When it comes to the history plays it seems that women play a very specific role. In Richard II the main women in the play were the Queen, the Duchess of Gloucester, and the Duchess of York. The Queen is depressed, the Duchess of Gloucester is looking for revenge, and the Duchess of York can only think about saving her son. These women do not have very many redeeming qualities. In Henry IV the main female characters are Lady Percy and Lady Mortimer. Immediately we are not given a strong opinion of Lady Mortimer, for because she only speaks Welsh she cannot speak for herself. We do see, however, that Mortimer appears to be in love with her. What is this based on though? Is it only a physical relationship because women were trophies? Lady Percy, to me, is the strongest woman in the history plays we’ve read so far, but her strength comes from opposition, which during the time of the play was not a redeemable quality.
Why does Shakespeare give the women in the history plays unattractive personalities? Of all the women in these two plays the only one that I can relate with is Lady Percy. It seems pretty obvious that Hotspur is not in love with her and her interactions with him show that she is aware of this as well. In our interaction with Lady Percy I can’t help but draw connections to Taming of the Shrew and Katherine’s behavior. The first obvious connection is the name Kate given to both outspoken women. Lady Percy is instructed by her husband to sing like Lady Mortimer to which she responds, “I will not sing” (3.2.254). The strength in character that she shows in this one line is amazing. She does not say “I don’t want to sing” or “I’d rather not sing” but “I will not sing” which sounds like something I feel like we would have heard Katherine say in Taming.
Why are Shakespeare’s women so unattractive in personality? Since these are history plays I can’t help but wonder is this how these women really were or is Shakespeare embellishing to provide good opposites for the male characters.