The Lack of Opportunities Available to Women: The reason for the apparent lack of female geniuses
Virginia Woolf’s essay “Shakespeare’s Sister” broaches the subject of Shakespeare by exploring the fact that a professor whose work she has studied suggests that a woman could never write anything in the way of the playwright’s genius. It is her conclusion that, at any rate, it would have been impossible for a woman to match the genius of Shakespeare in the time of Shakespeare (Woolf 3).
2. Woolf’s thesis: the role of women in poetry
Woolf posits that if Shakespeare had had a sister, and this sister matched Shakespeare in adventurousness and imagination, she would have had no opportunity to exercise these qualities in likeness to that of Shakespeare himself. The reason for this is because, at the time, women were not encouraged to partake in creativity or academics, but instead were expected to marry young and bear children.
The only outlet for a woman with a creative mind would have been through poetry, which was not taken as seriously as prose or drama. Woolf goes on to say that even if this hypothetical sister had managed to publish her poems, they would have been attributed to her husband or father and she would have received no credit for them.
3. Shakespeare’s sister
This hypothetical sister of Shakespeare’s that Woolf speaks of is representative of all women who attempt to express themselves creatively during a time when it was not socially acceptable for them to do so. The fact that she would most likely go unrecognized for her work echoes the experiences of many women throughout history who have had their accomplishments attributed to men or been otherwise unable to receive credit for their contributions.
4. Woolf’s conclusion
In conclusion, Woolf argues that the lack of opportunities available to women throughout history is responsible for the apparent lack of female geniuses in fields such as literature or art. She posits that if society were more accepting of women’s creativity, there would be many more women artists and writers whose work would be celebrated alongside that of their male counterparts.
While Virginia Woolf’s “Shakespeare’s Sister” is focused on the role of women in poetry, her thoughts on the subject can easily be applied to other creative fields as well. The lack of opportunities available to women has resulted in a dearth of female geniuses in many different areas, and it is only by changing our societal norms that we can hope to see more women achieving greatness in their chosen fields.