The Forms Of Femininity In Shakespeare English Literature Essay
Many modern critics claim that Shakespeare was a pioneering women’s rightist. Shapiro claimed that Shakespeare was “ the noblest women’s rightist of them all ” ( Shapiro,1994, p111 ) . Whilst this claim is supported by assorted Shakespearean plant, this essay will see that whilst his plants can be interpreted as exposing feminist attitudes, whether these females are punished for exposing this transgressive behavior.
Over the centuries assorted imperiums and societies, such as classical Rome and ancient Egypt, were been built upon the foundation of a patriarchal society. These societies were sustained through the subjugation of adult females, as they were continually treated as 2nd category citizens, which pushed adult females towards Acts of the Apostless of rebellion when they felt peculiarly mistreated. These scenes hence made an first-class background for Shakespeare to project the attitudes of a male-dominated 17th century society.
This technique occurs throughout Shakespeare ‘s dramas, but is peculiarly apparent in Titus Andronicus, where Tamora is motivated to move against a patriarchal society by the limitations that she is forced to adhere to. Her actions are so punished by farther repression, picturing the infectiveness of her actions against the dominant patriarchal order. Antony and Cleopatra besides illustrates this conflict of muliebrity against a patriarchal society, utilizing Romans one time once more to stand for the tyrannizing male force. Shakspere allows both Antony and Cleopatra to interrupt free from their stereotyped functions by inverting their genders, to make two characters that possess traits from both sexes ; so they refuse to suit into their traditional functions. Last I will look at Gertrude in the Hamlet, where Shakespeare depicts the effects of one adult female ‘s transgressive actions on the patriarchal order.
To appreciate why the actions of adult females in these dramas are so insurgent, and to grok the reactions of the male characters in the dramas, it is critical to understand the place of adult females in Shakespeare ‘s society. Despite that both of Shakespeare ‘s dramas were non set in the 17th century, his word picture of adult females would hold been influenced by the society in which he lived. The general position was that there was a hierarchy of genders, with males at the top, in Milton ‘s words “ Not equal, as their sex non equal seemed ” ( Milton, 2008, p41 ) . Society established adult female as “ weaker, inferior and in demand of masculine counsel ” and this was voiced “ as steadfastly by adult females, as by work forces ” ( Keeble,1994,106 ) . This essay will portray how the female characters transgressed from their stereotyped functions, and see how and more intriguingly, why, these characters were punished for their sensed evildoing.
Shakespeare ‘s Antony and Cleopatra is believed to hold been written in 1606 after a distinguished sequence of calamities including Othello, King Lear and Macbeth ( Farrell, 2004, p23 ) . Shakespeare uses the drama to see the effects of a patriarchal society, and skillfully inverts gender functions so that it is the male, Antony, that is the victim. The patriarchal society of Rome expects Antony to merely expose his maleness, and non to yield to feminine qualities such as passion, feelings and love. When he develops a powerful love for Cleopatra, Antony is no longer able to stay by the suppression society, where the function of lover is considered inferior to a adult male ‘s political duties.
The gap lines of the drama demonstrates the lifting disapproval of Antony ‘s unconventional, or feminine, behavior which is non confined within the step of patriarchate, “ Nay but this second childhood of our General ‘s / O’erflows the step ” ( Shakespeare, 2001,1.1.56 ) . The males view Antony ‘s dedication to Cleopatra as disgraceful, “ ‘His captain ‘s bosom… become the bellows and the fan / To chill a itinerant ‘s lecherousness ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 1.1.22 ) . Antony besides on occasion Judgess himself by these criterions of patriarchate, such as at the terminal of the drama where he is suffering and shamed by his decreased political power. He so becomes covetous and irrational and claims that Cleopatra has emasculated him, “ O thy vile lady, / She has robbed me of my blade ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 4.14.2 ) . Finally Antony chooses love over political power, as Antony is non debased by his loss of power, but instead, through his love of Cleopatra develops a stronger sense of manhood, ran “ alternate maleness ” ( Woodbridge,1994, p34 ) . However the reaction of the males within the Roman society shows that this feminine evildoing is non suited for a male in a patriarchal society.
Whilst Antony show ‘s feminine features, Cleopatra transgresses her female function by exhibiting masculine virtuousnesss to compensate Antony and supply a relationship of surprising equality. Cleopatra, and the relationship, does non stay by the limitations of a 17th century, patriarchal society. Their relationship blurs the functions of male and female by inverting gender functions, Cleopatra embraces masculine characteristics, as Woodbridge provinces, “ Antony and Cleopatra can traverse gender boundaries without losing their sex functions as adult male or adult female ” ( Woodbridge,1994, p45 ) . This gender inversion is physically depicted in the scene where Cleopatra, “ wore his blade Philipan ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 2.5.30 ) , this displays how Shakespeare clearly identifies masculine qualities within a female. Unlike many of Shakespeare ‘s female characters, Cleopatra dominates the drama in footings of single presence and subject. Besides Shakespeare provided the audience with a existent adult female, as opposed to a stereotype, Velma Richmond claims further that in Cleopatra we can happen Shakespeare ‘s “ finest embrace of the feminine ” ( Richmond, 1991, p139 ) . Cleopatra is a mixture of political art and sexual power ; nevertheless this gender is condemned by the males in the drama as she is referred to as a “ prostitute ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 22.214.171.124 ) and a “ adulteress ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 126.96.36.199 ) throughout the drama. However this sexual power is presented positively on juncture, such as Enorbarbus ‘s description of her:
“ Age can non shrivel her, A
Nor custom stale her infinite assortment. Other adult females cloyA
The appetencies they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies. For vilest thingsA
Become themselves in her, that the sanctum priests
Bless she is riggish. ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 2.2.43 ) .
Cleopatra declines to obey to the stereotype of a adult female created by a patriarchal society, and uses her natural gender to derive power instead than let it to be damaging to her character. She besides is purpose on carry throughing a political function, despite the expostulations of the patriarchal work forces. This is clearly depicted when Enoebarbus attempts to halt her from transporting out her political function, and Cleopatra responds in a ferocious philippic:
“ A charge we bear i’th’war,
And as the president of my land will
Look there for a adult male. Speak non against it.
I will non remain behind ” ( Shakespeare, 3.4.44 )
Cleopatra therefore forces her entree into the male sphere against the wants of the patriarchal society. Obedience and silence were really much portion of the patriarchal construct of muliebrity, a construct of which Cleopatra refuses to adhere to. She contrasts the traditional soundless adult female ; Cleopatra ensures that her voice is heard. She mocks Antony and wrangles with him. Challenging him with a masculine aggression when they argue “ ‘I would I had thine inches. Thou shouldst know/ There were a bosom in Egypt ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 1.3.10 ) . Spirited and passionate, such shows of averment as her physical onslaught on the courier informing her of Antony ‘s matrimony to Octavia are a far call from the inactive soundless function of the feminine in patriarchal society. In passionate incredulity and choler, she draws a knife on the courier and work stoppages him with her au naturel custodies. Charmian attempts to pacify her by stating her “ Good dame maintain yourself within yourself ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 2.5.55 ) , but Cleopatra escapes the bounds of self-composure and the repression of self-hood.
Shakespeare uses Cleopatra ‘s decease to portray her concluding act of noncompliance against the patriarchal society, as she emphasizes her single individuality. Her decease develops into a triumph over Caesar, who symbolises patriarchal Rome, as when the guard is confronted with the sight of her decease he exclaims “ Caesar ‘s beguiled ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 5.2.33 ) . Cleopatra ‘s decease allows her to lift above the repression of society ; she embraces her decease as positive instead than with unhappiness:
“ My devastation does get down to do a better life
. . . And it is greatA
To make that thing that ends all other workss,
Which shackles accidents and bolts up alteration ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 5.2.76 )
Even in decease Cleopatra merges both feminine and masculine characteristics, as she declares to take on male qualities of reason and strength, “ I have nil of adult female in me. Now from caput to foot/ I am marble changeless ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 5.1.22 ) . She chooses to reject the traditional feminine qualities of “ H2O and the changeableness of the Moon ” ( Ott,2001, p21 ) and changes herself into “ air and fire ” ( Shakespeare,2001, 5.1.43 ) . Therefore she embraces maleness and Rome by deceasing in the “ True Roman manner ” ( Ott,2001, p20 ) . However Shakespeare is besides able to exemplify her portraiture of the power of muliebrity, by accommodating the image of decease into a portrayal of sensualness and maternity. The hurting that she suffers is described as “ a lover ‘s pinch ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 5.1.10 ) and the asp is depicted as a “ babe at my breast/That sucks the nurse asleep ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 5.1.9 ) . Her decease is so affecting that even Caesar, the symbol of patriarchate, acknowledges her heroism and the incontrovertible self-respect of the adult female who “ Took her ain manner ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 5.1.68 ) . This representation of muliebrity shows how Cleopatra transcends the stereotype of adult females in Shakespeare ‘s clip. Despite that she meets her decease at the terminal of the drama ; Shakespeare ensures that her mixture of masculine and muliebrity is finally respected by Caesar. She escapes penalty for exposing masculine traits, and therefore offending her function of female, by holding the power to take her ain life. The regard shown by Caesar is possibly Shakespeare ‘s ain position, that this adult female, who refuses to stay by the function that a patriarchal society has given her, should be admired. The description throughout the drama of Cleopatra shows her in a strong and positive visible radiation
In Titus Andronicus, the character Tamora does non stay by the function of a proper adult female in a 17th century society. Tamora feels as though she has been abused and repressed by the Acts of the Apostless of a patriarchal society. Her actions in the drama are an effort to derive some sort of equality, nevertheless finally she meets her decease as a effect, possibly turn outing the futility of such opposition in a male dominated landscape.
The decease of Tamora ‘s boy Arlarbus, “ we have performed/Our Roman rites: Alarbus ‘ limbs are lopped/And visceras feed the giving fire ‘ ( Shakespeare, 2001, 1.1.145 ) serves as the footing of the secret plan, as Tamora plots her retaliation on Titus for this act of atrocity. However Tamora must set up herself within the patriarchal society to derive the necessary power to demand her retaliation. This motion corresponds to the masculinization of her character ; as Lavinia says to her “ O Tamora, 1000 bearest a adult female ‘s face ” , before being interrupted ( Shakespeare, 2001. 2.2.135 ) . This break of normative gender traits in portion relates to the menace Tamora poses as a sexually experient adult female, compared to the submissive Lavinia. This factor, combined with her visibly feminine place as a female parent, leads Titus to organize his unique, cannibalistic scheme for retaliation. The abuse that Lavinia throws at Tamora is based upon the “ given of a binary system ” ( Ott, 2001, p77 ) . Lavinia is the obvious stereotyped female ; this is apparent from the beginning of the drama where she is the victim of a patriarchal battle and “ the bargaining bit ” ( Ott, 2001, p77 ) in a marital difference. Tamora contrasts Lavinia, in that she possesses the gender and organic structure of a adult female, but as retaliation consumes her she abandons the limitations placed upon her and transgresses her feminine function. Tamora and Lavinia serve as polar opposite representations of adult females, the active Tamora and the inactive Lavinia.
Shakespeare efficaciously gives a platform to inquiry gender individuality within the drama:
When agreed-upon individualities or agreed-upon dialogic constructions, through which already established individualities are communicated, no longer represent the subject or topic of political relations, so individualities can come into being and fade out depending on the concrete patterns that constitute them ( Butler,2004, p28 )
This is relatable to Tamora as her character is a stereotyped adult female that has been unhinged by her vindictive actions. The obedient individualities, which “ come into being and fade out ” ( Butler, 2004, p28 ) , rely upon the guess of other characters ; most strongly in the character of Tamora, as the volatile nature of her character is shown to be based upon her ocular female characteristics, and the performative outlooks set upon her as a adult female.
Harmonizing to Butler ‘s theory the go oning force and retribution via media the “ concrete patterns ” that create individuality. The ceaseless conformity to the female function shown by Lavinia, after her colza and maiming, seal her destiny as she is killed by Titus at the terminal of the drama. Whilst Tamora ‘s pick to decline the female function ensures that she meets a likewise grisly fate. Shakspere uses both female characters as organic structures on which he can project the power of a patriarchal society upon, as Tamora ‘s rejection of it is contrasted to Lavinia ‘s credence of it.
Tamora ‘s clearest rejection of the patriarchal society is her sexual freedom, as Renaissance society “ viewed adult females as possessed of a powerful, potentially riotous gender ” ( Henderson, 1985, p66 ) . An illustration of this riotous power is when she gives birth to a kid fathered by Aaron, the kid is described as “ every bit nauseating as a toad/Amongst the fair-faced breeders of our climate, ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 4.2.59 ) . This suggests that the kid has a assorted ethnicity ; her transgressive actions are damned by the patriarchal society:
Demetrius: By this our female parent is for of all time shamed.
Chiron: Rome will contemn her for this disgusting flight.
Nurse: The emperor in his fury will destine her decease.
( Shakespeare, 2001, 4.2.111 )
Society may hold had a different reaction if Saturninus had been blameworthy of holding a secret kid, nevertheless as Tamora has shown her sexual freedom through her actions, she will be condemned. Her promiscuousness marks her as a menace to the male controlled society as it signifies that she will non let a adult male, or society to command her. Her control over work forces is demonstrated repeatedly as she manipulates Saturninus, Aaron and her boies. Her matter with Aaron is a direct onslaught against the subjugation the Romans would try to coerce on her. Tamora ‘s reaction to her newborn boy is a absorbing illustration of female independency ; she realizes the danger that giving birth to a assorted race, asshole kid will put her in and she refuses to be caught in this trap. Tamora alternatively opts to salvage herself, by giving her kid, “ The empress sends it thee, thy cast, thy seal/ And commands thee baptize it with thy sticker ‘s point ” ( Shakespeare, 2001,4.2.61 ) ; while this action seems barbarous and heartless it is still a autonomous move. Women were expected to be married womans and female parents, and a adult female ‘s kid should be her most precious ownership
In Titus Andronicus Shakespeare uses both of the chief female ‘s organic structures as physical metaphors for the laterality of males in society. Lavinia ‘s organic structure is used as an inscriptive site ; Titus asks Saturninus “ Was it good done of roseola Virginius/To slay his ain girl with his ain right hand/Because she was enforced, stained and deflowered? ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 5.3.25 ) before transporting out the responsibility of Roman patriarchate. The Torahs of work forces are written upon Lavinia, with her stumps, disfigured oral cavity and stab lesions. Tamora ‘s organic structure efficaciously transforms into a vas, as when she dies her tummy is filled with her boy ‘s remains, the penalty that Titus finds compulsory for offending against the patriarchal jurisprudence. Whilst Tamora is punished harshly for her evildoing, Lavinia besides suffers despite carry throughing her function.
In Shakespeare ‘s Hamlet, there are two chief female characters. Ophelia embodies muliebrity, as she obeys the patriarchal society that cares for her and flourishes within its rigorous boundaries. Gertrude juxtaposes Ophelia, as Shakespeare uses the same technique found in Titus Andronicus, whereby he uses Tamora and Lavinia as a binary brace to foreground the consequence of patriarchate on both the passive and active. Gertrude is contradicting to the traditional criterion of muliebrity, her rejection of her gender function finally leads to the prostration of the patriarchal ordered power construction every bit good as her ain death.
Ophelia is shown to be willing to follow to the patriarchal society, for illustration when Polonius instructs her non to see Hamlet any longer, she replies “ I shall obey, my Godhead, ” ( Shakespeare, 2003, 1.3.139 ) . Gertrude contrasts her attitude and defies the outlooks of her function as a adult female ; she is non admired for her beauty, and most significantly she does non try to conceal her gender. When she marries Claudius, Hamlet accuses her of life in “ in the rank perspiration of an enseamed bed ” ( Shakespeare, 2003, 3.5.91 ) . Whilst Gertude may be hurt by these words, she does non deny his accusal. She recognises her individuality and does non try to lie and conform to what society and Hamlet wants her to be. Gertrude shows more evildoing from her feminine function as she rebels against faith by get marrieding her ain brother as this was considered incestuous as Claudius marries his “ sometime sister ” .
Gertrude is punctually punished for her transgressive actions at the terminal of the drama, as she insists upon imbibing poisoned wine despite her hubby informing her “ make non imbibe ” ( Shakespeare, 2003,5.3.122 ) . It is suiting that her concluding act of rebelliousness leads to her ruin. She falls dead, uncovering Claudius ‘ program and guaranting his decease. Her noncompliance is responsible for doing the decease of the male monarch and the prostration of the patriarchal hierarchy. Because of her powerful political place, Gertrude ‘s refusal of her prescribed function has grave effects.
The patriarchal nature of the societal order emphasizes and wagess the obeisance of adult females. Butler ‘s theory can once more be applied to Ophelia, as she commits self-destruction when she loses her father, as he is the beginning of both order and authorization. Her individuality ‘dissolves ‘ when he is gone as his patriarchal positions where the ‘concrete ‘ in her life, and her personality. Gertrude meets her decease as she refuses to bow to authorization. She transgresses from her function as a adult female by rejecting it and openly exudating her gender, likewise to both Tamora and Cleopatra, and is punished for her continued noncompliance when she by chance poisoned.
Shakespeare ‘s penalty of female evildoing is a complex topic to surmise. Whilst the three transgressive female characters in the three dramas all meet their decease, and hence can be considered to be punished by Shakespeare for offending their feminine function, it is non that black and white. Cleopatra ‘s decease differs from both Tamora and Gertrude ‘s decease as she retains the power that she exhibits throughout the drama, by taking her ain life. Whilst Tamora and Gertrude are punished for offending their female function, Cleopatra escapes this destiny Caesar, and shows regard for the adult female who “ Took her ain manner ” ( Shakespeare, 2001, 5.1.68 ) . This could be construed as Shakespeare connoting that adult females should non be chastised for non conforming to the standard female function, but alternatively be respected. This creates an challenging quandary when reading Hamlet and Titus Andronicus as Tamora and Gertrude decease ‘s are non of their ain will, and it can be interpreted is their penalty by society for their open gender and noncompliance to the patriarchal order. However both adult females are joined in decease by their polar antonyms in Ophelia and Lavinia, two adult females who complied implicitly with the regulations of society, and fulfilled their expected function.
This essay has considered that by using Butler ‘s theory, it can be concluded it is because of Tamora and Gertrude ‘s evildoing that adult females who obey society are harmed when it is brought down by others. This makes the two adult females blameworthy for their deceases, and adds another dimension to the argument as these adult females have been punished, yet they did non offend from their prescribed function. This leads me to reason that whilst some critics may extol Shakespeare as the first women’s rightist, his ultimate stance is one of confusion. Whilst Cleopatra is presented as a adult female able to incarnate both male and female properties, she finally dies, even though it is by her ain manus. Tamora and Gertrude besides meet their decease for offending their function ; hence my decision is that Shakespeare displays the penalty of these adult females to demo that their society is non ready to accept a adult female like Cleopatra who is shown to be equal to adult male, as 17th century society is still stuck in the same stiff, patriarchal power construction as depicted in ancient Egypt. His presentation of her is undeniably one of esteem, which leads me to reason that his penalty of adult females, guiltless or guilty of evildoing, is a word picture of a society non yet ready for a trasngressive adult female, equal to adult male and that in 17th century society “ Women who comply with the societal order are lost without it ; those who defy it can cognize no other luck than to be lost within it ” ( Dollimore, 2003, p211 ) .