Shakespeare - Context

Shakespeare - Context

Shakespeare His Life Born: April 23, 1564 in Stratford upon Avon and Died: April 23, 1616 Married Anne Hathaway in November 1582 Moved to London In his lifetime he: wrote 37 plays and 350 poems In 1594 Shakespeare joined Richard Burbages acting company and became its chief playwright The company often performed in front of the Queen of England, Elizabeth I. In 1603, James I ascended the throne and granted his royal patronage to Shakespeares company, which became known as The Kings Men. It is thought that Shakespeare never left England all of his accounts of foreign countries were imagined. Patriarchy Defined as: a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is

reckoned through the male line. Or, a social system in which men hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property. In both definitions it is apparent that women are subservient to men and considered to be less intelligent, less moral and less able to manage finances, property or any important decision making process. These are the boundaries of society that Shakespeares characters are created within. Shakespeare would have been aware of the limitations placed on females in the society and could be presenting women in a way that allowed them to be multi-faceted. Chaucer pioneered this originally, allowing women to be more than a stock character and showing them as humans with thoughts of their own. Shakespeare would have been influenced by Chaucer and one play Troilus and Cressida is based on a tale by Chaucer. Romeo and Juliet: rejecting patriarchal rules In Shakespeares society, the ideal female is cherished for her youth, beauty and purity. These qualities are appreciated and boundaries are set up to protect the

ingnue. A compliant young woman accepts these standards and dwells safely in the space created for her. (1) Romeo and Juliet: Juliet rejects these social and patriarchal rules when her father brokers the perfect match for her: Promises to think about Paris as a suitable match "Ill look to like, if looking liking move; but no more deep will I endart mine eye than your consent gives strength to make it fly, then she instantly falls in love with Romeo without a second thought for Paris and her promise to her mother and father Romeo and Juliet: rejecting patriarchal rules In Shakespeares society, the ideal female is cherished for her youth, beauty and purity. These qualities are appreciated and boundaries are set up to protect the ingnue. A compliant young woman accepts these standards and dwells safely in the space created for her. (1) Romeo and Juliet: Juliet rejects these social and patriarchal rules when she falls in love with Romeo and pursues

their marriage: When she discovers the true identity of Romeo during A1S5 she states My only love sprung from my only hate!/ Too early seen unknown, and known too late!/ Prodigious birth of love it is to me,/That I must love a loathed enemy. showing it is too late for her as she loves Romeo and rues falling in love with him. But when he visits in A2S2 she presents the plan to marry in secret showing intelligence and cunning If that thy bent of love be honourable,/Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow, By one that I'll procure to come to thee, showing she pushes for the urgent marriage and is not compliant as she should be in a patriarchal society. Romeo and Juliet: rejecting patriarchal rules In Shakespeares society, the ideal female is cherished for her youth, beauty and purity. These qualities are appreciated and boundaries are set up to protect the ingnue. A compliant young woman accepts these standards and dwells safely in the space created for her. (1) Romeo and Juliet: Juliet rejects these social and patriarchal rules when she takes the poison/sleeping draught to

appear dead: She is neither compliant or safe in this instance, she feels abject fear and despair but holds firm and takes the poison in A4S3 What if it be a poison, which the friar/ Subtly hath ministered to have me dead, and she questions the motives of the Friar, even though as a male and a man of the Church he should be beyond question, Juliet recognises that he could be duplicitous. However, in the stage directions She drinks and falls down on the bed, hidden by the bed curtains we see her bravery, rejection of society and rejection of patriarchal rule. Patriarchy Shakespeare's women characters display great intelligence, vitality, and a strong sense of personal independence. These qualities have led some critics to consider Shakespeare a champion of womankind and an innovator who departed sharply from flat, stereotyped characterizations of women common to his contemporaries and earlier dramatists. (2) Romeo and Juliet: Juliet is presented in the following ways which supports this:

Thoughtful careful thinking about marriage to Paris Questioning she considers her options relating to Paris Nave falling in love at first sight without knowing who Romeo was Loving towards the Nurse, her family, Romeo and Tybalt (in her grief) Stubborn decides on her course of action and follows it through marriage and pretend death, rejection of her fathers decree to marry Paris, Defiant stands up to her father and will not be persuaded Duplicitous marries in secret, lies to her father that she will marry Paris and then takes poison to avoid this Determined does not allow anything to stop her in her decision to be with Romeo Rebellious goes against her family, father and patriarchal rule Merchant of Venice: Patriarchy In Shakespeares society, the ideal female is cherished for her youth, beauty and purity. These qualities are appreciated and boundaries are set up to protect the ingnue. A compliant young woman accepts these standards and dwells safely in the space created for her. Consider the presentation of our two main female characters: Jessica and Portia.

Portia experiences an internal conflict that Juliet doesnt. Free! I am neither free to choose who I would nor refuse who I would not Such is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father Hot passion oer leaps a cold decree. BUT she still follows the rules. Even when Bassanio comes to guess she doesnt help him (despite knowing the correct casket). Jessica on the other hand is far more rebellious, Alas! What heinous sin is it in me to be ashamed to be my fathers daughter O Lorenzo, if thou keep thy promise save me from this strife. Ill become a Christian and thy loving wife. BUT Jessica is pure, beautiful and youthful in Lorenzos eyes: a hand whiter than paper that on it writ and the balcony scene is very similar to Romeo and Juliets famous scene. Possible interpretations: Becoming Christian is more important than following Jewish patriarchy. These virtues were only true of Christian women, not Jewish ones. Portia accepts her fathers will despite protesting, Jessica refuses to follow it but both women end up in the safe space, Belmont. Merchant of Venice: Patriarchy Nerissa straddles two concepts. She convinces Portia to follow her fathers

orders, but then accompanies her to Venice to take part in the deceit on their new husbands. Portia is: rebellious, intelligent, witty, articulate, loyal, beautiful, deceitful, chaste Jessica is: rebellious, love struck, desperate, lonely, brave, deceitful, pure, beautiful Notice that whenever the women (particularly Portia) subvert their gender roles they are in Venice. Belmont (meaning beautiful mountain) is the feminine place in the play and Venice is the masculine. All characters end up in Belmont except Shylock. Macbeth: Patriarchy In Shakespeares society, the ideal female is cherished for her youth, beauty and purity. These qualities are appreciated and boundaries are set up to protect the ingnue. A compliant young woman accepts these standards and dwells safely in the space created for her. (1) Macbeth:

Lady Macbeth and the Witches are the antithesis of the above statement: Lady Macbeth is manipulative, callous and anti-feminine look like the innocent flower but be the serpent underneath it has biblical connotations of the Garden of Eden and original sin and her words help persuade Macbeth to commit his heinous crime. There is nothing pure about Lady Macbeth except her pure ambition. The Witches are hags juxtaposing the idea of the ideal female and showing common superstitions relating to old, single or unusual females during the Jacobean times. Witch hunting was commonplace and implying a duplicity in the nature of these women. Patriarchal rule is inverted as Lady Macbeth and the Witches command Macbeth and manipulate him to their will. Macbeth: Patriarchy Shakespeare's women characters display great intelligence, vitality, and a strong sense of personal independence. These qualities have led some critics to consider Shakespeare a champion of womankind and an innovator who departed sharply from flat, stereotyped characterizations of women common to his contemporaries and earlier dramatists. (2)

Lady Macbeth: Manipulative persuades Macbeth through her feminine charms to kill the King and become King himself Strong reflects that she would dashd their brains out implying she has the strength to fight against maternal love Masculine shows murderous intent Insane out damned spot showing she is mad as she sees the blood on her hands as a result of her part in the murder and sinning. Guilty she commits suicide (ambiguous) as a result of the killing on her conscience Loyal stands by Macbeth and hides his guilt over Banquo Determined does not allow anything to stop her in her determination to be Queen Religion Defined as: the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. Protestantism the faith, practice, and Church order of the Protestant Churches. adherence to

the forms of Christian doctrine which are generally regarded as Protestant rather than Catholic Catholicism the faith, practice, and church order of the Roman Catholic Church. = adherence to the forms of Christian doctrine and practice which are generally regarded as Catholic rather than Protestant Why is this important? Queen Elizabeth was protestant and believed in allowing Catholics to practice their religion in peace but there were many Catholic plots against her. As a result of this, there was much political unrest when James the 1st came to power and the Jacobean era was characterised by this. Catholics were angry at their loss of power and authority. Religion Twelve Differences Between Catholics and Protestants: (3) 1. The Pope. Catholics have a Pope, which they consider a vicar for Christ an infallible stand-in, if you will that heads the Church. Protestants believe no human is infallible and Jesus alone heads up the Church. 2. Big, Fancy Cathedrals. Catholics have them; Protestants dont. Why? Well, Catholicism says that humanity must discover its unity and salvation within a church. Protestants say all Christians can be saved, regardless of church membership. (Ergo shitty, abandoned storefront churches? All

Protestant.) 3. Saints. Catholics pray to saints (holy dead people) in addition to God and Jesus. Protestants acknowledge saints, but dont pray to them. [Note: There is much debate about the use of the word pray in this context, so let me clarify: Saints are seen by Catholics as an intermediary to God or Jesus. Although Catholics do technically pray to saints, they are not praying for the saints to help them directly but to intervene on their behalf. They are asking the saints (in the form of a prayer) to pray for them. Its like praying for prayers. Hope this helps.] 4. Holy Water. Catholics only. 5. Celibacy and Nuns. Catholics only. 6. Purgatory: Catholics only. 7. Scripture: The be-all, end-all for Protestants is the Word of God. For Catholics, tradition is just as important as scripture maybe even more so. 8. Catechism: Protestant kids memorize the Bible. Catholic kids get catechism. 9. Authori-tay: In Catholicism, only the Roman Catholic Church has authority to interpret the Bible. Protestants hold that each individual has authority to interpret the Bible. 10. Sacraments: Catholic are the only ones to have the concept of the seven sacraments (baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony). Protestants teach that salvation is attained through faith alone. 11. Holidays: Catholics have 10 Holy Days of Obligation (which mean they must go to Mass). Protestants are more like, Just come to church on Christmas, thats all we ask.

12. Communion: In Catholicism, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ, meaning that Jesus is truly present on the altar. In Protestantism, the bread and wine are symbolic. Religion Shakespeare remains frustratingly elusive on questions of religion. What were his religious allegiances? We cannot tell; the evidence of his life says little, and his plays say less. Although he tackles large philosophical and religious questions of identity, existence, ethics, and the afterlife, he never weighs into specific doctrinal debates of his lifetime. (4) Romeo and Juliet Friar Laurence is indicative of this a herbalist, a man of the Church and a rule-breaker (to help the young couple marry). These juxtapositions in his character indicate an ambiguity in Shakespeares own religious beliefs as he does not make a moral or religious judgement on the Friar, instead offering him the role as a man of peace. The Friar was instrumental in the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, but not condemned as a result, perhaps because his reasoning was morally just and the outcome was set. Condemning the Friar would have been committing a judgement on the Church and its role in maintaining the morality of the

people. Religion Shakespeare remains frustratingly elusive on questions of religion. What were his religious allegiances? We cannot tell; the evidence of his life says little, and his plays say less. Although he tackles large philosophical and religious questions of identity, existence, ethics, and the afterlife, he never weighs into specific doctrinal debates of his lifetime. (4) Macbeth Throughout the tragic play the Supernatural plays a dominant role and not religion. James the 1st was heavily influenced by his belief in Witches and Shakespeare would have known this. Therefore, religion plays little part in the play, but superstition, duplicity and witches ideals which preoccupy the court are more prevalent. Ethics of murder, the divine rights of Kings and the existence of sentient beings are questioned but not a higher ruling force (as religion would demand).

Religion: Merchant of Venice Forgiveness in Judaism: One must go to those he has harmed in order to be entitled to forgiveness. This means that in Judaism a person cannot obtain forgiveness from God for wrongs the person has done to other people. Thus the "reward" for forgiving others is not God's forgiveness for wrongs done to others, but rather help in obtaining forgiveness from the other person.The Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, summarized: "it is not that God forgives, while human beings do not. To the contrary, we believe that just as only God can forgive sins against God, so only human beings can forgive sins against human beings. In Christianity, forgiveness by God is promised to the repentant even though the wronged party has not forgiven the offender: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 ) Jesus, however, requires his disciples to forgive others if they want to be forgiven themselves. Matthew 6:14,15, which follows the Lord's Prayer, says "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Forgiveness is not an option to a Christian, rather one must forgive to be a Christian.

Religion: Merchant of Venice Shakespeare remains frustratingly elusive on questions of religion. What were his religious allegiances? We cannot tell; the evidence of his life says little, and his plays say less. Although he tackles large philosophical and religious questions of identity, existence, ethics, and the afterlife, he never weighs into specific doctrinal debates of his lifetime. This is true of the Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare seems to play down the importance of religion as a point of judgement. None of them are totally good or totally bad. The Christians are presented as hypocrites, Shylock: you spit on me Sunday last Antonio: I am likely to do so again who only want to maintain their standing at the top of the social ladder. The Jews are presented as deceitful but desperately seeking justice for their terrible treatment. Without doubt it is Shylock who delivers the most powerful monologue in the play, hath not a Jew eyes? the difficulty is he then goes on the persecute Antonio, the villainy you teach me I will execute. Notably, the happy ending is reserved for Christian characters only. With Shylock, reluctantly renouncing his faith having no opportunity to go to Belmont. Shakespeare seems to be more interested in the complexity of people and their prejudices and attitudes about religion

rather than seeing one as morally superior than the other. Human Condition emotions driving characters to reprehensible actions The human condition will be characterised through and as defined as: Revenge: the action of hurting or harming someone in return for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands. Love: an intense feeling of deep affection. Power (desire for): the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events. Human Condition emotions driving characters to reprehensible actions Romeo and Juliet Revenge: the action of hurting or harming someone in return for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.

No revenge sought instead Shakespeare offers resolution and forgiveness implying too much pain and suffering had already been suffered. Love: an intense feeling of deep affection. Familial Love Juliet for her parents and the nurse. Romantic Love Romeo and Juliet. Unrequited Love Romeo and Rosaline. Brotherly Love Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio. The love between the main protagonists mean they take their own lives a reprehensible action often considered selfish. Power (desire for): the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events. A desire by the main protagonists to have control over their own destiny. Perhaps the foreshadowing from the prologue shows that this power was unattainable for the main protagonists. Human Condition emotions driving characters to reprehensible actions Macbeth Revenge: the action of hurting or harming someone in return for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.

Macduff plots and plans the ultimate revenge for the betrayal and deaths of his family. Retaking the throne and reinstating Malcolm to Kingship. Love: an intense feeling of deep affection. As power takes hold, love is forgotten and Lady Macbeths death barely warrants any reaction from Macbeth, perhaps showing that corruption kills the normal human condition. Power (desire for): the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events. Vaulting ambition from Macbeth is his hamartia and causes his ultimate downfall. Gaining and maintaining power causes him to lose all humanity. Human Condition emotions driving characters to reprehensible actions The Merchant of Venice Revenge: the action of hurting or harming someone in return for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands. Shylock vows revenge on Antonio for his ill treatment of him, he sees his opportunity when the latter asks for a loan, if it feeds nothing else it will feed my revenge. Later he insists on his pound of flesh despite Portias

intervention. As a result, he is left with nothing. This is the only moment he no longer vows revenge, I am content. Antonio gets his revenge on Shylock by stripping him of everything he has. Portia never takes revenge on her husband who gave their rings away. Love: an intense feeling of deep affection. There are more important loves than romantic ones. Fatherly love, brotherly love, friendship, love of God and religion. Power (desire for): the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events. The play is a constant power struggle between these characters. Antonio v Shylock, Portia v her father, Jessica v Shylock, Portia v Shylock. Shakespeares wider intentions or messages Flattery to the court/monarch of the time preoccupations of the reigning monarch are embedded in different plays (Romeo and Juliet Civil Unrest, Macbeth supernatural, Merchant of Venice anti-Semitism, courtly love.) Entertainment for the masses and the higher classes often characters are used to

create entertaining scenarios and the plays are designed to be watched - Consdier how realistic any of these characters are. Remember that they are also a source of entertainment. To highlight problems in society (Romeo and Juliet the folly of arguments continuing despite not knowing what they are about, Macbeth the preoccupation about treason and plots against the King, Merchant of Venice Treating others badly, ideas of forgiveness and mercy ) Warnings to society relating to social and political preoccupations (Romeo and Juliet the folly of youth, Macbeth the folly of ambition and power struggles, Merchant Of Venice what is to be a husband, a friend, a Christian etc.) 1 http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/52/female-norms-and-the-patriarchal-power-structure-in-shakespeares-ha mlet 2 - http://www.primeuniversity.edu.bd/070513/journals/v_6_n_2_J_D_2012/contents_pdf/04_Prime_University.pdf 3 - https://www.patheos.com/blogs/naturalwonderers/catholics-protestants/ 4 - https://marginalia.lareviewofbooks.org/elizabethan-jacobean-religious-controversies-rest-silence/

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