The Necessary Fulfillment of Man’s Role in Marriage, and its Consequence.

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In this essay the role of man in marriage will be examined in relation to Shakespeare’s Richard the 2nd and Anthony and Cleopatra. Marriage in Jacobean society was a highly codified and intricate subject that would have governed the lives of almost all of the audience (Ranald 68). Within Richard the 2nd and Anthony and Cleopatra men face a multitude of marital pressures and expectations. Within this complex web of marriage, the roles of the participants would have been tightly established, and straying from the norm would have been deemed as exciting, risky, and dangerous. Consequently, deviations from conventional marriage would have challenged the audience’s standard beliefs. In this essay I shall show how in Richard the 2nd, and Anthony and Cleopatra male characters deviate dangerously from their roles, causing the marriages to end. Shakespeare demonstrates this through drawing a clear parallel between the failure of marriage and the failure of the character; as shown through Richard’s poor reign, and Anthony’s rejection of Rome. Both these failures to succeed in their roles lead to the destruction of their marriages. Whilst a failure in ones role directly poses a problem to marriage, the failure in ones role also indirectly poses a problem to marriage due to the marriages conventionality causing a tension between the male characters unconventionality.
Both Anthony and Richard are presented as rulers and statesmen. Accompanying the positions are several duties and expectations which contain both the need for success and conquest, and the religious and moral dimensions of control. The expectations and duties that characters are held to, enshrine character’s role within society, and are linked to their marital success.
A key...

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...lity is presented through the consequences of Richard and Anthony not fulfilling their roles. Due to Anthony and Richard’s failure in their roles, their marriages collapse. Failure in roles destroys marriage through the close association between marriage and the roles, and through the tension caused between unconventional characters, and conventional marriage. Despite the Anthony and Richard going through a seemingly similar process (they face similar roles and fail in similar ways), a key difference accounts for the difference circumstance of their marriages collapse. Through Anthony choosing to fail in his role, he is afforded the choice to end his marriage. Conversely, as Richard does not choose to fail in his role, Richard’s marriage is destroyed without his consent. Thus, the way in which a character fails their role influences how their marriage is destroyed.

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