The Philosophy of Shakespeare

Author: Clare Scott

       Shakespeare is undoubtedly one of the most memorable writers whose legacy and talents span way beyond his years. However, many themes Shakespeare explored in his time as a poet can leave many questioning, was he just merely an author? The theme of feminism pushed the envelope to make one believe Shakespeare was a philosopher in his own right. In his comedic play, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Shakespeare presents the women of the play to be smarter, whittier, and more stable than the men, which is a radical take on feminism, a movement that did not even exist in his time. This progressive theme is far beyond Shakespeare’s time, yet he was able to remove himself from the

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constraints of society to see that other realities exist. This ability to see life in a greater form of reality can lead any reader to believe that Shakespeare is indeed a philosopher.


      The first indication within, Love’s Labour’s Lost, of Shakespeare’s radical presentation of women is when The Princess of France first arrives in the play. She is met with offense as Boyet tries to explain she is here for matters too great for a woman, and will not be allowed into the court of Navarre under the King’s orders. This response from a male part sets up the play to be of a stereotypical fashion. However, the Princess’ response rattles this cliche. She responds with wit that undermines Boyet’s statement. The Princess states, “Good Lord Boyet, my beauty… needs not the painted flourish of your praise: Beauty is bought by the judgement of the eye… I am less proud to hear you tell my worth, than you much willing to be counted wise, in spending your wit in the praise of mine”(Act 3, 373-379).  In saying this, the Princess is proving her ability to see past Boyet’s words and understand he is objectifying her as less of a person because she is a women. Her response identifies that she is a women, however, this feature does not speak to her worth, knowledge, or wit, therefore, arguing her inability to gain entrance to the court. This response was surprising, as a woman of the time would be expected to follow the man’s orders with no question. Shakespeare purposefully makes the Princess’ first lines full of candor and wit to set the scene for the rest of the play. For instance later in the play, when the Princess and her party go hunting in the woods, the Princess and the forester get into a humorous debate over the word fair. When the forester states, “A stand where you may make the fairest shoot”, meaning an accurate shot, the Princess replies, “I thank my beauty, I am fair that shoot”. By this, the princess is joking over the term fair to create banter with the forester. The forester responds with denial as he tries to explain he did not mean fair in terms of beauty. The Princess takes the joke further by saying he is playing with her emotions in saying she is beautiful then taking it back. The forester seems nervous to say anything wrong after this and it proves his inability to see that a woman can tell a joke. In having the Princess joke with the forester, Shakespeare is expressing a woman to have a greater sense of humor and more intelligence than her male counterpart. Once again, this presentation of a the Princess is far beyond the mold of women of the era, further proving Shakespeare’s philosophical ability to view society through a lense free of constraint.


      The nature of the women, in particular the Princess of France, In Love’s Labour’s Lost is knowledgeable, sagacious, and confident. These characteristics are untimely for the women of this era, as the expectation is for them to be uneducated, submissive, and treated as objects. Whenever the men would test there character, witty remarks and persuasive comments were made for the women surpass their alleged role of the time. Seeing as the women were able to dominate discussions and situations throughout the play, they are not even viewed as equals to their male counterparts, but the can be viewed as greater than them. Shakespeare did not create this unknowingly. Making the women thrive in this play was intentional and speaks to Shakespeare’s mental capacity to think beyond what he was living through. The stereotypical women during his time period was deeply ingrained in society. Shakespeare saw beyond this societal construction and came to his own conclusion that women can be more powerful than men in his play. His ability to transcend the reality of his material society and see women as equal in every right to men proves that his thoughts were those of a philosopher.