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Gender Trouble, By Judith Butler Sparknotes

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For Judith Butler, gender roles, norms, behavior, and generally everything about and associated with gender is an artificial performance. In "Gender Trouble," Butler asks: “does being female constitute a ‘natural fact’ or a cultural performance, or is “naturalness” constituted through discursively constrained performative acts that produce the body through and within the categories of sex?” Butler’s answer to this question is, of course, yes, gender is no natural fact, and is indeed produced and maintained by a programmed and repeated set of performances. I argue that the female characters in "The Duchess of Malfi" by John Webster, are completely aware of how they are perceived to act as a gender, and use the idea of “cultural performance”…show more content…
She states, “So I through frights and threatening will assay / this dangerous venture. Let old wives report / I winked and chose a husband” (1.3.54-6). Not only is this her first rebellion against her brothers opposing her female identity role, it also shows her self-reliance and determination to follow what her soul desires. Butler describes the soul as “The figure of the interior soul understood as "within" the body is signified through its inscription on the body, even though its primary mode of signification is through its very absence'; its potent invisibility.” Butler is saying that the soul is different from the body because a soul cannot be identified by gender. A soul can only be viewed by the owner of the body. Butler says “The soul is precisely what the body lacks” meaning that due to social circumstances of culture views on what is female and what is male, the body is expected to act a certain way. What Butler says is that the soul is something that cannot be contained by the social views that the body can. In relation to Duchess, we see that she asserts her own control by initiating her proposal to Antonio while suppressing it from her tyrannical brothers. Antonio is not viewed as an appropriate male contester for their sister’s hand in the eyes of the brother’s. The Duchess must defy them using her political authority finding an outlet in…show more content…
She knows she will not recover from the torture of her brothers, but she refuses to be submissive and refers to herself as a “prince” condemning the idea that women are not strong enough to possess enough power to die with dignity. Then she states “I am the Duchess of Malfi still” (4.2.125). Using a tone of bravery and pride establishing her authority for the last time. Her use of language reflects masculine traits of bravery and pride, and throughout this play she seems to be the only one establishing the only rightful authority in this play. By claiming her title she maintains her power over her decisions to her very death. Butler states that “The boundary of the body as well as the distinction between internal and external is established through the ejection and transvaluation of something originally part of identity into a defiling otherness.” Meaning that women should not be treated a certain manner soley due to their physical body. This can be viewed in the ways in which both women died because they were driven to death due to their social identity as women even though their internal identity is much more fluid taking on masculine traits of
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