Processing Measure for Measure as a twentieth century female is terrible. It is uncomfortable to say the least, to watch a pious virginal woman be forced to choose between her brother’s life and her agency over her body. Not only does Angelo want Isabella’s, body and virginity, but he also wants her consent. He wants Isabella to want to have sex with him—freeing him of guilt perhaps? And so, Isabella, in quiet the bind, decides to manipulate the situation and the comedic trick titled ‘The Bed-Trick’ by A.D. Nuttall, in his article for the Shakespeare Survey, occurs.
Shakespeare often exploits the semantic range of a word to achieve crude humor; it has been said – all the world’s a dick joke. In most cases, there are many layers to the word or phrase in question, but the variable meaning is often brought to light at first by an underlying dirty joke. That was the case while reading As You Like It. “The horn, the horn, the lustful horn” (4.2.19) seemed clearly to be a pun on a male’s certain lusty horn. As with all things Shakespeare, there is more underlying than the two most obvious meanings. Continue reading
Celia and Rosalind—Rosalind and Celia—are not just a retread of Helena and Hermia from A Midsummers Night’s Dream. Their identities, though bound to and mirrored in each other, also clash, and not over the ways they’re alike. Power, from the outset, between the two women is up for grabs, but not in standard competition. There’s no object of mimetic desire suspended between them, and they’re no subject of someone else’s. The power exists only between them and can only be granted from one to the other.
The question then, is, how to play them?
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