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Compare and Shakespeare's older vs. younger female characters.how does shakespeare...

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yrome | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 28, 2011 at 11:10 PM via web

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Compare and Shakespeare's older vs. younger female characters.

how does shakespeare present his older women such as cleopatra, gertude and lady macbeth, compared to his young girls, such as ophelia, juliet etc?re there any notable differences, if so why?

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shaketeach | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted June 29, 2011 at 2:53 AM (Answer #1)

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These women are all very different.

Cleopatra is queen and she has power despite the fact that Egypt is under the rule of Rome.  She is strong and independent. She uses this power (which is sexual) over Anthony.  He listens to her rather than trust his own abilities when he goes along with her battle plan which is a disaster for both of them.

Gertrude is a queen in name only.  She appears to be weak since she married Claudius after the death of old Hamlet.  It would appear that she has always depended on men in her life, first her father and then her husbands.  She is very dependent.

Lady Macbeth is probably fairly young since she has an unrealistic attitude about life and death.  She feels that once they wash Duncan's blood from their hands everything will be wonderful for them.  Her husband knows better.  She is a strong woman but not strong enough to commit the murder she thinks is necessary for her husband to be king.

Ophelia, like Gertrude, is dependent on the men in her life to take care of her.  Her father seems to favor her brother.  (He uses thee and thou with his son and you with his daughter.)  She is manipulated by her father, the king, and Hamlet.  Shakespeare writes strong female characters but she is not one of them.

Juliet, on the other hand, is a strong female.  Young as she is, she knows her own mind.  She defies her father and his choice of Paris. Some might say that her suicide showed weakness but considering that she lived in a Roman Catholic world where suicide is a mortal sin, she showed either great courage or great foolishness since she chose eternal damnation rather than live in that world.

Just as we are all individuals, so are Shakespeare's female characters.

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