‘SHAKESPEARE: THE WOMEN’S VOICE’. It has been this paper’s title and it is my conclusion, too. Lots of opinions against this vision have been written but I am sure of it and I agree with Rackin when he said:

 ‘Generations of women have found a source for their own empowerment in the power of Shakespeare’s writing’ (Grin 2008:34).

Plays analysed (Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It and Twelfth Night) are protests against women’s oppression during the Elizabethan times and Shakespeare’s heroines show it.

From my point of view, As You Like It and Twelfth Night have much more in common because they include cross-dressed heroines. As we have seen through the reading and reproduction of these plays, Viola and Rosalind disguise themselves as a male throughout much of the play, being safety the major reason at the beginning (Viola has suffered a shipwrech in an unknown place and she thinks she has no family and Rosalind has been banished from the court by her uncle). On the contrary, Much Ado About Nothing includes a constant humour to  play down the importance of Beatrice’s speech. Anyway, disguised or not, if I would have to arrange them in order to measure their self-confidence or freedom of speech I would order them from less to more in the following way: Viola, Rosalind and Beatrice. Viola shows women’s aspirations such as education and a great capacity of expression but Rosalind and Beatrice  stand up to their lovers (Orlando and Benedick, respectively). This is astonishing in a society where women were silenced every time. On the other hand, Viola does not make any criticism to patriarchal society, only shows some fear for her female condition. However, Rosalind and Beatrice do not fall short of blows against men. Rosalind says clearly women are banished, they do not have any freedom, being wives men underestimate them, etc. but Beatrice is the character who criticizes the institution of marriage the most because Rosalind and Viola, contrary to her, were always open to it. On the contrary Beatrice says men were deceivers ever, she wants to remain an unmarried woman, she is constantly challenging Benedick’s words, etc.

Nevertheless, these plays are comedies and their purpose must be to entertain the audience and give them a happy ending. So marriage seems unavoidable in the three of them. During Elizabethan times marriage was the desirable state for both women and men and we see it at the end of Shakespeare’s comedies. Although Viola, Rosalind and Beatrice possessed wit, ambition and personality, they surrendered to the ‘charms of men’ to my dissatisfaction because I reckon women in these comedies are more brilliant than the men and more aware of themselves.

Anyway I consider fantastic and excellent Shakespeare’s contribution to women from that time and to women from nowadays. He presents fashionable themes  in our society such as that of how Hero is punished for being promiscous but men are free of charges by doing the same. Women always are represented as inferior, with fears and sometimes unable of reasoning and I think it happens every day in our 21st century society. So Shakespeare was a forerunner of the feminist approaches later appeared and he did it with so caution that his plays were allowed and represented in theatres in front of Queen Elizabeth I. As far as I am concerned, the importance of these comedies lies in themes raised and how these themes are carried on as usual. Chapeau Shakespeare!

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