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In "Shakespeare's Sister," what kind of argument does Virginia Woolf make?

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Quick Answer

"Shakespeare's Sister," an argument put forth by Virginia Woolf in her long-form essay, A Room of One's Own, posits that a woman could never have written the plays of William Shakespeare. She believes this because of the lack of educational resources and social support provided to women at the time.

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Full Answer

Woolf creates a fictional sister to William Shakespeare named Judith Shakespeare, who is as intelligent, talented and creative as her brother. She tells the story of how William was sent to school and learned Latin and the classics, while Judith was left at home to sew. Judith scorns marriage and travels to London to become an actress, where she is laughed at, used and rejected by men. Destitute and miserable, she kills herself.

Woolf states that this was the destiny for a gifted woman at the time simply because women were regarded as inferior to men. According to Woolf, when men argue that a woman could never have produced the works of Shakespeare, they fail to acknowledge that society has made it impossible for a woman to do so. She goes on to say that geniuses like Shakespeare existed among women, but they were rarely acknowledged. Many of these women were oppressed wives and mothers who sang to their children and produced poetry that no one saw.

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