Gender Roles in Shakespeare Essay

1842 Words May 12th, 2003 8 Pages
Gender Roles in Shakespeare It is a peculiar feature of Shakespeare's plays that they both participate in and

reflect the ideas of gender roles in Western society. To the extent that they reflect existing

notions about the 'proper' roles of men and women, they can be said to be a product of

their society. However, since they have been studied, performed, and taught for five

hundred years, they may be seen as formative of contemporary notions about the

relationships between males, females, and power.

Derrida was right in asserting that "there is no 'outside' to the text." His claim is that every text is

affected by every other text and every other speech act. As an instance, most of Shakespeare's

plays have
…show more content…
With him Patroclus/ Upon a lazy bed

the livelong day/ Breaks scurril jests" (I.iii.145-148). Both men are warriors, both are unmanned by

affection. Achilles' dalliance with Patroclus carries with it the additional "signifying burden of the

'unnatural'" (Traub 73), but the trope remains the same. Achilles and Troilus are neglecting their

duties as warriors because of a physical attraction, and in each case it is seen as 'womanish' or

'dainty.' Patroclus himself tells Achilles "A woman impudent and mannish grown/ Is not more

loath'd than an effeminate man/ in time of action" (III.iii.217-219). Achilles is slow to be moved,

however; when he expresses a desire to see the Trojan heroes it is "a woman's longing . . . To see

great Hector in his weeds of peace" (III.iii.237,239). It is only when their objects of desire are

removed that Troilus and Achilles resume their 'manly' duties; Achilles upon Patroclus' death, and

Troilus after the trauma of seeing Cressida with Diomede.
Neither Helen nor Cressida live up to the expectations forced upon them, but they do not fail to fit the stereotypes of femininity that the Elizabethan stage forces upon women in general. Cressida has by that point in history become synonymous with female infidelity, while Helen's status has been more privileged. However, "the Elizabethan

Related Documents