“Frailty, thy name is woman”
Shakespeare, or rather Hamlet, lamenting the fact that his mother had married his uncle very soon after his father’s death. Today I think we’d call Gertrude treacherous and wicked rather than frail. To me the term “frail” conjures up a person man or woman, who is physically weak, probably elderly and easily swayed by a stronger personality.
The term that goes most often with “frail” is “old lady”. A doddery old woman tottering along with the help of a stick, speaking in a low croaky voice and generally overlooked and disregarded by those around her.
I’ve dealt with this situation in several pieces of fiction I’ve written where an old lady is being bossed about (usually by her daughter}. This “frail” character develops unsuspected strength and ingenuity when dealing with an unforeseen problem. The chararacter of the little old lady with hidden depths is, I think, sadly overlooked in popular fiction.
Nowadays we have become used to strong women in postions of authority, Margaret Thatcher, for instance, and of course our new Prime Minister. By no stretch of the imagination could either of these women be described as “frail”.