The Oppression of Women by Men
Through composing Shakespeare’s Sister, Virginia Woolf summarizes and examines the roles and opportunities of women during the Renaissance. During this time period, women were not given very few, if any, chances to enhance their own lives. Instead, women were forced to marry men chosen by their parents, essentially becoming the property of their new husbands. Women were not allowed a trade or education of any type, forcing them to become chattel slaves in a household. Through the creation of Judith Shakespeare, the fictional sister of William Shakespeare, Woolf provides for her audience a comparison. She shows the opportunities between two very similar characters, and how their outcomes differ as a result of gender.
From birth, women were not allowed any opportunities to enhance their own lives at all. Women were not educated in grammar schools, nor did they learn any type of trade that would allow them to create a life of their own. Instead, they were forced to marry a man chosen by their parents against their own will. “The daughter who refused to marry the gentleman of her parents’ choice was liable to be locked up, beaten, and flung about in the room, without any shock being inflicted on public opinion” (Woolf, p.693). Women were seen as objects that served no purpose in society except to their husband. In a celebrated history book, History of England, written by Professor Trevelyan, women have been researched, and after finding “position of,” a reader will turn to the indicated pages and discover “Wife beating.” This implies that women served no purpose or function in society except to be beaten by their husbands. If any woman were to stand up against men and argue for her own rights, she would have received violent criticism and would have been told that women serve no purpose in society besides washing dishes.
This criticism of women would also apply to anyone courageous enough to become a playwright. Any woman that took...