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Shakespeare’s Sister: A curious case of female oppression

by / 0 Comments / 30/06/2017

My initial reaction to the speech on Shakespeare’s Sister was confusion, specifically as to what topic the speech tackles and the message it means to deliver. Was it women writing fiction, the portrayal of women in fiction or even the parallel of women and fiction?

 

As the speech continued I began to distance myself from its purpose due to the mention of such writers as Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters — writers from a different century and ethnicity.

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’ — Virginia Woolf.

Prior to the early twentieth century, a room of one’s own would have been unlikely given that men ‘owned’ women much like possessions — a continued historical tradition reflective of the objectification of women, predominantly in the western world. My first thought was that for a woman to write fiction she would need intelligence, creativity and confidence, amongst other things. However, does this not apply to everyone? Man and woman. Perhaps the statement suggests that in order for women to write the greatest friction, they need to isolate themselves from the prejudices and discrimination of the world?

Woolf’s statement arguably applies more to women of the past, as modern-day women such as Stephenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling, famous writers of fiction, have shown that women are capable of creating unique fiction in any environment; especially as discrimination towards women becomes less prominent with time.

In relation to the character of ‘Judith’, Shakespeare’s sister, her death is brought about due to being pregnant, which carries a message that to have a child marks the end of your life as an individual. Such pessimism does not seem to carry the correct feminist ideology, suggesting that a woman’s fertility defines her. Though as Shakespeare’s fictional sister she would have been at a disadvantage as a woman in that time, a better message would have been to show her fighting for her creativity and passion, rather than becoming a victim of a patriarchal society.

In essence, though I am female, I do not identify myself as a feminist but rather an egalitarian, focusing on topics such as the Black Liberation Movement (Black Lives Matter). I find it difficult to relate to the topic of women in fiction and the protest against subservience, especially with a character like Judith who symbolises the repression of women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, though I may not entirely agree with the message of feminism that was being conveyed during the speech, its linguistic style did interest me as it emulated Shakespeare. A combination of prose and verse made the language and its structure both entertaining and intriguing — almost forcing you to listen to Woolf’s message whether you agreed with it or not.

The video is part of the Figures Of Speech project run by the Almeida Theatre