Pride and Prejudice Questions and Answers
by Jane Austen

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Describe connections between female characters in Austen's Pride and Prejudice and female characters in Shakespeare's comedies (beyond Much Ado About Nothing).

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Much Ado About Nothing is, of course, the most plausible Shakespearean source for Pride and Prejudice. However, other comedies feature strong friendships between women that in some ways mirror the strong female bonds depicted in Pride and Prejudice between Elizabeth and Jane and Elizabeth and Charlotte. I can suggest some avenues to explore.

Three sets of strong female bonds that come to mind are Portia and Nerissa in The Merchant of Venice, Titania and the votaress who was the mother of the Indian changeling in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Rosalind and Celia in As You Like It.

In all three plays, heterosexual romance is an important part of the plot, but female friendships also prove significant.

For example, Titania, queen of the fairies, and her mortal votaress share a strong friendship that includes time spent together on the shores of Neptune's seas. Titania paints a beautiful picture of this friendship when she says to Oberon:

Full often hath she gossiped by my side,
And sat with me on Neptune’s yellow sands,
Marking th' embarkèd traders on the flood,
When we have laughed to see the sails conceive
And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind

Titiania made a promise to the votaress that she would care for her son, and this is important enough for her to honor that she is willing to quarrel with Oberon over the boy. This loyalty to another woman is similar to Elizabeth's loyalty to her sister, Jane. Elizabeth is willing to quarrel with Darcy because he interfered with Jane's relationship with Bingley, putting her sister's needs ahead of her own.

Likewise, Celia sticks by Rosalind as she forced from the royal court into exile to the Forest of Arden. Celia's love and loyalty to her friend are more important to her than the comforts of her court life. Similarly, Portia and Nerissa work together to help Antonio as faces his trial for his failure to repay his loans to Shylock and show strong friendship as they test their beloveds over the rings. Any of these plays, while not providing exact parallels with Austen, can provide fruitful avenues for exploring female friendships.

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