Shakespeare's Women: "Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie"

Publication Year



Literature, William Shakespeare, plays, women, character, dramas


Comparative Literature | Creative Writing | English Language and Literature | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


It is generally accepted by scholars that Shakespeare portrayed women with far more freedom than did most dramatists up to that time. This freedom makes it profitable to approach his plays with a certain perspective and with certain questions in mind. The perspective is female; the questions are about women. What are they like? Can any generalizations about them be made? Are they stereotypical, or are they "liberated" in breaking female stereotypes? Perhaps the broadest question is whether the plays contain or address any gender issues. Answers to these questions are found by looking at the text with an eye towards questions the women, to men, and to the society in which they function. Shakespeare's women are not willing simply to accept men's edicts, or life as they find it. Instead, when their situation does not please them Shakespeare's women are active in their response. They are intelligent and strong, speaking out and acting in various assertive ways in order to achieve the end they want. In short, when Shakespeare's women find themselves in an intolerable position, one usually caused by men, they respond aggressively in three important ways. At first they respond verbally; they object to the situation and defend themselves against authority. When verbal defense fails, the women become active, working towards a resolution with any means they possess. Finally, they are willing, in the end, to forgive the men who have wronged them. In addition, their responses often show the women to be superior in understanding to the men. Out of Shakespeare's many plays, one each of comedy, so-called dark comedy, tragedy and romance will serve to illustrate this pattern, which crosses all four genres.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

English: Literature and Writing

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