The Role Of Women In Richard Ii

2562 words - 11 pages

The Role of Women in Richard II
Throughout the historical literary periods, many writers underrepresented and undervalued the role of women in society, even more, they did not choose to yield the benefits of the numerous uses of the female character concerning the roles which women could accomplish as plot devices and literary tools. William Shakespeare was one playwright who found several uses for female characters in his works. Despite the fact that in Shakespeare's history play, Richard II, he did not use women in order to implement the facts regarding the historical events. Instead, he focused the use of women roles by making it clear that female characters significantly enriched the literary and theatrical facets of his work. Furthermore in Shakespeare’s history play, King Richard II, many critics have debated the role that women play, especially the queen. One of the arguments is that Shakespeare uses the queen’s role as every women’s role to show domestic life and emotion. Jo McMurtry explains the role of all women in his book, Understanding Shakespeare’s England A Companion for the American Reader, he states, “Women were seen, legally and socially, as wives. Marriage was a permanent state” (5). McMurtry argues that every woman’s role in the Elizabethan society is understood to be a legal permanent state that is socially correct as wives and mothers. Other critics believe that the role of the queen was to soften King Richard II’s personality for the nobles and commoners opinion of him. Shakespeare gives the queen only a few speaking scenes with limited lines in Acts two, four, and five through-out the play. Also, she is mentioned only a few times by several other of the characters of the play and is in multiple scenes with Richard though she is silent. The way in which Shakespeare selects to construe the Duchess of Gloucester, the Duchess of York, and the Duchess of Gloucester , and Queen Isabel is through roles of widow, mother, and wife which creates a new level of emotion in his work through using these female characters.
The first female character that appears in Richard II is the Duchess of Gloucester, in which she helps by bringing an element of human emotion to a play wherein the main emphasis is on recounting the history of Richard II. The Duchess of Gloucester is the widow of Thomas of Woodstock who was murdered before the commencement of the play. At first, there might not seem to be an essential need for a female character playing the wife of a man who has died. However, by including the Duchess as a character in Richard II, Shakespeare is able to pull into the play particular emotions that only a widow would be able to have and express in order to move the plot, in which sets the general tone of the play. The Duchess of Gloucester’s primary emotion that motivates is the inspiring deep love that she holds for her husband whom she refers to as, “my dear lord, my life, my Gloucester” (Shakespeare, 1.2.16). It is obvious that...

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