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A Room of One's Own

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Sam Schmidt
10/8/15
A Room of One’s Own
Virginia Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own is based on a series of lectures she gave to a college audience back in the late 1920’s. The six chapters within the essay focus on three main concepts, women, fiction, and facts. Virginia Woolf argues financial freedom, independence, and original thoughts will not only allow women to write, but to live a lifestyle of their own. In Chapter three, on page 48, Virginia Woolf says, “Be that as it may, I could not help thinking, as I looked at the works of Shakespeare on the shelf, that the bishop was right at least in this; it would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any woman to have written the plays of Shakespeare in the age of Shakespeare. Let me imagine, since facts are so hard to come by, what would have happened had Shakespeare had a wonderfully gifted sister, called Judith, let us say”. This statement emphasizes the theme that Virginia Woolf references throughout the essay; women were treated unequally in society (during this time in age) and thus didn’t have the freedom, time, or money to compose the type of writings men were capable of. After re-reading the first part of the phrase again, “Be that as it may, I could not help thinking, as I looked at the works of Shakespeare on the shelf, that the bishop was right at least in this; it would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any woman to have written the plays of Shakespeare in the age of Shakespeare,” it seems this part of the paragraph directly aligns with her theme of inequality. Talent, education, and time all were essential components to Shakespeare’s success as a poet and writer. However, even to this day there are critics that are unsure whether Shakespeare was a single man, a couple men, or a group of men. But, there is one thing we know for sure, Shakespeare was of the male gender because of the opportunities he was allowed as a writer. She mentions that during the age of Shakespeare it would have been impossible to have any work of literature published if one was of the female gender. Virginia Woolf turns to history to look for facts about the relationship between men and literature in this passage which means she wants to emphasize her point on gender inequality by having supporting concrete evidence.
As for the second part of the phrase, “Let me imagine, since facts are so hard to come by, what would have happened had Shakespeare had a wonderfully gifted sister, called Judith, let us say.” This part of the passage seemed to express the societal differences a bit more than the first part of the passage. Hypothetically, if Shakespeare did have a twin sister at the time, she would have been discriminated against just like the rest of the women in society. Virginia Woolf tries to imply that even if “Judith” had the same talent as Shakespeare, the family, friends, and society as a whole wouldn’t have accepted her talents. She takes us beyond facts, and has us imagine the difficulties any women would have faced internally, such as depression and lack of confidence. Could these restrictions from freedom, education, and independence from all the years’ impact the way women think today? We don’t have any evidence of a direct correlation between the two however; one could argue that these restrictions played a part in the evolution of women.
The example of Judith relates back to the theme of fact vs. fiction argument Virginia Woolf has been emphasizing throughout her essay. Women weren’t allowed any time, space, or money to write. Even if “Judith” did write, she would have most likely had kept it a secret like the millions of others did. A woman, even as talented as Shakespeare, could never have achieved success like he did in the Shakespearian age. But, do we really know this? Would women write differently today if they were allowed to express their opinions in times of change? Would there still be as much gender inequality if we would have made decisions based on society, not based on gender? These are all fictional questions that are attempted by scholars today, yet we can only imagine the answers we think to be true.

Bibliography
Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989. Print.

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