The last theater production I saw was in fact, the Shakespeare in the Park’s version of The Tempest. It was a boiling hot, incredibly humid June evening when we stumbled into the Delacorte theater in the middle of the park, ready for some culture. For a first viewing of Shakespeare’s debatably last play, it was a dramatic setting. The air, heavy with moisture made the audience feel as if they were truly sitting on a desert island. It was the best and worst part of the production.
Processing Measure for Measure as a twentieth century female is terrible. It is uncomfortable to say the least, to watch a pious virginal woman be forced to choose between her brother’s life and her agency over her body. Not only does Angelo want Isabella’s, body and virginity, but he also wants her consent. He wants Isabella to want to have sex with him—freeing him of guilt perhaps? And so, Isabella, in quiet the bind, decides to manipulate the situation and the comedic trick titled ‘The Bed-Trick’ by A.D. Nuttall, in his article for the Shakespeare Survey, occurs.
From the very first lines of Shakespeare’s play, it is clear this is not a retelling of the Iliad. The first line: “in Troy, there lies the scene,” (1.prologe.1) firmly places the reader inside the city of Troy. The first lines of the Iliad, widely known today, and even more celebrated in Shakespeare’s time, speaks of the anger of Achilles. It asks to “Sing, O Goddess, the anger of Achilles” (Illiad, 1.1). The discrepancy of these first two lines immediately displaces the reader into a new retelling of Homer’s original epic poem. Ultimately begging the question: is Troilus and Cressida a Homeric retelling or is it in fact antihomeric?
The re-arrangement of gender roles in Shakespeare’s As You Like It speaks to the clear differences between gender and sexuality normativity. With regards to gender, the play utilizes a clear binary- male or female. There are two genders, and gender is not a social construct of Shakespeare’s time, rather directly linked to an individual’s sex. The spectrum of sexuality in the play however, is more fluid and not, like gender, boxed into a binary. While the couples in the play will end as heterosexual pairs, the play allows for differences from the so-called norm with different characters expressing their sexuality.
Who is King Henry IV of England? As a lover of European history, I assumed I would know something about him. But I didn’t. I knew absolutely nothing. In fact, I only am familiar with his name because of his presence as the stabilizing protagonist and namesake of two of Shakespeare’s plays, Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2.
Shakespeare’s Portia is not a feminist; rather she is a ‘radical’ feminist—understanding gender as the cause of her oppression.
In Shakespeare’s play, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, he plays with and examines multiple different forms of ‘normal’ heterosexual relationships. The ‘mischievous-ness’ aspect, so celebrated of the work, places different male and female characters together under a love juice. Characters continue to change the objects of their desires throughout the play, under the guise of the juice, forcing the viewer to accept different partners, thus allowing for the possibility of homoeroticism. The rigid gender hierarchy present in Shakespeare’s time and play leads to a sexual hierarchy as well. Same sex relations were not permitted, yet the play does have moments of ambiguity.