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1) One of the best-known moments inA Room of One’s Ownis the story of Judith Shakespeare. The narrator says that she will imagine Judith’s story “since facts are so hard to come by” (364). What rhetorical purposes do this statement and the story serve?
First of all, one has to mention that Virginia Woolf is a representative of a feminist movement in literature. Therefore, in her works, she considered the issues of unequal rights and social roles of men and women. A Room of One’s Own is the story, which has a retrospective look at the social events and personalities rendered through the feministic framework. That is why the author uses various analogies, comparisons, and other stylistic means in order to depict the issue vividly. Thus, one of the parts of the story involves a discussion of an imaginary life of Judith Shakespeare, who was “a wonderfully gifted sister” (Woolf 364). Woolf claims that there were historic facts, which “are hard to come by” (364). This statement is reasonable because the author supports it with examples, which render the realities of the past. Therefore, Woolf attempts to describe the life of a woman in the times of Shakespeare.
First, the author depicts the story of Shakespeare, showing his way to social recognition. Thus, he was a boy hunter, who married quite early and had a baby. Afterward, having moved to London, he was attracted by a perspective to work at the theatre. Though Shakespeare began with the activity, which was quite far from being an actor, he gradually moved forward in reaching his aim. Thus, first, he was “holding horses at the stage door” (364), and afterward became a successful actor. Woolf presents an ordinary picture of a successful man who had a talent, which made him live at the hub of the universe (365). Gradually, Shakespeare gained a respect of the society and even got the access to the queen’s palace.
In contrast, the first words of Woolf about the life of Shakespeare’s “sister” cross all personal perspectives and hopes. The author indicates that she was an extremely gifted individual but throughout the whole life of her brother she had been at home. The words about Judith’s talents and gifts serve as the intensifier of this paradoxical situation where a person has no right to self-determined future if she was born a woman. No matter how gifted she can be she is doomed to serve at her parent’s home and hide her talents in order to fit the established social standards. Woolf claims that, despite Judith was denied education, she was reading and obtaining knowledge in grammar, logic, and other spheres. However, the parents prevented her from such actions in order not to spoil her. The main thing was that “they were substantial people who knew the conditions of life for a woman and loved their daughter” (366). Thus, the author depicts the common way of thinking, a social standard for a female of the Shakespeare’s time. Thus, parents, who love their daughters, were obliged to make them good at serving men and housekeeping. Moreover, when it was the time for Judith to marry, the girl’s opinion meant nothing. That is why, when she became slightly older than a teenager, she was betrothed to a person, whom her parents chose. She resisted and was beaten, and her struggle was a shame for the family. This is one more example of the issue when women had no right to determine their lives. Manifestation of disobedience by females is described as a huge stress for a family. Furthermore, Judith had to escape in order to avoid the forced marriage. This is the next stage, which shows that women had no social rights. Having settled in London, she tried to earn for a living. However, men laughed at her face because the major part of the work was available only for men. Even in the circus they compared her job request to an attempt of a poodle to dance. At last, she had an affair with the actor-manager, who promised to take care of her. However, soon, she “found herself with child by that gentleman” and eventually killed herself in order to avoid shame and condemnation. Therefore, the destinies of Shakespeare man and Shakespeare woman have terrific contrast, which impacts the reader and vividly depicts gender inequality.
Consequently, by referring to the life of the imaginary Judith Shakespeare, the author depicts the social framework for a woman in the times of Shakespeare. It becomes clear that the life of a female was full of restrictions and already prepared arrangements in order to make her a servant in the men’s society. Women of the Shakespeare’s age had no freedom for education, self-determination, family life, work, and hobbies. The life of Judith vividly shows that these restrictions and norms were present since childhood. While Shakespeare man enjoyed his life and mastered knowledge, Shakespeare woman was obliged to serve at home. Moreover, Woolf presented the enormous injustice in the question of marriage. Thus, when men could marry at any time and even leave the family, women (or, actually, girls) married people chosen by their parents. Moreover, in case a female escaped from the marriage, she became an outcast of her family. Furthermore, young women were in danger of being cheated and abused by any men. In such case, if a girl had a baby but was not married, she was condemned and placed on the same footing with prostitutes. In general, the comparison of a working woman with a poodle serves the best for depicting females in the eyes of men at that time. Women had their place as dogs and in case they managed to leave it the society was surprised, shocked and even outraged. Consequently, the author used this comparison in order to create a virtual gender experiment on the basis of really existed conditions. Summarizing the experiment, one can conclude that Virginia Woolf successfully met the rhetorical purpose of a vivid description of gender inequality during the times of Shakespeare.