Shakespeare's Sister Virginia Woolf Summary

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Virginia Woolf: Shakespeare’s Sister
In the essay “Shakespeare’s sister” Virginia Woolf asks and explores the basic question of “Why women did not write poetry in the Elizabethan age”. Woolf sheds light on the reality of women’s life during this time and illustrates the effects of social structures on the creative spirit of women. In the society they lived in, women were halted to explore and fulfill their talent the same way men were able to, due to the gender role conventions that prevailed during this era. Through a theoretical setting in which it is it is imagined that William Shakespeare had a sister (Judith), Virginia Woolf personifies women during the sixteenth century in order to reflect the hardships they had to overcome as aspiring writers.
The author’s main purpose for
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This can be exhibited when she states “..that a highly gifted girl who had tried to use her gift for poetry would have been so thwarted and hindered by other people, so tortured and pulled asunder by her own contrary instincts, that she must have lost her health and sanity to a certainty.” Woolf desires to validate the idea that “woman cannot write the plays of Shakespeare” but intends to clarify that this is not due to a lack of talent or ability equal to that of men, but simply because the societal structures at the time rendered it impossible for them to be equally successful.
In the development of her argument, Woolf starts out by exposing the belief that it was impossible for women to “have the genius of Shakespeare” and she contextualises the reader with some basic information, given by an authority figure “Professor Trevelyan” about women’s conditions during the era. Woolf then provides the reader with a hypothetical situation to ponder on: What if Shakespeare had had a sister — that is, a female sibling of
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