Shakespeare's Women

Ref: C2224374

An exploration of some of the extraordinary and powerful female characters Shakespeare invented for boys and men to act: companions, lovers, mothers, daughters, viragos at war, victims of jealousy, agents of destruction and angels of redemption! We speculate about Shakespeare’s life, including political and religious factors as well as his marital and other relationships, in so far as light may be cast on the way he presents his female roles, and consider how the all-male world of the theatre companies affected their construction and presentation. We shall discuss some of the non-dramatic poetry to see if these too shed illumination, and proceed to study some roles fairly briefly, others in more depth, covering the most significant from the Comedies, Histories, Tragedies and Romances, discussing Shakespeare’s “empowerment” of his women. How much justification is there for the suggestion that Shakespeare’s women, at least, are the deadlier of the species?

Course aim

Shakespeare “invented the human as we continue to know it” (Professor Harold Bloom).This course aims to examine some of the female roles Shakespeare invented for boys and men to act.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Approach any Shakespeare play on stage or screen and in print with greater confidence and enjoyment
  • Analyse Shakespeare’s skills and techniques in crafting female characters and presenting their emotions and relationships convincingly even though he was working with an all-male cast
  • Recognise and discuss the roles of these female characters in the development of plot and ideas in the various plays
  • Evaluate the proposition that more often than not the women hold the balance of power in the plays, despite being greatly outnumbered by the men
  • Begin to compare the rôles of the women in the genres of Comedy, History, Tragedy and Romance.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor

What else do I need to know?

  • A selection of materials and basic equipment will be provided but you are welcome to bring additional materials with you

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member

Download full Course information sheet

Shakespeare's Women


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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