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No Shakespeare festivities for feminists: Not enough “gender equality” in his plays

April 25, 2016

From my latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum

Misogynist Will: He gave his female characters fewer and shorter speeches.

April 25 marked the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death in 1616, and there were plenty of festivities.

But as blogger Steve Sailer points out, there were also some long faces lamenting that Shakespeare wasn’t nice enough to women.

There’s this, from the U.K. Guardian:

“Shakespeare may have been widely championed as a visionary, but this description can’t be applied to his record on gender equality. On average men are given 81% of speeches, while 17% go to women and the rest are made up of unknowns or mixed groups, according to Open Source Shakespeare. Women tend to come off worst in his tragedies: Timon of Athens features just nine speeches by women, compared with 725 by men. And yet the population of Shakespeare’s England was roughly 53.5% male and 46.5% female.”

And not only does Shakespeare sin against “gender equality” by not giving his female characters as many speeches a his male characters, but the men get to speak longer, too:

“Benedict Cumberbatch, Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud all put in memorable performances as Hamlet, who clocks in at 358 speeches – the most of any Shakespearean character. Analysis of Open Source Shakespeare, which defines a speech as ‘either words spoken by a character, or a stage direction – anything from a one-word shout to a long soliloquy’, reveals this is substantially more than any female characters get to say. The women with the most speeches are Cleopatra with 204, memorably performed by Elizabeth Taylor in 1963, then Rosalind in As You Like It, with 201, all learned by Helen Mirren in 1978. Meanwhile, Kevin Spacey’s Richard III had 301 speeches, and Laurence Fishburne’s Othello had 274.”

Furthermore, gender-fixated U.K. grad student Heather Froelich points out that most of Shakespeare’s plays fail to pas the “Bechdel test.”

Read the rest here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen
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