How do I analyze and criticize a play using a feminist framework?

Expert Answers
kateanswers eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To conduct a feminist critique of a play, you will want to take a look at the roles and relationships of women in the piece. You may also wish to consider how the "world" is constructed to either reinforce or challenge these roles and relationships.

I'd like to recommend you begin by conducting this rather popular "litmus test" for whether or not a piece of media is oppressive to women-- the Bechdel-Wallace test. This test was first designed to evaluate films, but may be adapted for literature and theater works. In order to "pass" the test, your chosen play must meet three criteria.

  • There must be at least two named women characters.
  • They must talk to each other.
  • They must talk about something other than a man.

Though it  has received some criticism, this simple test is an excellent way to discern the nature of women characters in a piece of media. If your chosen play passes the test, one can infer that these women characters are likely offered some kind of story-line and personal agency that is not entirely in support of and subservient to the roles of the male characters.

In addition to the Bechdel-Wallace test, consider the following questions:

  • When was the play written? What is the setting? What were the gender norms in these times?
  • What roles are the characters depicted in? Consider the roles of both men and women. Do women exist as characters only in relation to others-- the mother, daughter, sister, wife, aunt, or nursemaid relations? Or are they described as having lives outside of their (largely familial) relationships?
  • How are gender roles (or the constructs of masculinity and femininity) defined? Is there any challenge or subversion of this in the play? How does this affect the attitudes of characters?
  • Has anyone else performed a feminist literary analysis of this play? What did they have to say?

I've also shared some helpful links below which offer more detail and some resources for creating your feminist critique. This sounds like a really interesting project and I hope you have a great time with it!