of The National Council of Teachers of English, they state, “Defining what a female was supposed to be and do was an act of Renaissance culture” (Gerlach et al, Vol. 5). A perfect Renaissance woman was described to be silent, obedient to men, sexually chaste, and humble (Gerlach et al, Vol. 5). Shakespeare, however, had other ideas. He created women of self independence and wit, of attractiveness and defiance. He challenged the pattern of compliance, and replaced it with strong intelligent women capable of leading their own stories (Dash, 1-6). In the essay written by the feminist and shakespearean scholar, Irene G. Dash, the chapter title says it all: Introduction: Their Infinite Variety. Shakespeare’s female characters are not bound to the Renaissance standard of women, but explore the endless variety of characteristics humans are said to have. In William Shakespeare’s works, females such as Cleopatra, Rosalind, and Lady Macbeth have a pattern of resilience against the renaissance ideals of women.
The gem of Egypt, the seductress and lover of Mark Antony and countless others, and the almighty queen. It is blatantly obvious that the character Cleopatra does not conform to the standards of the Renaissance woman but instead rejects them completely. In Shakespeare’s Heroines: An Examination of How Sh...
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...y, the weak and quiet qualities of the renaissance woman are shattered by the ever powerful and frightening Lady Macbeth.
Plays are a reflection of reality for the purpose of entertainment. Thus, the characters within them are a fictional embodiment of the many varieties of human nature. Females do not possess a single feminine quality, but are a complex assortment of traits just like males are. Shakespeare’s characters reflect the same complexity. However vastly different in their characteristics, all of these women contain a non conforming attitude to the Renaissance’s gender norms and roles. Women are not only quiet and obedient as gender ideals expect. Women are attractive and dominating like Cleopatra. Women are witty and charming like Rosalind. Women are vengeful and ruthless like Lady Macbeth. Women are complex beings, too great to be stuffed into submission.
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