Expectations, Introspection, and Suicide in Ibsen and Shakespeare

Both William Shakespeare, likely the greatest English playwright of all time, and Henrik Ibsen, arguably one of the most brilliant and influential modern dramatists, are known not only for the power of their tragedies but also for their memorable female characters. Among the most famous of these is ShakespeareÃÂÂs Ophelia, HamletÃÂÂs doomed lover, and Hedda Gabler, IbsenÃÂÂs most enduring female villain. At first glance, these two women do not have many similarities: dutifully obedient Ophelia suffers passively between her fatherÃÂÂs demands and HamletÃÂÂs mockery, while Hedda is scornful and manipulative to all those around her. However, upon more careful inspection, it becomes clear that the two characters have much more in common than simply being tragic female figures. In fact, it is their common gender that makes them remarkably similar. Hedda and Ophelia ÃÂ" though created hundreds of years apart ÃÂ" are both helplessly (although sometimes subconsciously) influenced by the expectations of the men that surround them. Furthermore, thus indoctrinated in masculine hierarchies, both women are trapped in the social structures that these hierarchies propagate, rendered incapable of introspection or amending their...

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