Monday, September 19, 2011

Women in Shakespeare...and a tangent

The other day in class we were talking about the variety of women in Shakespeare. How, despite the time period he lived in, many of his female characters (who were still played by men) are strong characters, with great value. Sure we have characters like Ophelia and Desdemona who are spineless "doormats" (and who both end up dying...coincidence?) but we have stronger characters like Paulina who isn't afraid to say anything, really anything, to a crazy king. We have characters like Hermione who have a quiet and admirable dignity. I really think she is amazing for the way she handles everything, accused of adultery and plotting to murder, her newborn baby being banished. It's not until she finally sees that her husband won't listen and her little boy dies that she can’t take it anymore. In Julius Caesar I like Brutus' wife, Portia, and what he says of her,"O ye gods, render me worthy of this noble wife!". Shakespeare shows the value of valuing ones wife (if only Brutus had been equally honorable and honest with his wife.)

Basically, it seems in Shakespeare plays that although, mostly for the point of a story, bad things happen to all characters, it seems to turn out better for the stronger figures. Let's take Beatrice and Hero from Much Ado About Nothing. Hero seems to me to be another "doormat" while Beatrice is sassy and strong. Beatrice only has to go through a lot of teasing to have her "happily ever after". Hero on the other hand is accused of infidelity (this seems to be a common theme…Desdemona, Hermione?) and has to be verbally, and emotionally abused (Ophelia parallel?) and then fake her death (another common theme, Juliet...anyone?) to get Leonato to feel sorry enough, and then she gets her happily ever after.

Not only do things seem to work out better for the stronger characters, but they are also a lot more fun to read about. I would rather be friends with people like Beatrice or Paulina, than empty people like Hero and Ophelia.

Heck, if I’m going to wish a fictional character to reality to be their friend I’m going to step outside the realm of Shakespeare and into Disney’s Tangled. Sure Rapunzel starts off as a “doormat” never leaving home for 18 years just cause her “mom” said no, but at the end she is a stronger frying pan wielding beauty, who would be lots of fun to hang out with cause she’s always ready to let her hair down (ha…ha…).

Sorry Will, modern computer animated Disney beats you here.

1 comment:

  1. Your comment about "doormat" characters reminds me of one of my former English professor's ideologies about life. He said if you're not intellectually engaged in life, whatever aspect, you're not living up to your potential which leads to a more boring life. I feel like Shakespeare had the same ideology to an extent, given the nature of some of his characters and plays (good examples of which you mentioned in this post).