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"Shakespeare's Sister"

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The novel "Shakespeare's Sister" by Virginia Woolf gives a comprehensive analysis of a woman’s position in the society in the 16th century. Women were confined to anonymity and with no right to a formal education. Consequently, any talent or skill possessed by a woman was never appreciated, let alone being allowed to develop. In a nut shell, women were destined to live under the intimidating shadow of men. Presumably, men were the only ones who could engage in acting, writing and developing their gifts. Any woman who had the rare courage to utilize their talents had to contend with hiding behind a male name if it was to gain acceptance in the public. As such, a woman with a passion for writing and poetry was always in collision course both with herself and the male gender.

This presented a recipe for strife and unhappiness for any ambitious woman seeking to develop her gift of poetry. For such a woman, life was reduced to a battle field where superiority and relevance battles were fought between them and the masculine gender. In essence, a gifted woman was always under pressure to pursue her gift and at the same time cautious not to go against the norm. Yes, it will feel right to follow the heart and respect its whims. Unfortunately, the same heart is naturally sensitive to what people say about it. The remotest negative compliment causes a more than proportionate emotional damage and kills the spirit. It elicits strong feelings of rejection and mockery from the very people that should appreciate her efforts to entertain them.

These forces utterly deprive a gifted woman of joy and satisfaction she ought to be getting from her work. Virginia Woolf quotes “... a highly gifted girl who had tried to use her gift of poetry would have been so thwarted and hindered by other people, so tortured and pulled asunder by her own contrary instincts, that she must have lost her health and sanity to a certainty”. This gives a hint of the characteristics of strife that faces a gifted woman in the 16th century. The implication of this strife to a gifted woman is a life punctuated by struggles to cut a niche and earn respect from other people, especially men. This inner strife cannot be hidden as it becomes evident through the actions and living conditions of a gifted life. For instance, living a free and normal life in London was stressful enough to kill a gifted woman in the 16th century. This is because of constant rejection of the woman’s role in writing and acting leading to personal dissatisfaction and stress. (Virginia).

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