The re-arrangement of gender roles in Shakespeare’s As You Like It speaks to the clear differences between gender and sexuality normativity. With regards to gender, the play utilizes a clear binary- male or female. There are two genders, and gender is not a social construct of Shakespeare’s time, rather directly linked to an individual’s sex. The spectrum of sexuality in the play however, is more fluid and not, like gender, boxed into a binary. While the couples in the play will end as heterosexual pairs, the play allows for differences from the so-called norm with different characters expressing their sexuality.
Jessica is doubly distinguished. Unlike her father, Shylock, she is said to be gentle; at once noble and gentile. Yet, she remains a daughter to Shylock’s blood despite her conversion. According to Mary Metzger, representations of Jessica turn on alternating characterizations of her as a latent Christian and as a racialized and thus unintegrable Jew. Until recently, discussions of race or Jewishness in the Merchant tended to focus on Shylock, thus ignoring the intersection of religion, gender, and class. Metzger argues that, in order to elucidate The Merchant’s relation to early modern England’s emerging ideology of race, attention must be paid to the shifting emphases on discourses of gender, class, and religion in Shakespeare’s representation of Jessica. Continue reading
Bassanio’s sexuality can be examined and scrutinized despite his seemingly heteronormative actions and intentions. The homoerotic undertone of Antonio and Bassanio’s relationship is easily discussed by analyzing the dedication and declarations of love by Antonio because he does not have a heterosexual romantic relationship to counteract against his love for Bassanio. Bassanio’s commitment to Portia, however, does not dictate his sexuality or establish his heterosexuality. Remembering that Bassanio’s relationships take place during a time when homosexuality is a sin and a punishable crime, the audience can translate Bassanio’s actions as the actions of one who is assumed heterosexual by societal default. His attraction to Portia is not being dismissed just because he is not heterosexual. Instead, modern audiences can discuss the idea of bisexuality or a fluid sexuality. Continue reading
The limited value of virginity: “But even now worth this, and now worth nothing?”
Beginning with Salarino’s extended metaphor in Act One, Scene One, describing one of Antonio’s ships run a-ground as a violated woman, female worth in Merchant of Venice is connected to chastity.
Shakespeare’s Portia is not a feminist; rather she is a ‘radical’ feminist—understanding gender as the cause of her oppression.
Is it Titania or Oberon who is truly the rebellious upstart? According to Walter in “Oberon and Masculinity in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, the scholarly consensus is that Theseus’ patriarchal rule over Athens is mirrored by Oberon’s rule over the forest. As such, Titania’s refusal to hand over the Indian changeling to Oberon is an act of rebellion against her husband that must be punished. However, recent developments in the study of folklore have countered this scholarship by demonstrating that, for an early modern audience, fairy land would have been recognized as a domain where the queen had exclusive sovereign authority, or was at least a figure who dominated her partner, the fairy king. Continue reading
In The Shakespearean Marriage (1998), Lisa Hopkins powerfully problematizes the “happy ending” of Shakespearean Comedies:
The audience is repeatedly encouraged to expect that the proceedings will be appropriately closed with a wedding—but these expectations are then either disappointed, or gratified in such a way that the spectator will be forced to question both the meaning of the events he or she has witnessed and also the assumptions underlying his or her response to the events. (17) Continue reading
Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt and the moon, is one of many classical references in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. These images are all illustrations from within 20 years of the play’s writing, around 1594-1596. Continue reading
In Shakespeare’s play, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, he plays with and examines multiple different forms of ‘normal’ heterosexual relationships. The ‘mischievous-ness’ aspect, so celebrated of the work, places different male and female characters together under a love juice. Characters continue to change the objects of their desires throughout the play, under the guise of the juice, forcing the viewer to accept different partners, thus allowing for the possibility of homoeroticism. The rigid gender hierarchy present in Shakespeare’s time and play leads to a sexual hierarchy as well. Same sex relations were not permitted, yet the play does have moments of ambiguity.