Patriarchy and Gender Roles in King Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream Essay

Through his characters and characterization in both King Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare sought not to reproduce the dominant ideas on patriarchy at the time, but rather to critique the ideology of patriarchy and the socio-political construction of male and female roles.

“Be advised, fair maid.

To you your father should be as a god,

One that composed your beauties; yea, and one

To whom you are but as a form in wax,

By him imprinted, and within his power

To leave the figure, or disfigure it.”

– William Shakespeare. A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Judith Butler in her book Gender Troubles asserts that gender is a construction of an individual’s society and upbringing, believing that the concept of female and male identity is not inherent to the individual but is rather a product of society. There has been numerous debates on the concept of sex and gender, Valerie Traub in Gender and Sexuality in Shakespeare states that “Sex refers to the biological distinctions between male and female bodies [while] gender refers to those meanings derived from the division of male and female . . . the attributes considered appropriate to each: ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine.’”. In the Shakespearean period, the traditional role of females at the time was one of inferiority as their role in society was primarily domestic, forcing them to remain in the private sphere of the public. Men however, were viewed as superior and ruled in all aspects; even throughout half a century of Queens, women lived the life of the inferior sex. The patriarchal ideology was used to support this position of women in the renaissance period. Despite these ruling notions, William Shakespeare often commented, through the characters in his plays and sonn…

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… Genres. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.

Traub, Valarie. “Gender and Sexuality in Shakespeare,” in The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare, ed. Grazia, de Margreta, Wells, Stanley. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001, 129.

Warren, Samantha. Shakespeare On Gender Roles. https://suite101.com/a/shakepeare-on-gender-roles-a330914. n.d . Web. March 18 2014.

Webb, C. Allen. Literature & Lives: A Response-Based, Cultural Studies Approach to Teaching English. National Council of Teachers of English. 2000. Web

The Role of Inversion in Kings Lear. http://voices.yahoo.com/the-role-inversion-shakespeares-king-lear-11582864.html?cat=44. August 6 2012. Web. March 16, 2014.

Gender Studies in King Lear and Macbeth. http://www.thetutorpages.com/tutor-article/a-level-english/gender-studies-in-king-lear-and-macbeth/4308. March 21 2012. Web. March 16 2014.

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