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Androgyny: and the Will of Shakespeare’s Female Characters: A Feminist Perspective

Uploaded by jodi120170 on Apr 23, 2006

Throughout Man’s history, women have always been at a disadvantage socially, economically, and politically. Shakespeare realized this and sought to bring the controversy that comes with Androgynous issues—to life. Through strong female characters and the implications of disguises, Shakespeare exposes gender issues. Many critics believe Shakespeare poorly represents women in his plays through intentional exploiting of women with his boy-girl-boy disguises. When in fact, I see Shakespeare as exploiting how women were/are treated through that very use of disguises and— the strength he gives his female characters, especially that of Portia (Merchant of Venice) and Viola (Twelfth night)—is representative of his personal admiration of intelligent, strong women. It is also important to mention that the idea of a transsexual theme did not exist during Shakespeare’s time, as in the same sense that one would have now. Men playing the part of women—playing the part of men was simply accepted by the audience. Shakespeare was able to use this acceptance as an opportunity to give female characters strong and important roles. Portia is so strong of a character, she would have been considered a devil woman in the eyes of her peers—humor for the boy-girl-boy disguise for the audience of the time. Yet, Shakespeare’s portrayal of Portia and Viola, is heroic in today’s terms. By the mid-eighteen hundreds, Shakespeare’s female characters were starting to be analyzed. Shakespeare was over two hundred years ahead of his time on gender issues. Although Shakespeare also used “feminine men” to illustrate the characteristics given to men were also confined to certain social critique, he focused more on the roles women played, or were not socially nor by way of law allowed to play, during his time. Through the will, strength, virtues, and intelligent mind of Portia to the will, sweetness and deep need for survival of Viola, Shakespeare embraces Androgyny and exposes his own feminine side for future generations to analyze and feminists to explore.
Robert Kimbrough, in his 1982 essay: Androgyny Seen Through Shakespeare’s Disguise, provides several definitions of Androgyny. The definition most fitting to the contemporary time is, “Androgyny is the capacity of a single person of either sex to embody the full range of human character traits, despite cultural attempts to render some exclusively feminine and some exclusively masculine” (1). Some believe androgyny is a secular dream and unattainable, but through structural change of institutional and social organizations—it can be...

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Uploaded by:   jodi120170

Date:   04/23/2006

Category:   Shakespeare

Length:   8 pages (1,727 words)

Views:   4219

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