The life of Shakespeare’s sister as imagined by Virginia Woolf.

In one section of her essay ‘A Room of One’s Own, Woolf (25 January 1882 – 28 March 1941) invents a fictional character, Judith, Shakespeare’s sister, to illustrate that a woman with Shakespeare’s gifts would have been denied the opportunity to develop them.

More Notes: Shakespeare’s Sister

Judith Shakespeare’s fictional character in A Room of ones Own is essential because it shows how talented women are often held back by patriarchal society. Although a clever girl possesses all the gifts of her famous brother, Judith cannot make it as a writer because of the systemic barriers in society that make it impossible for women to succeed.

Judith is a very clever girl, possessing all her brother’s gifts.  Yet, since childhood, she has been actively prevented from starting a career as a writer by her family, steeped in society’s unthinking prejudice against women and girls regarding artistic talent. As such, while encouraging William’s evident skills, Judith’s family pushes her into marriage at the earliest opportunity, even though this is the last thing she wants.

More Notes: Adeline Virginia Woolf

Even when she manages to escape the bonds of domestic drudgery by fleeing to London to become an actress, her life does not improve.  This is because society doesn’t take her artistic ambitions in the least bit seriously. After all, she’s a woman; furthermore, there is not an established path by which she may succeed.

The situation wasn’t much better for most women in Woolf’s day. And Woolf wants her audience to join her in acknowledging the countless women unable to attend the lecture at which she initially delivered A Room of One’s Own because they’re too busy washing dishes or putting the children to bed. In these women and millions more like them, the spirit of Judith Shakespeare lives on.

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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