Essay Female Sexuality in Shakespeare

4826 Words Nov 7th, 2012 20 Pages
Question
Compare and contrast the representation of female sexuality in Cymbeline, the
Sonnets, and one of the plays: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard II,
Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra, Measure for Measure or King Lear.

Both Cymbeline and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (AMND) are both set in a patriarchal environment where both genders grapple for control. Valerie Traub defines the distinction between gender sex and gender behavior as “Sex refers to the . . . biological distinctions between male and female bodies. Gender refers to those meanings derived from the division of male and female . . . the attributes considered appropriate to each: ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine.’” (Valerie Traub, “Gender and Sexuality in Shakespeare” p129)
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Regardless of the portrayal of the Athenian patriarchy in the beginning of the play, Shakespeare creates more tense situations where those values are challenged. While Hermia’s beauty is credited to her father , it does not occur to him that perhaps hiss sever strictness may be the cause of his “stubborn harshness”. And when Hermia asks if only “my father looked but with my eyes”, Theseus responds by rearranging her words “Rather your eyes must with his judgement look”. (AMSND 1.1.56-7) This exchange of points of view signifies the extent that Hermias will and desire is suppressed by patriarchal rule. Her desire is treated as insubordinate feminine emotion that must be controlled by masculine reason, which is summed up in the quote “fit your fancies to your fathers will”.(AMSND 1.1.118)
While Athenian Law declares masculine values, fairyland in several aspects bestows patriarchal norms, and as an alternative suggests that “Titania is an independent monarch with her own court . . . [that is] not subservient, to her husband’s.”
(Penny Rixon, “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” in Shakespeare: Texts and Contexts,P23) In contrast to Theseus, Titania is hasty to take control of her own sexuality, unveiling to her fairies in the attendance of Oberon that she has “forsworn his bed and company” (AMSND 2.1.62). Yet regardless of the fairy rulers open relationship, it is Oberon who is suspect of sexual deviances,

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