Questions of Gender in Shakespeare's As You Like It Throughout history, men and women have been assigned specific roles to which society prescribes standards and qualifications. There are certain tasks that have been traditionally completed only by men, and others that have been assigned to women; most of which are separated by the realm of the domestic sphere. During the period of the Renaissance, men and women were assigned very different roles within society. The value, social expectations, legal status, and rights of citizenship differed greatly between the sexes as well as among the classes. Many of these gender roles can be identified through careful readings of the literature produced throughout the Renaissance.
Although he echoes and at times supports the stereotypes of women and men of the time and their various societal roles and responsibilities, he also notably questions and even challenges these exemplifications. Defining what a female was supposed to portray and how they were supposed to act was nothing new in the English Renaissance period, but it was very clearly established. For Shakespeare, as well as most of Renaissance society, women who were properly within the feminine role displayed a series of values most indicative of purity, or even angelic behavior. These values included obedience, submission, humility, patience and sexual chastity among others. Conspicuously, the majority of these values was measured by and derived meaning from their relationship to the male.
What social assumptions guided the pen of the great English poet and playwright as he wrote The Tempest? Lenz discusses that “In the comedies women are most often nurturing and powerful; as their values educate the men, mutuality between the sexes may be achieved” (6). However, “in tragedy…their roles are at once more varied, more constricted, and more precarious…they are condemned for acting, accused of being deceitful even when they are not” (6). Why the canyon between the two? How does Shakespeare reconcile women in what The Norton Shakespeare terms a romance play?
Goodman, Susan. Edith Wharton’s Women: Friends & Rivals. Hanover: University Press of New England, 1990. 72-75. Peters, Pearlie Mae Fisher.
Male characters can profitably incorporate female characteristics, and women characters can assume masculine ones" (Kolin 5). While the women of Hamlet are the bearers of individual and unique feminine qualities, a feminist interpretation of the work also reveals the broader ideals of femininity within many of the male characters. The first of the truly significant women in Hamlet is Gertrude, Hamlet's mother. ... ... middle of paper ... ...nd Feminist Criticism: An Annotated Bibliography and Commentary. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1991.
Ed. Carolyn Ruth Swift Lenz, Gayle Greene, and Carol Thomas Neely. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1980. Schoenbaum, S. "The Life of Shakespeare." The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare Studies.
Along with Mary Tudor and Mary Stuart who were strong, independent, and feared by their people. Additionally, Shakespeare never failed to include women who were viewed as sexual creatures. Therefore, the concept of femininity can be debated. His readers might have wondered what exactly made a feminine woman feminine and how was Shakespeare able to determine this? Also, was Shakespeare influenced by the women in the Elizabethan Age and if so, did he foreshadow the rise of women?
The approach to identifying the complex social constructs applied to women writers differ due to Woolf’s insistence on androgynous writing in order to unify perceived male and female characteristics, whereas Gilbert and Gubar celebrate distinctly feminine literature as a means to encourage an active literary community of women. Both texts acknowledge the socially challenging function of authorship when considering the role of women as writers in a male-dominated literary community. By analyzing these texts through a feminist lens, it is evident that the notion of the female author is, and will forever be, encapsulated within the concept of gender, itself. Female authorship is discussed through literary concepts of genius, androgyny, popular canon, and psychoanalysis. In order to analyze the ways in which women writers have traditionally been rejected from the Western literary sphere and the ... ... middle of paper ... ...ead the movement.
Elbert, Sarah. A Hunger for Home: Louisa May Alcott and Little Women. Philadelphia: Temple Press, 1984. Hollander, Anne. "Portraying 'Little Women' Through the Ages.