The appropriation of gender roles in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew, and Measure for Measure

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2012-05

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This thesis examines how Portia, Petruchio, Isabella, and Angelo from William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew, and Measure for Measure impact their lives and societies by succeeding to or failing to question and transcend gender norms. I first consider trends in Shakespearean criticism that currently affect the study of each character, and then explore each character despite such trends. Commonly, Portia is explored only insofar as she affects the men around her, Petruchio is viewed as Katherine’s oppressor, and Isabella and Angelo are studied based on how they control one another. Instead of reading each character based on how they impact others, I choose to study them based on their own motives, triumphs, and failures in order to gain a more accurate understanding of how gender norms influence their lives. This approach, overall, leads to a deeper understanding of how gender norms negatively affect any community, and supports the questioning and transcending of gender norms in order to improve society.

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