Shakespearean Heroines

There is something interesting and peculiar in the way Shakespeare seems to have regarded his heroine as an increasingly important factor in carrying forward the action of the play, and more as the centre of dramatic action and appeal, first in his comedies and then, in a different way, in his tragedies. It is strange, too, that though the two kinds overlap, the development of the heroine of Shakespeare's comedies and the evolution of his tragic heroine form two such separate and distinct series. Here, we shall consider briefly a couple of plays each, from both tragedies and comedies.
Shakespeare’s women in the famous tragedies, Macbeth and King Lear, embody a feminist ideal through displays of intelligence usually reserved for male characters. Though not always moral, they break away from the patriarchal view of females as being always caring, motherly, and dim-witted. Shakespeare creates feminist women who are perceptive, cunning, and sometimes cruel in order to demonstrate their intelligence while living in a male-dominated society.
Shakespeare’s tragic heroines are observant in determining the characters of the men around them. One of his intelligent females in tragedy, Lady Macbeth is perceptive in judging the mindsets of the people around her. After reading the letter sent by Macbeth, she instantly understands what must be done to achieve the throne in the quickest way possible. Lady Macbeth correctly assesses his indecision as soon as she finishes reading. She knows that like her, Macbeth is ambitious, but in contrast to Lady Macbeth, he has the quality of being as weak as milk where treason is concerned. Lady Macbeth uses her intelligence to manipulate others for her own gain. She does so in a malicious, ambition-driven way. She is uses her knowledge of Macbeth’s personality to gain the throne by playing his soldier’s masculine pride against her insults and insinuations of femininity. She acts with “manly” courage, while Macbeth is “womanly” in his...