Film Comment calls it Julie Taymor’s “own yonic paradise” – yonic, if you didn’t know, being the female version of the word ‘phallic’. Powerful and feminised, Taymor’s The Tempest is revolutionary if only for its female version of Prospero—or rather, Prospera, played by none other than Dame Helen Mirren. Continue reading
The past debates around Isabella’s worth as a character perturb Marcia Riefer, author of “ ‘Instruments of Some More Mightier Member’ : The Constriction of Female Power in Measure for Measure.” Riefer, combatting past interpretations of Isabella as either an “angel” or a “vixen” develops a clear argument about the damaging effect of patriarchy in the play Measure for Measure, dividing her argument into six clearly articulated and logically flowing points. Continue reading
Man’s desire for Helen has fueled a 7-year battle between Sparta and Troy in Shakespeare’s play Troilus and Cressida, but it is the objectification of Cressida and the roles men have in her life that Shakespeare uses to comment on the patriarchal values of society. The act of marriage and the exchange of women maintained the patriarchal structures of both the play’s setting in Ancient Greece and Jacobean England in which Shakespeare was writing. Continue reading
Portia and Shylock lead such vastly different lives that their stories can easily be divided into two completely separate plays altogether. The two stories do intertwine and the characters do eventually come face to face, but only in an obviously disadvantageous circumstance for Shylock. Certainly, the antagonized character is never seen under a positive light. He is commonly – if not always – referred to as “The Jew” and evidently in a significantly lower social tier than Portia or any of her counterparts. Even so, the fact that Shylock is a self-governing Jewish male provides him with greater agency than Portia, whose choice has been taken away by none other than her dead, Christian father. I guess you could say that Portia’s father is the ultimate “Dead White Guy,” but I digress. Continue reading
The will of Portia’s father immediately surfaces as the central obstacle to the comedic plot-line of The Merchant of Venice. It is a clear example of a patriarch’s legal posthumous authority. Portia’s role as the central female protagonist leads most critics to focus on the restrictions that the will sets on her freedom. Much less discussed is the will’s control over Portia’s numerous male suitors.
Shakespeare’s Portia is not a feminist; rather she is a ‘radical’ feminist—understanding gender as the cause of her oppression.
Is it Titania or Oberon who is truly the rebellious upstart? According to Walter in “Oberon and Masculinity in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, the scholarly consensus is that Theseus’ patriarchal rule over Athens is mirrored by Oberon’s rule over the forest. As such, Titania’s refusal to hand over the Indian changeling to Oberon is an act of rebellion against her husband that must be punished. However, recent developments in the study of folklore have countered this scholarship by demonstrating that, for an early modern audience, fairy land would have been recognized as a domain where the queen had exclusive sovereign authority, or was at least a figure who dominated her partner, the fairy king. Continue reading
Although their modern definitions are more distinct from each other, “fantasy” and “fancy” could more or less be used synonymously in Shakespeare’s era. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, both could mean “the process, and the faculty, of forming mental representations of things not present to the senses” (See definition 4a: OED – Fantasy). Yet at the same time, both words have a variety of underlying meanings that invoke a deeper understanding of Shakespeare’s social commentary. Continue reading