The title for my undergraduate dissertation was ‘Women and Genre in Shakespeare’s plays’. I really enjoyed researching and writing this piece and was so proud to have learnt that I achieved a 1:1 grade for it! I also have a Shakespearean quote as a tattoo that reads; ‘though she be but little, she is fierce’ which is from ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ (a play studied in my dissertation).
I’ll write a brief synopsis of the feminist elements that I believe can be found in different Shakespearean plays and how this may differ from other scholarly views surrounding Shakespeare. I’ll also include a copy of the dissertation itself incase you are interested in reading the whole thing to research further into the topic!
When you think of the work of Shakespeare, and the period in which he was writing, feminism may not be the first link that is made. This is completely understandable considering most of Shakespeare’s protagonists are patriarchal male characters, with there being very little female representation throughout the canon. However, as I argue in my dissertation, i’d say that the work of Shakespeare can most definitely be read through the lens of feminism. Shakespeare is still relevant in modern times and you may use some of his phrases without even knowing! This is one of the reasons why i think it is so important to view the work of the playwright through more obscure lenses, you can interpret his work in so many different ways and can be creative in doing so.
If you struggle to read any of Shakespeare’s plays, there are so many different adaptations that you can listen to or watch to still appreciate his talents and work. From ballets, to children’s books, to movies, Shakespeare’s work is constantly being adapted to suit the tastes of more modern audiences. One adaptation that a lot of you may be more familiar with is the movie ’10 Things I Hate About You’ which is an adaptation of the play ‘Taming of the Shrew’. The plays that I have linked to the genre of feminism are ‘Othello’, ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ and ‘Henry VI (parts one-three)’. However, there are so many other plays that can be read positively through feminism, one of the top of my head being ‘Hamlet’.
Many of Shakespeare’s female characters can be considered feminist heroines in their own right, I explain this within my dissertation by referring to the female protagonists commonly used in Comic plays. However, one of my favourite female characters is from a tragic play; Emelia from ‘Othello’. Emelia is a character who is able to question the patriarchal standards that govern the society in which she exists, exploring the double standards that are placed upon men and women within marriage. I explore this in further depth in my dissertation, but if you feel as though the genre of tragedy may be more interesting to you then I would definitely recommend reading ‘Othello’ and playing close attention to the role that Emelia plays.
If you’re interested in reading more of my ideas surrounding the way in which Shakespeare may be considered ‘feminist’ then please feel free to read my thesis which I have attached below!