What are the critical interpretations of the roles of women in Shakespeare's tragedies?I want to know what critics think about the roles that they play and they need to be about his tragect plays...

What are the critical interpretations of the roles of women in Shakespeare's tragedies?

I want to know what critics think about the roles that they play and they need to be about his tragect plays like Romeo and Juliet, Othello,......

Asked on by garcia09

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In general, most of the women in Shakespeare's plays are important.  There are a few throwaway women characters, but there are some very crucial ones too.  That implies that Shakespeare cared to represent women in complex ways, or at least considered them valuable characters.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Like most things, this is a bit complicated. One factor to consider when examining the role of women in Shakespeare's works is the fact that women were not commonly allowed to act on stage.  That means every female role was played by a man or, as in the case of Juliet, a young boy.  That would necessarily limit the number and types of females he would have used in his plays.  Even though the audience was absolutely prepared to accept a male on stage in the role of a female, there was still a practical limit to their credulity.  Only certain things could maintain that kind of believability.

Given that, there are very few female roles in his plays; that means we need to examine those we do have a bit more carefully.  They are a complex and diverse bunch, frankly, and that's as it should be, as women are not all the same either, of course.  Here are a few of these complicated Shakespearean women:

Lady Macbeth is cruel and rather manly in her constitution, yet she is the one who feels most deeply the guilt of what they have done.

Juliet is young and innocent and unprepared for marriage, yet she is willing to follow her husband of three days to the grave.

Gertrude is weak (or perhaps fickle or complicit) after her husband's death, yet she took her son's side against her new husband and kept Hamlet's secret of feigned madness.

The Nurse (in Romeo and Juliet) is a mix of wisdom and poor judgment, as she acts as a flawed adviser to her young charge.  She is humorous and serious, just as her male counterpart, Friar Lawrence. 

These are women who are strong and flawed and complicated at the same time as they are weak and moral and uncomplicated.  Shakespeare appeared to treat women as the complex and diverse creatures they are.

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