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Jada Hollingsworth

November 12, 2014

ENG 413 Shakespeare

Comedy Essay
The Roles of Women in the Shakespearean Comedies:
As You like It and The Tempest

Shakespearean plays in general, portray what most already knew of him and
other men of his time; that they do not have much respect for women. It is shown in
Shakespeares tragedies as well as his comedies that the characters that he has so
vividly portrayed, through his masterful writing, do not cease to share the same opinion.
Women are there for one reason only, to be loved and not respected. However, in these
two plays, the envelope is pushed a bit, as supernatural elements, and perception take
its toll on our characters. As you like it, plays on homoerotic humor that is lost on all
except the audience, as well as perception of the female protagonist. The Tempest
plays a lot on justice, deception, and the roles of power with the unjust.
In The Tempest, Miranda, Prosperos Daughter is the only woman in the play,
minus the spirits that Prospero summoned that portrayed Goddesses. Throughout the
play, Prospero showed signs of being very controlling, which is obvious in the way he
treated his servants, as well as his daughter. Prospero made sure to keep his daughter
pure up until her marriage, which was fairly easy since they were the only inhabitants of
the island. Prospero treated his daughters innocence as a prize to be given to the most
noble and honest man. We see growth and change in a couple of the male characters
but nothing really in Miranda. She sees a man, falls in love instantly, and marries him;

thats her lifes story. Whereas, many men is Shakespearean plays have growth and
substance. Their lives contain more than the simple luxuries that Miranda has faced.
Miranda was a very important character of this play, and was very essential to the
overall plot, only because she was occupying Ferdinand, who would otherwise be off
searching for his father. Miranda is seen as nothing more than innocent and virtuous
from the moment we meet her, until the very end of the play. Although good and
innocent, Miranda is gullible. Honestly, how is one to have any respect for her? Yes, a
man that wants to marry her would respect her innocence and reluctance to fall for one
such as he, but how would an unbiased spectator feel about Mirandas role in The
Tempest? Shes going to end up barefoot and pregnant, not having experienced any
wonders in her life, other than the joys of royalty and the fears of one day being cast off
again like she was during her childhood. Is Miranda respected for finding love in a
nobleman such as Ferdinand? Or would she have found love in any man that met her
eye on that island?
Gender roles are completely abandoned in the Country, as we quickly learned in
As You like It. Rosalind, Celia, Phoebe, and Audrey are the only females introduced to
us in this play, and they all fall in love and get married by the end. Rosalind, our
protagonist, is for the most part, very respected and quite beloved by all who meet her.
Celia, Rosalinds cousin, portrays complete loyalty to her cousin, which could be
confused with infatuation. Phoebe is a wretched woman whom falls in love with
Rosalind, not knowing that she is also a woman. Audrey is an unattractive goat herder
that is worth nothing more than an illegitimate marriage so that she can be used for her
reproductive system. Rosalind, a beautiful strong woman, was more proud to be

Ganymede, her male persona, than she was to be a woman. She portrayed this man
throughout the majority of the play, and seemed to enjoy that much more than being
herself. She even began to take on a male attitude to match her appearance. She
strung Phoebe on, knowing that she could never love her, because she enjoyed having
the power that being a man brings. A wonderful woman, such as she, should have not
enjoyed being a man as much as she did. Theres a type of freedom that being a man
brings, and thats not fair to women that have so much pressure on them to be perfect.
Would motherhood roles change the outcome of these plays? It is very
noticeable that Shakespeare enjoys leaving his characters hanging by the whim of
corrupt fathers. We have seen in both Macbeth and King Lear, that leaving men in
charge of their childrens fate ends terribly. Although the trend in comedies is to end
happily, the trend in Shakespearean plays in general proves true, that the women are
too weak to survive and their children end up motherless. Do you think Miranda would
have been a more interesting character, had her mother raised her? It is opinionated
that she certainly would not be as gullible and susceptible to fall in love with the first
man she glanced her eyes upon. She would have been more curious of her father and
less inclined to believe everything he said and brush off the things that peaked her
interest. Out of the four women introduced to us in As You Like it, not even one of them
has a mother present. Do you think that Rosalind would have been happier portraying
the role that God dealt her, as a woman had she had a mother figure present? These
women have no choice but to grow up thinking as men, and not having respect for
themselves as women because there are no women of powerful roles in these plays. Do
not underestimate the toll a good mother will have on her daughters or even her

children in general. Of course it is great to have a father present, but having one parent
does not compare to the stability that co-parenting does. Women tend to think more
rationally than men, which we see quite vividly in As You Like It. Rosalind, though
completely smitten with Orlando, does not lose her head, whereas Orlando acts
completely out of character under the effects of Rosalinds love.