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Education, English

Role of Women in Society


It is observed that many playwrights provide the effective indications about the prevailing role of women in the society through the genre of drama. Henrik Ibsen and William Shakespeare also critically address the societal position of women through their well-known dramas, “A Doll House” and “Hamlet.” Both the stories reveal about the stereotype role of women perceived by the society.

“A Doll House” presented by Henrik Ibsen is the effective interpretation of the conventional roles of men and women set by the society. The following play based on the specific mindset of realism. Ibsen successfully depicts the women of the 19th century who immensely suffer due to the limitations of the specific roles set by the society for them. The specific character, Nora in the play is the significant representation of the overall role of the women in the society. On the other hand, “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare is known as the great interpretation of the social and political scenario of the society. This specific play comprises into six different acts and set in the paradigm of medieval Denmark. Mainly the story of Hamlet based on Hamlet’s intentions to take revenge on his uncle for murdering his father. The existence of two women characters in the play is the effective representation of the importance of women in the overall spectrum of the society. Initially, both the characters of women in the play seems passive, but they play a crucial role to figure out the stance of the society about the importance of women.

Undoubtedly, both the plays, “A Doll House” and “Hamlet” are the crucial examples to critically figure out the role of women in the society portray by the Henrik Ibsen and William Shakespeare. This research work will compare and contrast the elements of both the plays, “A Doll House” and ‘Hamlet” in context of the role of women in the society.

Literature Review

Both the plays indicate about the males’ specific perspective about the role of women in their lives and the overall paradigm of the society. The prospect of women demonstrate by Ibsen and Shakespeare is critically analyzed by many literary researchers. Previous research work provides the necessary directions to understand the actual role of women in the society by considering the insights provided by Ibsen and Shakespeare in their plays. “A Doll House” is the representation of the gender struggle that both men and women face in their lives due to the specific perspective of ideological power determined by the society. Women are main stakeholders who immensely suffer from the approach of the power which never gives the equal rights to the women as to the men of the society. The imbalance approach of power also adversely impact the relationships and associations between genders and this is the exact case described by Ibsen in the play. Nora and Torvald are the main characters in the play who portray the conventional stance of the society over the roles of both the genders. Their relationship with each other ultimately shows that how society defines the role of women. The character of Torvald is the representation of the European society of the 19th century where people believe that women are the inferior characters as compare to men as they are less intelligent. The role of women is only limited to their domestic responsibilities (Yuehua, 81).

William Shakespeare also highlights the suppress circumstances for women in the Elizabethan society. Males try to dominate over women in all the different forms whether they are brothers, fathers, or partners. It is indicated by the play that males have the particular approach that women are inferior to them and their only duty is to obey their orders. Gertrude and Ophelia are the only female characters in the play, Hamlet. Both the characters successfully reflect the existing status of women in the society. They have little or no power to make decisions about their lives. Both, Gertrude and Ophelia show the complex form of the women’s intervention in the overall aspect of decision making (Adelman, 10). The specific character of Gertrude exposed as the unfaithful and selfish women who lacks loyalty in her marital relationship. This form of particular judgment about the character of Gertrude shows the specific expectations which are set by the society for women. The struggle of the Hamlet in the play also comes with the indication that women are considered as liable entities to share burdens of the males in the relationship as their role is to provide comfort to the males exist in their lives.

The character of Ophelia is another crucial example which successfully depicts the status of the young woman in the society. She immensely suffers after her father’s death in the form of tragic loss which ultimately enhances due to the repressive feature of the dominating male society. Ophelia depicts as the symbol of beauty and suffering according to the specific parameters set by the society for the women (Fisher and Silber, 131). She also greatly suffer after her father’s death same like Hamlet but both the characters perceived differently. The main character of the play, Hamlet, is the one perfect example of the specific male-centered approach, and that influence cannot be established in case of the female character of Ophelia.


Both the plays, “A Doll House’ and ‘Hamlet” effectively provide the approach which indicates the role of women in the society. Both the plays have the point of similarity as they indicate about the adverse societal conditions for women. The overall approach of the society shows that it is male-oriented and not ready to give equal rights to the women. Women characters in both the characters going through with the struggle to sustain their acceptable position in the society. They strive to attain the life the way they want with their active contribution in decision making. Females in the play portray as the victims concerning the specific society of that era due to the perspective of male dominance. The character of Nora shows as her only role is to taking care of the household while men are responsible for generating income for the family.

It is essential to mention that males in both plays believe that women are not intelligent enough to formulate a wise decision as the men can do because they are inferior to males by nature. The character of Nora in the play, “A Doll House” tries to challenge the superiority of men in her life but remained unsuccessful due to the specific gender perspective set by the society for them. Although she lives happy marriage life, she strives for her freedom and independence in decision making which is not possible for her as her husband treat her as the object in the form of a doll. Somewhat contrary approach to the Ibsen, Shakespeare indicates about the strong side of the female character in the form of Gertrude who was Hamlet’s mother in the play. She shows as the woman who has the adequate form of power and intelligence. She manipulates the different situation to maintain her position of power.

The character of Nora in “A Doll House” tries to get rid of the marital relationship as she wants her independence and freedom at any cost. This particular perspective is appeared due to the approach of dominance adopted by her husband. He always tried to suppress her by making his judgment without her consideration. Torvald only treats her as a pet, not as his better half. She struggled hard to attain her independence and freedom as a person in her marriage and the society. Ultimately she decided to disobey man by leaving her responsibilities as a wife and a mother. She depicts about the perspective of sublimation through her actions and decisions in life. Both the plays define the female’s role in the society as the suppress gender who is compelled by the societal norms to obey men in their lives. Ibsen and Shakespeare indicate the same form of relationship between man and woman where the male character is dominated due to the fundamental standards set by the society regarding gender roles.


In conclusion, it is crucial to indicate that both the plays adopt the similar approach to define the women’s role in the society. Females have to face different forms of difficulty to attain and sustain their position in their associations with the male characters. The approach of their relationship ultimately defines their position in the overall spectrum of the society. Writers of both the plays give the necessary edge to their male characters as they have all right to treat women lesser as compare to them because they have high ranks in the society. Society set the standard that women should listen to men before making any decisions in their lives as they are not intelligent enough to make their decisions on their own. Women in both the plays in the form of Nora and Gertrude tries to change their position. They wanted to get freedom by taking different decisions, but they never remained successful to maintain effective position because society never accepts the dominance of the society.

Work Cited

Adelman, J. Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origin in Shakespeare’s Plays, Hamlet to the Tempest. Taylor & Francis, 2012,

Fisher, J., and E. S. Silber. Women in Literature: Reading Through the Lens of Gender. Greenwood Press, 2003,

Yuehua, Guo. “Gender Struggle over Ideological Power in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House/LA LUTTE DES SEXES SUR LE POUVOIR IDEOLOGIQUE DANS MAISON DE POUPEE D’IBSEN.” Canadian Social Science, vol. 5, no. 1, 2009, p. 79.




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