A Room of One's Own

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Judith Shakespeare Character Analysis

is the imagined sister of William Shakespeare. Woolf creates her to show how a woman with talent equal to Shakespeare would not, because of the structure of society, be able to achieve the same success. Judith's life is fraught with tragedy – first pressured by her family into an early marriage, she must escape to London to free herself to pursue art, but is turned away with scorn from every theatre she approaches. She becomes pregnant, which makes a life of writing impossible, and she eventually kills herself. But later in the essay, Woolf brings back the ghost of Judith Shakespeare and tells the young women in the audience that they have the power to be the voice that Judith never had.

Judith Shakespeare Quotes in A Room of One's Own

The A Room of One's Own quotes below are all either spoken by Judith Shakespeare or refer to Judith Shakespeare. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Financial and Intellectual Freedom Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harcourt edition of A Room of One's Own published in 1989.
Chapter 6 Quotes

Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross-roads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here to-night, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed.

Related Characters: Virginia Woolf (speaker), Judith Shakespeare
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final section of the speech, Woolf has dropped the narrator persona and is speaking as herself. Having reviewed several of the main issues of the speech and responded to anticipated criticism, she returns to the character of Judith Shakespeare, "this poet who never wrote a word." Although Judith's story reflects Woolf's rather pessimistic depiction of women whose ambitions were suffocated before they could ever be realized, Woolf ends on a hopeful note by implying that Judith "still lives" within herself and the audience, as well as other women who remain at home attending to domestic tasks. 

Woolf implies that women are connected to one another across the barriers of history, geography, and socioeconomic class, and that this connection inspires women to have a sense of duty to each other. On one hand, this is uplifting and inspirational, a silver lining to the tragic story of Judith Shakespeare and the countless other women whose lives and ambitions have been thwarted by sexism. On the other hand, it is possible that Woolf is being overly optimistic here in proposing a supposedly universal connection between women. Critics of A Room of One's Own have pointed to the fact that Woolf provides a sense of hope to young, educated, upper-class women, but promises nothing to other women other than vague references to female solidarity. Such promises might make little difference to the lives of women who remain socially, politically, and economically oppressed, with no hope of achieving independence or autonomy over their own lives. 


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Judith Shakespeare Character Timeline in A Room of One's Own

The timeline below shows where the character Judith Shakespeare appears in A Room of One's Own. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Financial and Intellectual Freedom Theme Icon
Women and Society Theme Icon
...being able to write the plays of Shakespeare. She invents a woman, Shakespeare's sister, named Judith Shakespeare , to investigate what would have happened if a woman had Shakespeare's gift. While William... (full context)
Chapter 6
Financial and Intellectual Freedom Theme Icon
Women and Society Theme Icon
Creating a Legacy of Women Writers Theme Icon
Finally, Woolf conjures the character of Judith Shakespeare again, who died and lies beneath the omnibuses driving the streets of London. But it... (full context)