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Shakespeare and Women

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Thomas Wheeler

on 21 February 2018

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Transcript of Shakespeare and Women

Are Tragedies Male-Heavy?
While the information may lead us to believe this is the case, there is plenty of counter argument available.

If nothing else,
The Duchess of Malfi
retains at least a title female character, and
The White Devil
is ambiguous in its nature, even if neither of them are female heavy in terms of lines.

The Classical Greek Tragedians however, offer a range of Tragedies both titled and/or led be female characters. Euripides'
Medea
, Sophocles'
Antigone
and Aeschylus'
Niobe
all offer narratives focused around, and especially in Euripides' case, led by women.
Elaine Showalter
Yet when feminist criticism allows Ophelia to upstage Hamlet, it also brings to the foreground the issues in an
ongoing theoretical debate about the cultural links between femininity, female sexuality, insanity, and
representation. Though she is neglected in criticism, Ophelia is probably the most frequently illustrated and
cited of Shakespeare's heroines. Her visibility as a subject in literature, popular culture, and painting, from
Redon who paints her drowning, to Bob Dylan, who places her on Desolation Row, to Cannon Mills, which
has named a flowery sheet pattern after her, is in inverse relation to her invisibility in Shakespearean critical
texts. Why has she been such a potent and obsessive figure in our cultural mythology? Insofar as Hamlet
names Ophelia as “woman” and “frailty,” substituting an ideological view of femininity for a personal one,
is she indeed representative of Woman, and does her madness stand for the oppression of women in society as
well as in tragedy? Furthermore, since Laertes calles Ophelia a “document in madness,” does she represent
the textual archetype of woman as madness or madness as woman? And finally, how should feminist criticism
represent Ophelia in its own discourse? What is our responsibility towards her as character and as woman?

Debate
The Denmark Shakespeare presents is so oppressive that the only option left for his female characters is suicide.

To what extent do you agree with this assessment of
Hamlet
as a play?
Shakespeare and Women
Does Shakespeare Struggle with Women?
Antony & Cleopatra:
Antony (840) > Cleopatra (680)
Coriolanus:
Coriolanus (675) >[1 Character]>Volumnia (311)
Julius Caesar:
Brutus (722) >[4 Characters]>Portia (92)
King Lear:
Lear (749) >[5 Characters]> Goneril (199)
Macbeth:
Macbeth (715) > Lady Macbeth (259)
Othello:
Iago (1088) > [1 Character] > Desdemona (391)
Romeo & Juliet:
Romeo (617) > Juliet (542)
Titus Andronicus:
Titus (711) > [2 Characters] > Tamora (257)

Ophelia in Particular

Jacques Lacan:
'she is linked forever, for centuries, to the figure of Hamlet.'
Lee Edwards:
‘we can imagine Hamlet’s story without Ophelia, but Ophelia literally has no story without Hamlet’.
L.O. - To
understand
and
apply
a Feminist critique of Hamlet.
From your knowledge of Hamlet and any other Shakespearean text you have studied, do you think Shakespeare offers convincing female characters?

Does this information support or reject that?

What about these plays perhaps accounts for this shift?
To what extent do you agree with these interpretations of Ophelia as a character?
Full transcript