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Unruly Women
Queen Victoria, Shakespeare, & the Ideal Woman

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Queen Victoria, Shakespeare, & the Ideal Woman

Mary Cowden Clarke. The girlhood of Shakespeare's heroines: a series of fifteen tales. London, 1893.

The Lady's Newspaper. 11 December 1847

With another queen on the throne in nineteenth-century Britain, both women and Shakespeare were idealized. During Queen Victoria's reign (1837-1901), editions of Shakespeare were produced especially with the female reader or listener in mind. Any passage "that might wound a feminine sense of delicacy" was cut.


Books about Shakespeare's heroines, illustrated with their portraits, were used to disseminate ideas of good moral behavior among young women. Mary Cowden Clarke imagined stories about the heroines before they enter their plays in Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines . The book deals with subjects such as sexual assault and postpartem depression that were not readily discussed by mothers of the period. Just as many of the heroines reveal strong personalities in the plays, so many Victorian women were not "Angels in the house," as the poet Coventry Patmore called them.



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  Additional Information

The front page of this news magazine for women called The Lady's Newspaper (1847), shown on the left, shows how the nineteenth century reimagined Shakespeare's heroines in the image of their own Queen.


In this scene showing Lady Capulet sitting by Juliet's bed as performed at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden, Juliet's features mirror the face of the young Victoria on the paper's masthead, while Lady Capulet looks like the widow Victoria was to become. Click on the image to get a more deailed view.

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