Where are the mothers in Shakespeare’s plays? An investigation

shakespeare plays mothers

Where are the mothers in the plays written by Shakespeare? Rarely a feminist can be observed looking for a mother in the dramas by Shakespeare or is it a deliberate attempt to oversee the fact that Shakespeare’s plays lack maternal presence? On this Mothers’ Day, I am trying to look into the world that Shakespeare created – lovers, beloveds, fathers, uncles, daughters, brothers, friends, sisters, enemies, clowns but no mother! Where are the mothers, readers? I will look into the notable plays by him where mothers could have changed the equation.

Othello: How could Desdemona be so delicate without a mother? Othello’s mother did give her a handkerchief but did never appear to make her presence count. Desdemona is sans mother. We see no mothers there in Venice which is portrayed in the play, Othello. We see the Duke but we never see the Duchess. Where are the mothers hidden, and all of them at once, William? What was the game then?

As You Like it: Rosalind was as tender as no actress in Shakespeare; she was, as well, very brave and witty. She did have a father but Vanished and she did not know whether her mother was or not! Celia, even she did not know who was her mother! Did the guy Orlando know his mother? Did even Oliver see his mother once? Why did the Dukes hate their wives so much that Shakespeare couldn’t even mention them once? Isn’t it fishy? Doesn’t it sound ridiculous that we don’t see mothers even in a comic play as wonderful as As You Like it? I am amused but confused at the same time; aren’t you?

A King without a Queen (The Solitude Lear): Who was the queen and also the mother of the three intelligent, sharp, witty and cunning daughters? Cordelia, could she be so calm and holy without the nourishing of a mother? Goneril & Regan were the examples of daughters lived only with Father’s paternal love and care. Cordelia was an exception and the King’s passionate wrath was also the perfect spectacle of a life worthlessly lived without the company of a worthy queen. How could Shakespeare forget adding a ‘mother’ and a ‘queen’ to his characters’ list? This is beyond measure!

The Bad & the Good Wives: Can Lady Macbeth be an example of Shakespeare’s ‘queen imagination’? If it was so, then it’s justified that he did not add ‘good queens’ to his plays because I think, he could not imagine those. King Duncan was a good and noble king and that’s why he did not have a wife like other noble kings such as Duke Senior, Othello’s commander-in-chief and others.

So, on this mothers’ day, I tried looking back at the Shakespearean world of beautiful and horrific characters and sadly, I did not find any noble queens and noble mothers. I only found the ‘bad’ if I try to juxtapose it with the ‘good’ I imagine. How could or why did Shakespeare do it might be a case of an investigation and it might lead us nowhere as well!


by Alok for LN

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  • That is very true that there are almost no mothers in his plays. Even in “Twelfth Night”,the twins are raised without a mother. Also,Lady Macbeth is shown in a bad light which shows the position of women at that time and also shows the need of an ideology like Feminism.