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Durham e-Theses
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Female power in Shakespeare’s plays

Primmer, Susan Jane (1993) Female power in Shakespeare’s plays. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This thesis examines the existence and extent of female power in a range of Shakespeare’s plays, discussing the meaning of 'female' and of 'power'. The author argues that the representation of female characters both endorses and challenges the construction of gender. Gender is defined within the thesis as the sexed-stereotyping of certain ways of speaking, thinking and behaving which are thought appropriate to the male or female sex. This creates the world of femininity and masculinity. The author argues that these are false concepts which the plays variously uphold or deny. This argument is explored within four specific areas: language, action, dress and sexuality. Where the plays show that the elision of female and feminine is false, the author argues that they demonstrate that power could exist unaffected by gendered ideals. The author also demonstrates that there are points where the plays themselves elide these two concepts, and thus do not transcend the circumstances and period of their own creation. The author concludes that, throughout the plays, contradictory versions of the female gender are simultaneously constructed. She argues that male characters are also subject to the construction of gender. Although this construction has a more negative effect for women than men, it can mean that men are victims too. The thesis demonstrates that the potency of power is affected by the gender of its possessor and that gender is a false, culturally- created construct. Seeing this observation not only as part of feminist Shakespearean criticism but also as relevant to the lives of real men and women, the author finally argues that understanding how misogyny works in literature, which is one aim of this thesis, is essential to changing why it works in life.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Letters
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:1993
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Nov 2012 10:57

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