While Shakespeare had a deep sensitivity toward women, we cannot say that he was a feminist as we define the term. Shakespeare, despite his brilliance, was very much a product of his time, and accepted societal norms and values. Take, for example, his treatment of Shylock. Here we see that, although Shakespeare makes "the Jew" a more developed character than Jewish characters we find in other literature of the day, he deviates little from the standard stereotypes in Tudor England. The same can be said for his treatment of women in his plays. It is true that many of his female characters could be classified as "heroines", equal to men in intelligence and wit (as is Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing). But, look at other characters Shakespeare created, like Katerina, for example (in The Taming of the Shrew), who reinforce stereotypes of women as childlike and animal-like, in need of a man to tame them or guide them to salvation.
How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. Shakespeare the Feminist?. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/faq/shakespearefeminist.html >.