Tragic Women Of Shakespeare (Juliet, Portia, Ophelia, And Cordelia) Essay, Research Paper
Women in Shakespeare’s plays were not of importance, compared to the male characters. Though, the women had a minor role in the plays, they played a big role in the lives of others in the play. Some of them will end tragically, or end the same way they started, as nothing.
In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet Capulet to me seems to be the most tragic of all Shakespeare’s women characters. She fell in love with Romeo Montague, the enemy. She had to “sneak out” to the balcony late at night so she can talk to her Romeo. She has made no mention of Romeo to her parents, only the nurse that attended her. That shows us how treacherous and devious Juliet had to be to be with her Romeo. With some communication between the nurse and Friar Laurence, eventually, Juliet and Romeo got married. Then her parents announced that she was to marry County Paris. Which she does not want to marry at all for two reasons: she loves Romeo, also she is already married. To end it all, she had to kill herself to live with Romeo for the rest of her life, which is what she wanted. A plan was devised, where Juliet would appear dead, and wake up in Romeo’s arms. But with bad communication problems, that was impossible. Juliet faked her death, but Romeo thought she was actually dead, so he killed himself. By waking up, Juliet finds out that Romeo died and decided to end her life to be with her Romeo. In this case, it shows the tragedy of human existence because she was not allowed to be with an enemy that she loved. It was not a tragic flaw because Juliet did what she thought was the right thing to do. It was not the wrong thing to do because again, Juliet must be with her Romeo. On a good note, due to Romeo and Juliet’s death, that caused the parents of the Capulets and Montagues to reconsider their feud and became friends.
In Julius Caesar, Brutus’ wife, Portia did not display herself very much in the play. The only important thing she did was that she showed concern for Brutus, in Act Two, Scene one, lines 238-257, lines 262-279, lines 292-303. She was being a typical wife to Brutus, being concerned for his actions, his behavior, his emotions and feelings. She was genuinely scared for Brutus, but Brutus, being the tough guy he is, brushed her off by saying that he is only sick. Eventually, Portia sliced herself to prove her love to Brutus. That is an act of desperation. She should not be doing this kind of behavior to get Brutus’ attention, but she did so. Finally, in Act four, Scene three, Portia is declared dead by stuffing her mouth with hot coals. There are two things that came from this. Portia could have done it herself, to stay quiet about the conspiracy, or, Brutus’ pals decided to kill off Portia to shut her up. From what I have read, it said that she “took hot burning coals and cast them in her mouth, and kept her mouth so close that she choked herself.” That tells me that she killed herself. With her death, as a blow to Brutus, it does not affect the play in a big way. Brutus’ actions were something like “oh, she’s dead, oh darn, life goes on.” It seems to me that Brutus does not care very much for Portia, only for himself. Portia has failed. She was not able to continue supporting Brutus, or even expose the conspiracy to the other people in Rome. It is a big failure, how she just decided to end her life. With hot coals in her mouth, it seems to me that she decided to punish herself, and used the hot coals to shut her up. Therefore, Portia did not do much in the play, just show concern for Brutus and decided to kill herself during the play. That shows a big tragic failure in Portia.
Thirdly, there is Hamlet. Ophelia, the daughter of Polonius. In the first act, Laertes has warned Ophelia about Hamlet’s madness and tells her to stay away from him. Later, we meet Ophelia and she is frightened by Hamlet’s actions. Then to make matters worse, Ophelia is used as a pawn in a game against Hamlet as displayed in Act Three, Scene one. At that moment, Ophelia has absorbed some of Hamlet’s madness and made it into her own private abyss of madness. Singing nonsense (act four, scene 5). Soon, she is found dead in water, with garland out “Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,” (act five, scene one, line 170. There are two possible outcomes out of her death. She could be murdered, or she acted on killing herself. She is an innocent being that was trapped in Hamlet’s world and was not able to get out until it was too late. I would safely say that she had a tragic flaw in herself. She was not strong enough to help herself and it ended in death. With no support from others, her brother, and father encouraged her to be a pawn to Hamlet to find out the cause of his madness, which influenced Ophelia. It could be the tragedy of human existence because she had no help, and the only thing she thought was best was to kill herself. If she did kill herself that is. She started off innocent, then ended up in water. There is nothing to be blamed on Ophelia. She did not have any internal control, while she let the external factors influence her for who she is.
Finally, there is Cordelia, one of the daughters of King Lear. She had not much to say in the play itself. When the father asked her to tell him that she loved him, she couldn’t. In the end, she was “jailed” and eventually died in her father’s arms. There was nothing tragic about her death because she did what she knew what was right. She did not love her father and told him so. Though, there was a small part of her that loved her father. In Act Four, scene four, Cordelia finds a soldier and commands him to find her father and put him under her doctor’s care. It is nice that she died in her father’s arms because King Lear finally realized that it was Cordelia that should be the one that should get the land because she was the one that told the truth about her love for him all along. In final words, Cordelia’s death was not tragic. It just happened that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time and died for it. Basically, it was her that told the truth throughout the entire play, (and the fool too). Therefore, she died because she had to. There was nothing tragic about her death, except that King Lear should have loved her, not his other daughters, Goneril and Regan.
Each of the women in the four plays that we have read, each had a minor role, but that minor role turned out to be one of the important key factors in the conclusion of the play itself. Juliet died because she loved Romeo. Portia died because she loved Brutus. Ophelia died because she loved Hamlet, and finally Cordelia died because she loved King Lear. People should not die for love, but in Shakespeare’s plays, it seems so. Therefore, for love, death is tragic. But if death is the only way to die, then death is the best way to die.