some day women would be able to play their own roles on the stage instead of having them played by boys. He wanted them to have equal, and sometimes more prominent parts than men on stage, with hopes that this equality would filter into society. This is true, especially in the Comedies, where women naturally fit in because of their role in society to `be happy'. Another way that Shakespeare gives women power is with the theme of disguise. As female characters don disguises of men, they often assume a more powerful disposition. It is true that when a person dresses a certain way, he or she is likely to act accordingly. Law enforcement officers...
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...hem equality with men.
Draper, R.P. Shakespeare: The Comedies. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.
Greer, Germaine. "Shakespeare's Comedies Show Women as Equal Partners with Men."
Readings on The Comedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1997. 39-45.
Howard, Jean E. "Cross-Dressing in As You Like It." As You Like It. Ed. Albert
Gilman. New York: Penguin Books
Kolin, Philip C. Shakespeare and Feminist Criticism: An Annotated Bibliography and
Commentary. New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1991.
Pitt, Angela. "Strong Women Prevail in Shakespeare's Comedies." Readings on The
Comedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1997. 46-53.
Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. Ed. Albert Gilman. New York: Penguin Books
---.Twelfth Night. Ed. Sidney Lamb. Lincoln: Cliffs Notes, 1965
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