Shakespeare and Cultural Hegemony Essay

1842 Words Oct 2nd, 2013 8 Pages
Shakespeare and Masculine Hegemony

The sociological notion that the hierarchy of society is habitually patriarchal, an idea formally named “masculine hegemony”1, is influenced by literature beginning as early as the Medieval times and remains unchallenged until the appearance of the works of William Shakespeare in the heat of the English Renaissance. Masculine hegemony as a concept arises from the prison writings of Marxist scholar Antonio Gramsci meanwhile he was imprisoned within a fascist jail in the 1920s.2 Creating a sexist doctrine that rules over early societies it filters itself into the pages of some of the most renowned historical pieces of literature. The Iliad by Homer, the Oresteia Trilogy by Aeschylus, the
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This also establishes the text as being central to the formalization of misogyny. Perhaps the best place for reference on the establishment of paternal and maternal powers is the story of Genesis within the Old Testament.
Looking back to the story of Genesis, Adam and Eve, we find the earliest implication of masculine hegemony. Eve is originally created from Adam’s rib, making her simply a later created part of him and not created simultaneously as his equal. Eve is further portrayed as naïve, unintelligent, and disobedient. She allows herself to be persuaded by the snake to consume the forbidden fruit, and then she passes it along to Adam utilizing ‘wicked persuasion’.7 Their mutual consumption of the apple from the Tree of Life is what damns all mankind by opening Adam and Eve’s eyes to their own nudity.8 God then places the pain of childbirth upon all women and the obligation of lifelong work upon all men. God explains Adam’s punishment beginning with these words “because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree”.9 This is the first mention of Eve’s voice or Adam listening to it; and God himself contributes reality and its irrevocable pain to Eve’s carelessness. This further applies itself to the fault of women everywhere making Genesis a prime example of masculine hegemony.
Another place within this early religious literature where we see degradation of women is in matters of reproduction.
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