Women In Shakespeare Henry V And Merchant Of Venic

eShakespeares presentation and portrayal of his female characters in The
Merchant of Venice and Henry V follows a typical pattern that is present in all
of the Shakespearean plays that I have read so far. When looking closely at the
fate of his female characters, this pattern becomes even more evident for it
repeats itself no matter how different the plays are. For instance, Henry V and
The Merchant of Venice are different in every respect. The female characters not
only come from different backgrounds, they also have very different
personalities. However, as different as these plays and their characters are,
the female characters end up suffering the same fate. It doesnt seem to
matter whether they are born into a life of peasantry, nobility, or come from
royalty, for they ultimately will end up being no better than a piece of land,
or cattle, or some possession that a man can own and do with as he pleases.


Scholars have been debating for centuries now as to whether Shakespeares
women reflect his societys attitudes or that of his own. Henry V is
definitely geared more for the male audience. There are only two or three acts
in which a female character is present at all. When we first get a glimpse of
Katherine, she is trying to learn the English language. This scene is supposed
to be somewhat comical, but are we really supposed to believe that while there
is a war raging throughout her country, that all Katherine is concerned about is
the fact that she cant speak the language of her enemy? This scene in which
we get our first glimpse of Katherine is somewhat degrading to her character as
well as misleading. This leaves the audience with the inaccurate perception that
Katherine, and thus all women in general, care very little about whats going
on around them, and more about making themselves presentable. Afterall, isnt
Katherine the “Grand Prize” that will be awarded to the winning side? I find
it very insulting that Shakespeares only significant female role in the whole
play, is being used as a ” Prize” to be given away. Shakespeare doesnt
even try to hide the fact that he is setting Katherine up as a prize. I find
this kind of arrogance to be offensive and very belittling to women. While the
men are off fighting the battle, Katherine, the future Queen of France, does not
appear to be a bit concerned over the fate of her own country. Instead, she
readily accepts her fate as she prepares herself for the role of Queen of
England. This play is very biased and one-sided. Most of the English men are
portrayed as noble, humble and superior to the French. Henry himself can do no
wrong, and is portrayed through out the play as the best leader that the English
have ever had. This image that he can do no wrong and is as close to being
perfect as one can get, only holds up if you dont go digging around in
Henrys past, in which he had been portrayed as a spoiled, pampered partying
boy. The French, in contrast to the English, are presented as arrogant,
incompetent, and weak, very similar to what Henry had been not to long ago.


There is, however, one thing lower than a Frenchman, and that is, a French
woman. The fact that Shakespeare subjected Katherines character, (she, who
had been born into royalty which was the highest social position one can reach),
to being treated as a possession or prize for a man, only adds credence to the
argument that Shakespeare had very little respect for women. Katherine
character, for the most part, adds very little, if anything at all, to the play.


In fact, the role of Katherine could have easily been omitted altogether, and
personally, I wish it had been The last act, in which Henry easily manages to
win the affections of Katherine, is a weak attempt on Shakespeares part to
end the play on a an uplifting note. Its a shame that Shakespeare put it in
at all because it definitely changes the way I feel about this play, in
particular, as well as the others. The women characters in The Merchant of
Venice are treated with much more respect than Katherine had been. However, I
have a feeling that its only due to the fact that Shakespeare thinks less of
“Jews” than he does women. The Merchant of Venice, does have a strong cast
of women who play very important roles throughout the play. These women are much
more impressive than those found in Henry V. Portia, in particular, is by far
the superior one of the play. Like Queen Elizabeth herself, Portias character
is a blending of femininity and masculinity. Portia has great strength of
character, a quick wit, and is very well educated in the affairs of the world
around her which is not a common theme in Shakespeares women. She is in every
respect far superior to the fools she ends up being surrounded by. This might
not have been the case if it werent for the fact that she, with all her
intelligence and wit is still being dictated by a male. Her dead father dictates
her life through his will. I guess Shakespeare does not miss an opportunity to
put even the most superior of all women in her place as he does just that to
Portia. For all her power, riches, and strengths, she still is no better than
the man she marries. Her new husband, Barsenio, is no match for her, and yet he
is handed over everything that belongs to her, including her soul. Although
Shakespeare gives the very best of qualities and traits to the female character
Portia, he knows that in spite of her superiority and domination over all the
other characters including the male characters, he can later strip her of all
her greatness at any time, and does just that at the end of the play. What I
find so unbelievable is the way that Shakespeares women just hand over
everything including themselves, no questions asked, to a man they hardly know
and yet willingly and happily marry. I have a hard time believing that women of
his day did this duty so graciously. Portias portrayal of being such a strong
figure and at the same time, a woman who is subservient to her times, makes me
question whether Shakespeare really knew what was gong on in the minds of the
Elizabethan women. Just the fact that he disguises his women characters up as
men in order to bring them to higher levels, leads me to believe that he is just
making it all up as he goes along. Dont get me wrong, I love most of
Shakespeares work. Its just his female characters that I have a problem
with. When reading Shakespeare it is easy to question what his motives might
have been. Scholars have been doing this for centuries. We will never be sure as
to whether or not Shakespeare was reflecting the times or his own feelings. One
must keep in mind when reading Shakespeare that hs writings are not historically
accurate and therefore most likely only reflect his views on things. I only hope
that is the case, for I cant imagine women ever being so passive. Could we
have really been the passive beings that Shakespeare portrays women as, I
seriously doubt it. Kelley Vickers-Sullivan Engl. 141-Mid-Term Essay March 30,
2000 Youve Come a Long Way Baby! Shakespeares presentation and portrayal
of his female characters in The Merchant of Venice and Henry V follows a typical
pattern that is present in all of the Shakespearean plays that I have read so
far. When looking closely at the fate of his female characters, this pattern
becomes even more evident for it repeats itself no matter how different the
plays are. For instance, Henry V and The Merchant of Venice are different in
every respect. The female characters not only come from different backgrounds,
they also have very different personalities. However, as different as these
plays and their characters are, the female characters end up suffering the same
fate. It doesnt seem to matter whether they are born into a life of
peasantry, nobility, or come from royalty, for they ultimately will end up being
no better than a piece of land, or cattle, or some possession that a man can own
and do with as he pleases. Scholars have been debating for centuries now as to
whether Shakespeares women reflect his societys attitudes or that of his
own. Henry V is definitely geared more for the male audience. There are only two
or three acts in which a female character is present at all. When we first get a
glimpse of Katherine, she is trying to learn the English language. This scene is
supposed to be somewhat comical, but are we really supposed to believe that
while there is a war raging throughout her country, that all Katherine is
concerned about is the fact that she cant speak the language of her enemy?
This scene in which we get our first glimpse of Katherine is somewhat degrading
to her character as well as misleading. This leaves the audience with the
inaccurate perception that Katherine, and thus all women in general, care very
little about whats going on around them, and more about making themselves
presentable. Afterall, isnt Katherine the “Grand Prize” that will be
awarded to the winning side? I find it very insulting that Shakespeares only
significant female role in the whole play, is being used as a ” Prize” to be
given away. Shakespeare doesnt even try to hide the fact that he is setting
Katherine up as a prize. I find this kind of arrogance to be offensive and very
belittling to women. While the men are off fighting the battle, Katherine, the
future Queen of France, does not appear to be a bit concerned over the fate of
her own country. Instead, she readily accepts her fate as she prepares herself
for the role of Queen of England. This play is very biased and one-sided. Most
of the English men are portrayed as noble, humble and superior to the French.


Henry himself can do no wrong, and is portrayed through out the play as the best
leader that the English have ever had. This image that he can do no wrong and is
as close to being perfect as one can get, only holds up if you dont go
digging around in Henrys past, in which he had been portrayed as a spoiled,
pampered partying boy. The French, in contrast to the English, are presented as
arrogant, incompetent, and weak, very similar to what Henry had been not to long
ago. There is, however, one thing lower than a Frenchman, and that is, a French
woman. The fact that Shakespeare subjected Katherines character, (she, who
had been born into royalty which was the highest social position one can reach),
to being treated as a possession or prize for a man, only adds credence to the
argument that Shakespeare had very little respect for women. Katherine
character, for the most part, adds very little, if anything at all, to the play.


In fact, the role of Katherine could have easily been omitted altogether, and
personally, I wish it had been The last act, in which Henry easily manages to
win the affections of Katherine, is a weak attempt on Shakespeares part to
end the play on a an uplifting note. Its a shame that Shakespeare put it in
at all because it definitely changes the way I feel about this play, in
particular, as well as the others. The women characters in The Merchant of
Venice are treated with much more respect than Katherine had been. However, I
have a feeling that its only due to the fact that Shakespeare thinks less of
“Jews” than he does women. The Merchant of Venice, does have a strong cast
of women who play very important roles throughout the play. These women are much
more impressive than those found in Henry V. Portia, in particular, is by far
the superior one of the play. Like Queen Elizabeth herself, Portias character
is a blending of femininity and masculinity. Portia has great strength of
character, a quick wit, and is very well educated in the affairs of the world
around her which is not a common theme in Shakespeares women. She is in every
respect far superior to the fools she ends up being surrounded by. This might
not have been the case if it werent for the fact that she, with all her
intelligence and wit is still being dictated by a male. Her dead father dictates
her life through his will. I guess Shakespeare does not miss an opportunity to
put even the most superior of all women in her place as he does just that to
Portia. For all her power, riches, and strengths, she still is no better than
the man she marries. Her new husband, Barsenio, is no match for her, and yet he
is handed over everything that belongs to her, including her soul. Although
Shakespeare gives the very best of qualities and traits to the female character
Portia, he knows that in spite of her superiority and domination over all the
other characters including the male characters, he can later strip her of all
her greatness at any time, and does just that at the end of the play. What I
find so unbelievable is the way that Shakespeares women just hand over
everything including themselves, no questions asked, to a man they hardly know
and yet willingly and happily marry. I have a hard time believing that women of
his day did this duty so graciously. Portias portrayal of being such a strong
figure and at the same time, a woman who is subservient to her times, makes me
question whether Shakespeare really knew what was gong on in the minds of the
Elizabethan women. Just the fact that he disguises his women characters up as
men in order to bring them to higher levels, leads me to believe that he is just
making it all up as he goes along. Dont get me wrong, I love most of
Shakespeares work. Its just his female characters that I have a problem
with. When reading Shakespeare it is easy to question what his motives might
have been. Scholars have been doing this for centuries. We will never be sure as
to whether or not Shakespeare was reflecting the times or his own feelings. One
must keep in mind when reading Shakespeare that hs writings are not historically
accurate and therefore most likely only reflect his views on things. I only hope
that is the case, for I cant imagine women ever being so passive. Could we
have really been the passive beings that Shakespeare portrays women as, I
seriously doubt it.