In A Room of One's Own, what would have been the fate of Shakespeare's sister?

1 Answer | Add Yours

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Whilst ruminating on the position of women in society, in Chapter Three Woolf begins to consider why, if Shakespeare had been born a woman, it would have been impossible for him (her) to write the plays he had written and to achieve the kind of success and stardom that he won. Woolf therefore imagines the existence of Judith, Shakespeare's "wonderfully gifted sister." At every stage, there are barriers to prevent her from succeeding in life in the way that her brother is allowed to succeed, as the following quote makes clear as it talks about Shakespeare going off to London and being a player and then focuses on Judith:

Meanwhile his extraordinarily giften sister, let us suppose, remained at home. She was as adventurous, as imaginative, as agog to see the world as he was. But she was not sent to school. She had no chance of learning grammar and logic, let alone of reading Horace and Virgil. She picked up a book now and then, one of her brother's perhaps, and read a few pages. But then her parents came in and told her to mend the stockings or mind the stew and not to moon about with books and papers.

The "conditions of life forĀ a woman" are such, Woolf argues, that they do not allow for women to be educated and then to become a writer or dramatist in the same way that men can. Woolf's imaginary story of Judith ends up with her pregnant with the stage manager's child and killing herself because of her frustration at not being able to satisfy her talent and creativity. Woolf therefore uses the example of the imaginary character of Judith to establish the many different restrictions and barriers that women have to face. These barriers make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for women to become writers or artists.


We’ve answered 318,025 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question