Judith Butler's Gender Troubles Asserts Gender and Sexuality in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

Judith Butler's Gender Troubles Asserts Gender and Sexuality in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

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“Be advised, fair maid.
To you your father should be as a god,
One that composed your beauties; yea, and one
To whom you are but as a form in wax,
By him imprinted, and within his power
To leave the figure, or disfigure it.”

- William Shakespeare. A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Judith Butler in her book Gender Troubles asserts that gender is a construction of an individual’s society and upbringing, believing that the concept of female and male identity is not inherent to the individual but is rather a product of society. There has been numerous debates on the concept of sex and gender, Valerie Traub in Gender and Sexuality in Shakespeare states that “Sex refers to the biological distinctions between male and female bodies [while] gender refers to those meanings derived from the division of male and female . . . the attributes considered appropriate to each: ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine.’”. In the Shakespearean period, the traditional role of females at the time was one of inferiority as their role in society was primarily domestic, forcing them to remain in the private sphere of the public. Men however, were viewed as superior and ruled in all aspects; even throughout half a century of Queens, women lived the life of the inferior sex. The patriarchal ideology was used to support this position of women in the renaissance period. Despite these ruling notions, William Shakespeare often commented, through the characters in his plays and sonnets, on the idea of female inferiority and male superiority. In fact, in a number of his plays we realize that though there are characters that serve to perfectly exemplify the conventional gendered roles, there are many others that contrastingly go against the patriarchal ideology. A Midsummer Night’s...


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...ical female leads of the Shakespearean era as all three characters do her best to assert herself in a patriarchal society. Though A Midsummer Night’s Dream ends with the adaptation of the female characters into the conventional bond of marriage, the imagery of the moon and foreign femininity that is associated with the forest suggests that a concealed view on female sexuality permeates the text as it hints to a place beyond that of the constricting Athenian patriarchal world. On the whole, the depiction of male and female relations within the texts suggests that destabilizing the prescribed notions on gender relations and roles have the potential to be liberating to the fullness of human relationships. It also suggests as with King Lear, the disastrous implications that can be brought about by the undermining and suppression of females in the male dominited society.

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