Feminist Performance and the Silence of Isabella in Measure for Measure

Feminist Performance and the Silence of Isabella in Measure for Measure

Length: 3785 words (10.8 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Research Papers

Open Document

Essay Preview

Feminist Performance and the Silence of Isabella in Measure for Measure


              In a chapter entitled “When Is a Character Not a Character?” Alan Sinfield presents the argument that the female figures in Shakespeare’s plays are not really “characters” at all, since they do not possess continuous and psychologically consistent interior lives. Although such roles as that of Desdemona, Olivia, and Lady Macbeth are written so as to suggest the presence of uninterrupted interior consciousness, this impression collapses under the pressure of the plot’s movement toward closure, which reveals the figures to represent nothing more than a “disjointed sequence of positions that women are conventionally supposed to occupy”(53). In order to preserve a textual organization that sustains a particular gender hierarchy, female characters abruptly shift from one stereotypical version of femininity to another without coherent linkages between them. For instance, despite their volubility throughout the early acts, at the conclusions of the plays, as Sinfield notes, Shakespeare’s women often “fall silent at moments when their speech could only undermine the play’s attempt at ideological coherence” (73). Thus, “the point at which the text falls silent is the point at which its ideological project is disclosed” (74). One of the most prominent of such silences appears at the end of Measure for Measure, where Isabella, “the bold woman silenced most spectacularly when marriage is proposed” (74), fails to react verbally to the Duke’s two offers of wedlock. According to Sinfield, this lack of response occurs because Isabella is suspended between two conventional female roles, and the disjunction between them makes manifest the agenda of the text’...


... middle of paper ...


... The Stratford Season, 1992.” Shakespeare Quarterly 44 (1993): 477-83.

Riefer, Marcia. “‘Instruments of Some More Mightier Member’: The Constriction of Female Power in Measure for Measure.” Shakespeare Quarterly 35 (1984): 157-69.

Shakespeare, William. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Ed. David Bevington. 4th ed. New York: Harper Collins, 1992.

-----. Measure for Measure. The Arden Shakespeare. Ed. J.W. Lever. London: Routledge, 1965.

Sinfield, Alan. Faultlines: Cultural Materialism and the Politics of Dissident Reading. Berkeley: U of California P, 1992.

Sundelson, David. “Misogyny and Rule in Measure for Measure.” Women’s Studies 9 (1981): 83-91.

Weil, Herbert S., Jr. “Stratford Festival Canada.” Shakespeare Quarterly 37 (1986): 245-50.

Williamson, Marilyn L. The Patriarchy of Shakespeare’s Comedies. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1986.

 

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Open Silences in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure Essay

- How Productions from 1720 to 1929 Close Shakespeare's Open Silences in Measure for Measure Prologue: Playtext. Performance. and Open Silences In the Preface to his edition of Shakespeare's plays, and even as he vigorously defended the playwright against attacks by other neo-classical critics, Samuel Johnson nonetheless also offered his own survey of Shakespeare's weaknesses. Among the more well-known and provocative remarks is his assessment of the endings of the plays: It may be observed, that in many of his plays the latter part is evidently neglected....   [tags: Shakespeare Measure for Measure]

Free Essays
6617 words (18.9 pages)

Unity of Opposites in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure Essay

- Unity of Opposites in Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is an English play written by the famous playwright William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 (baptized) – 23 April 1616) in around 1603. The first publication of the play is originally in the First Folio of 1623 (where it was for the first time categorized as a comedy), while the play's first recorded performance was in the year 1604. Measure for Measure deals with many religious, political and humanistic issues, such as mercy, justice, and truth and their relationship to pride and humility, as it is said, "Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall"....   [tags: Shakespeare, Keepdown, defiance]

Research Papers
2051 words (5.9 pages)

Essay The True Character of Isabella in Measure for Measure

- The True Character of Isabella in Measure for Measure       Some critics of Shakespeare’s play, Measure for Measure, judge Isabella as "a narrow minded but passionate girl afflicted with an irrational terror of sex" (Barton, 546), "a young, immature woman" demonstrating "moral absurdity and cruelty" (Nicholls, 478), whose actions are scarcely defensible. A classmate of mine asked, "Why doesn't Isabella just sleep with Angelo. What's the big deal?" These statements reveal that these people have no understanding or sympathy for Isabella’s position: socially, morally or physically....   [tags: Measure for Measure Essays]

Research Papers
3870 words (11.1 pages)

Measure for Measure Essay: The Pontification of Isabella

- The Pontification of Isabella in Measure for Measure      Within Measure for Measure the character of Isabella is characterized as an innocent pure female, and there is a focus on her ever-present moral dilemma. By using Elizabethan perspectives on women, nuns, and chastity, Shakespeare uses Isabella to reveal character traits and morality of those around her.  However in opposition Isabella made be seen as an individual who pontificates too much when her brother’s life is at stake, it is perhaps easier for Isabella to suffer the condemnation of a modern audience....   [tags: Measure for Measure]

Research Papers
1126 words (3.2 pages)

Measure for Measure Essay: The Virtuous Isabella

- The Virtuous Isabella in Measure for Measure        Measure for Measure is not a celebration of family values, the play points towards both the political virtuosity, which sustains the comic, and the humbler self-knowledge that preserves the integrity of the virtuoso. Human virtue can only be chosen in freedom, but we need not deny ourselves the opportunity of ensuring that this choice is not stifled by the subtly related powers of abstract intellectualism and carnal necessity   Isabella in Measure for Measure personifies innocent virtue....   [tags: Measure for Measure]

Research Papers
1284 words (3.7 pages)

Measure for Measure Essay: The Virtuous Vanity of Isabella

- The Virtuous Vanity of Isabella in Measure for Measure        Shakespeare's work, Measure for Measure, puts the "problem" in "problem play" as it, examines the difference between law and justice, virtue and goodness. It's a case study of abuse of power that has a particularly contemporary resonance.  Isabella is a very intriguing Shakespearean female. She is one of the few intelligent females who are also innocent and holy. Measure for Measure focuses primarily on her moral dilemma. Does she save her brother and give up her valued chastity or does she save her own soul while allowing her brother to die....   [tags: Measure for Measure]

Research Papers
1498 words (4.3 pages)

Measure for Measure Essay: Isabella’s Moral Dilemma

- Isabella’s Moral Dilemma in Measure for Measure "O cunning enemy that, to catch a saint, with saints dost bait thy hook." A disturbing tale of suspense, dark comedy and corruption, Shakespeare's Measure for Measure explores sexuality, morality and the law, exposing the abuse of authority in high places amid the seething underworld of Vienna. This essay will explore Isabella’s moral dilemma. In the play, Claudio has been sentenced to death for getting his fiancee pregnant (his crime was not so much getting her pregnant, but having sex with her at all)....   [tags: Measure for Measure]

Research Papers
762 words (2.2 pages)

Essay on Matrimony and Recompense in Measure for Measure

- Matrimony and Recompense in Measure for Measure (A version of this essay appeared in Shakespeare Quarterly 46 (Winter, 1995), 454-464.) Since 1970, when the Isabella of John Barton's RSC production of Measure for Measure first shocked audiences by silently refusing to acquiesce to the Duke's offer of marriage at the end of the play, Isabella's response (or lack thereof) to the Duke's proposal has become one of the most prevalent subjects for Shakespearean performance criticism.See, for example, Jane Williamson, "The Duke and Isabella on the Modern Stage," The Triple Bond: Plays, Mainly Shakespearean, in Performance, ed....   [tags: Shakespeare Measure Essays]

Free Essays
7072 words (20.2 pages)

Essay on Measure For Measure on the Stage

- Measure For Measure on the Stage Near the end of his well known treatment of transgression and surveillance in Measure for Measure, Jonathan Dollimore makes an observation about the world of the play that deserves further consideration by feminist scholars: the prostitutes, the most exploited group in the society which the play represents, are absent from it. Virtually everything that happens presupposes them yet they have no voice, no presence. And those who speak for them do so as exploitatively as those who want to eliminate them....   [tags: Shakespeare's Measure For Measure Essays]

Free Essays
4821 words (13.8 pages)

Measure for Measure Essay: Angelo

- Angelo in Measure for Measure       Within Measure for Measure, the character of Angelo can be seen as a case study of will over moral nature. Angelo, a deputy, is given the Dukes authority to act in his behalf while the Duke is away. The story unfolds as Angelo uses the agency he's been given in ways that many men in authoritative positions have done. It is interesting to follow his line of thought and to realize that this is a man who is not unlike many others. The main conflict between Isabella and Angelo is a contemporary problem....   [tags: Measure for Measure]

Research Papers
1019 words (2.9 pages)