Many critics have lambasted the female characters in Shakespeare’s plays as two-dimensional and unrealistic portrayals of subservient women. Others have asserted that the roles of women in his plays were prominent for the time and culture that he lived in. Two works, Taming of the Shrew, and Twelfth Night, stand out particularly well in regards to Shakespeare’s use of female characters. After examining these two plays, one will see that Shakespeare, though conforming to contemporary attitudes of women, circumvented them by creating resolute female characters with a strong sense of self.
The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, and has weathered well into our modern era with adaptations into popular television series such as Moonlighting. For all the praises it has garnered throughout the centuries, it is curious to note that many have considered it to be one of his most controversial in his treatment of women. The “taming” of Katherine has been contended as being excessively cruel by many writers and critics of the modern era. George Bernard Shaw himself pressed for its banning during the 19th century (Peralta). The subservience of Katherine has been labeled as barbaric, antiquated, and generally demeaning. The play centers on her and her lack of suitors. It establishes in the first act her shrewish demeanor and its repercussions on her family. It is only with the introduction of the witty Petruchio as her suitor, that one begins to see an evolution in her character. Through an elaborate charade of humiliating behavior, Petruchio humbles her and by the end of the play, she will instruct other women on the nature of being a good and dutiful wife.
In direct contrast to Shrew, is Twelfth Night, whose main female protagonist is by far the strongest character in the play. The main character Viola, has been stranded in a foreign land and adopts the identity of her brother so that she might live independently without a husband or guardian. She serves as a courtier to a young, lovesick nobleman named Orsino. Throughout the play she plays as a go-between for him to the woman he loves. In the course of her service, she falls in love with him. Only at the end, does she renounce her male identity and declares her love for him.
Free Essays on The Crucible: Theme Development
Theme Development in The Crucible
The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a historical play,
but more importantly a social and psychological drama.
The various ways the themes are developed through The
Crucible are through characters, plot, setting and
The importance of the witch-trials is, according to
Raymond Williams, that in them ‘the moral crisis of a
society is explicit, is directly enacted and stated,
in such a way that the quality of the whole way of
life is organically present and evident in the
qualities of persons’ (Drama from Ibsen to Brecht,
1968). For Williams this is a dramatic device that
enables the playwright to explore the evil forces in
Salem society let loose by the revelation of
Rebecca nurse warns that ‘there is prodigious danger
in the seeking of loose spirits. I fear it. I fear it.
Let us rather blame ourselves!’ But her warning is not
heeded and a pandora’s box is opened. We see the greed
of Thomas Putnam; the quest for revenge on those who
have wronged them, carried out by Martha Corey and
Abigail Williams; Ann Putnam’s jealousy of the fertile
Rebecca Nurse and Abigail’s jealousy of Elizabeth
Proctor; the ambition of Hale and Parris, both of whom
seek public approval; the fear of punishment that
initially motivates Abigail and the other girls; then
the revelling in power they display during the trial.
Above all The Crucible investigates the mass hysteria
which infects the whole community.
The notion of evil is central to The Crucible. To
understand the play without thinking about what Miller
is trying to say on the subject is not possible. It is
obvious that we are looking at wickedness as it is
after all, the story of a witch-trial, and involves a
good deal of both physical and spiritual cruelty. What
is not so obvious is that the playwright is setting up
two different models of evil. He shows us what people
take it to be, and then demonstrates that they have
got it largely wrong. They are looking in the wrong
place, chasing the wrong symptoms, prosecuting the
supposedly wicked and leaving the genuinely bad
The false model of evil is something defined by a set
of external rules- not going to church regularly, not
knowing the commandments, cursing and living out of
wedlock. These were the tests that were given to the
accused in the witch-trials and were proven guilty.
The model of good, which is still false, is that
obeying these same rules equates to good. By this
false model, Parris, the Putnams and the girls are all
pure. We stereotype, and ignore individual variations.
We confuse the external show with the internal truth,
and we get into the sort of nightmarish charade which