Niagara Christian Community of Schools
Miss A. Armstrong
1 May 2009
The Female Voice in the Eyes of Charlotte Brontë and Shakespeare Our ears have become accustomed to the solo male voice, although there should be two completely different voices. It is the female voice which is greatly repressed in society throughout the ages. Women are expected to follow a man-made code of conduct. Women have even become goods traded among men. This unfair phenomenon existed in both the Elizabethan and Victorian eras in which Shakespeare and Charlotte Brontë lived, respectively. Interestingly, both authors feel that the repressed female voice should be heard. Freedom, equality and independence are what the female voice has been demanding. They present a form of female liberation in their works The Taming of the Shrew and Jane Eyre through the notable female protagonists they create. Specifically, these female protagonists are brave enough to rebel against the social handcuff, acting against the traditional marriage system. However, their lives end up very differently. One remains independent from men while one succumbs to men. Shakespeare and Brontë depict the women in their own unique ways of characterization, simulating how the modern feminists handle the age-old paradox of marriage and domestic expectations. Carefully crafted by Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre is the speaker of the repressed female voice. Jane Eyre is an orphan, knowing well that she is poor, plain and obscure. Jane’s congenital characteristics are incompatible with popular culture in the first half of the nineteenth century since she pursues equality, liberty and independence from men. Sacrificing her dignity to compromise with men and social customs would never be her choice; instead, she chooses to stand up and rebel bravely. Her special traits are both charming and bizarre. Rebellion is highlighted in her childhood. This is vividly characterized through her conversation with her close friend – Helen Burns. Jane says: If people were always kind and obedient to those who are cruel and unjust, the wicked people would have it all their own way: they would never feel afraid, and so they would never alter, but would grow worse and worse. When we are struck at without a reason, we should strike back again very hard; I am sure we should – so hard as to teach the person who struck us never to do it again. (40) In this explanation, she argues that if victims only compromise with the wrong-doers, they will remain victimized. Her suggestion is to fight back as the only way to gain real independence, but as a consequence, she keeps facing hardships throughout her life. In such a young age, she already learns how to protect herself. The subsequent hardships only make her tougher; building the strong character of Jane Eyre.
Shakespeare’s female protagonist named Katherine is labeled “The Shrew”, a stronger female character than Jane Eyre. Born into a wealthy family, Katherine is the eldest daughter of a rich merchant. Despite her wealth, Katherine is often characterized as miserable. To many people, she is by nature a man-torturing machine. Adopting the same philosophy of gender equality as Jane Eyre, Katherine faces similar hardships. Her thinking is rebellious and destructive as a result of her ill-tempered, violent and cynical treatment of men. In fact, there is nothing more she wants, but freedom and equality. When Baptista, her father, orders her to go inside the house, she replies “Stay out here? I don't think so! Am I to be dictated to, like a child? Told when to come and where to go? No” (Shakespeare I.ii.35-36). It is clearly indicated that she wants to be independent and refuses to take orders since she is an adult. She is resenting to the popular culture that women should be treated like naïve children, doing things as instructed. Also, Katherine is portrayed as jealous towards her sister, Bianca, who has many suitors. Sharply...