Essay on A Feminist Perspective of William Shakespeare

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A Feminist Perspective of Shakespeare Although William Shakespeare reflects and at times supports the English Renaissance stereotypes of women and men and their various roles and responsibilities in society, he is also a writer who questions, challenges, and modifies those representations. His stories afford opportunities not only to understand Renaissance culture better but also to confront our own contemporary generalizations about gender, especially what it means to be female. In his own time, Shakespeare seems to have been raising questions about the standard images of males and females, about what the characteristics of each gender are, about what is defined as masculine and feminine, about how each gender possesses both…show more content…
This merging of masculine and feminine in both males and females might help to explain how easy it was for the Elizabethan stage to employ and accept all male casts and utilize men to play strong female characters like Juliet, Lady Macbeth, Cleopatra, and Kate, the Shrew. Contemporary audiences, so set on separating female from male, would have great difficulty returning to this standard practice of the Renaissance. Indeed, both masculine and feminine characteristics were parts of what the Renaissance considered "human nature" and each gender participated in both sets of characteristics to varying degrees. For example, take the act of weeping. Although both genders cried and were "allowed" by the culture to weep (think of all the tears men shed in Julius Caesar over the deaths of other men), tears were thought of as "feminine" but not exclusively female. In Hamlet, when Laertes learns of the death of his sister Ophelia, he weeps in sorrow, with genuine feeling, but exclaims, "The woman will be out," meaning his tears represent his "womanly" part that cannot be suppressed (or repressed) by his masculine strength." Just as the Renaissance defined female roles, it clearly delegated certain behaviors to males. Theirs was a patriarchal society. We catch a glimpse of this patriarchy in a play like Romeo and Juliet with the power of Lord Capulet. It's easy to see that the male had a place and a role to play, just as the female had a lesser place and a role. The
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