Event Title

“More witnesseth than fancy’s images”: Reimagining Gender Roles and Power Structures in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Amanda Hiner

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

English

Honors Thesis Committee

Amanda Hiner, Ph.D.; Gloria Jones, Ph.D.; Jane Smith, Ph.D

Location

DiGiorgio Campus Center, Room 222

Start Date

22-4-2016 1:10 PM

End Date

22-4-2016 1:25 PM

Description

Many critics of Shakespeare’s imaginative comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, have focused on its male-dominated political and social hierarchies (e.g. the patriarchy) and the ways in which they affect the female characters in the play. Additionally, new historical scholars have considered the reign of Queen Elizabeth I as both influential to and implicative of some of the play’s underlying messages about the patriarchy, considering the play as both a product and a reproduction of Elizabethan society at large. What is key to these interpretations, and what much of the criticism on the play appears to lack, is an explicit discussion of the role that binary oppositions have in constructing the gender-specific social norms that Shakespeare brings into question. Keeping in mind that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an exploration of the extent to which life itself is a work of human imagination like a theatrical performance or a dream, I deconstruct the analogy that feminist critics of the play frequently uphold in their analyses, male:dominant::female:submissive. In turn, I argue that Shakespeare’s work reflects protofeminist ideals insofar that the playwright stresses the importance of imaginary boundaries, or binary oppositions, in the construction of gender roles, thus signifying the instability of the dichotomous relationships that establish social dominance. I further contend that Shakespeare “plays” with and questions the concept of difference, the awareness that the feminine must be defined in opposition to the masculine if either sign can be said to point to a definitive signified outside of the human imagination.

Course Assignment

Shakespeare, ENGL305, Matthew Fike

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Apr 22nd, 1:10 PM Apr 22nd, 1:25 PM

“More witnesseth than fancy’s images”: Reimagining Gender Roles and Power Structures in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

DiGiorgio Campus Center, Room 222

Many critics of Shakespeare’s imaginative comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, have focused on its male-dominated political and social hierarchies (e.g. the patriarchy) and the ways in which they affect the female characters in the play. Additionally, new historical scholars have considered the reign of Queen Elizabeth I as both influential to and implicative of some of the play’s underlying messages about the patriarchy, considering the play as both a product and a reproduction of Elizabethan society at large. What is key to these interpretations, and what much of the criticism on the play appears to lack, is an explicit discussion of the role that binary oppositions have in constructing the gender-specific social norms that Shakespeare brings into question. Keeping in mind that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an exploration of the extent to which life itself is a work of human imagination like a theatrical performance or a dream, I deconstruct the analogy that feminist critics of the play frequently uphold in their analyses, male:dominant::female:submissive. In turn, I argue that Shakespeare’s work reflects protofeminist ideals insofar that the playwright stresses the importance of imaginary boundaries, or binary oppositions, in the construction of gender roles, thus signifying the instability of the dichotomous relationships that establish social dominance. I further contend that Shakespeare “plays” with and questions the concept of difference, the awareness that the feminine must be defined in opposition to the masculine if either sign can be said to point to a definitive signified outside of the human imagination.