Study Guide

Henry VI Part 3 Women and Femininity

By William Shakespeare

Women and Femininity

Where would the characters in Henry VI, Part 3 be without gender stereotypes to make their insults really sting? For example, people are always ragging on Margaret becauseshe's a woman: she's called every name in the book, just for being on the battlefield. All the time the men stop and discuss this chick. What gives?

Well, in Shakespeare's day, women were expected to be submissive and silent; they didn't go off to wars or lead armies. So, okay, maybe it's shocking that Margaret is the complete opposite of that. But why is Margaret's femininity (or lack thereof) so important to these guys?

We get a lot of examples of what the characters think of men and women just by listening to how they offend each other. According to the play, men should be strong, scary, and powerful, while women should to be quiet, calm, and obedient. But in reality, how many characters actually live up to this model?

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. In what ways does Margaret control her husband? Why does he allow her to do this?
  2. Why is everyone hung up on the fact that Margaret is a strong woman? Does this comment on their masculinity at all?
  3. How is "womanhood" or "femininity" defined in Henry VI, Part 3? What kinds of roles do women play?

Chew on This

Margaret's strength emasculates the men around her.

Margaret isn't a strong woman; she's just bloodthirsty.

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