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Essay on Gender in William Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Gender in Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Much has been made (by those who have chosen to notice) of the fact that in Shakespeare’s sonnets, the beloved is a young man. It is remarkable, from a historical point of view, and raises intriguing, though unanswerable, questions about the nature of Shakespeare’s relationship to the young man who inspired these sonnets. Given 16th-Century England’s censorious attitudes towards homosexuality, it might seem surprising that Will’s beloved is male. However, in terms of the conventions of the poetry of idealized, courtly love, it makes surprisingly little difference whether Will’s beloved is male or female; to put the matter more strongly, in some ways it makes more sense for the beloved to be male.

Will’s beloved is “more lovely and more temperate (18.2)” than a summer’s day; “the tenth Muse (38.9);” “‘Fair,’ ‘kind,’ and ‘true’ (105.9);” the sun that shines “with all triumphant splendor (33.10).” We’ve heard all this before. This idealization of the loved one is perhaps the most common, traditional feature of love poetry. Taken to its logical conclusion, however, idealized love has some surprising implications.

To idealize the beloved is to claim for them (or, in a sense, to endow them with) certain characteristics. The Ideal is the One–perfect, self-sufficient, unified, complete. The Ideal doesn’t need anything. The consistent, static, homogeneous Sun is ideal; the changeable, inconsistent Moon is not.

Insofar as the Ideal is the One, it is also the True. The image coincides with reality; looks do not deceive. There is, for Will, a battle between his eye and heart–“Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war / How to divide the conquest of thy sight: (46.1-2)”–but they are not disagreeing about value: “. . . mine eye’s due is thy outward part, / And my heart’s right thy inward love of heart (13-14).” Inward and outward are in harmony; the beautiful is the good.

This could create a problem, since the beloved eventually is going to grow old and ugly and then die and be food for worms. There is in the sonnets definitely a concern with the ravages of “Time’s scythe.” And Will does not say “I’ll love you when you are old and ugly.”

The body will wither and die. But the Ideal can be saved, if one prints off more images. Will exhorts his beloved to reproduce, “breed another thee (6.

The Struggle for Identity in A Doll’s House

The Struggle for Identity in A Doll’s House

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, is a play that was written ahead of its time. In this play Ibsen tackles women’s rights as a matter of importance. Throughout this time period it was neglected. A Doll’s House was written during the movement of Naturalism, which commonly reflected society. Ibsen acknowledges the fact that in 19th century life the role of the woman was to stay at home, raise the children and attend to her husband. Nora Helmer is the character in A Doll House who plays the 19th woman and is portrayed as a victim. Michael Meyers said of Henrik Ibsen’s plays: “The common denominator in many of Ibsen’s dramas is his interest in individuals struggling for and authentic identity in the face of tyrannical social conventions. This conflict often results in his characters’ being divided between a sense of duty to themselves and their responsibility to others.”(1563) All of the aspects of this quote can be applied to the play A Doll House, in Nora Helmer’s character, who throughout much of the play is oppressed, presents an inauthentic identity to the audience and throughout the play attempts to discovery her authentic identity.

The inferior role of Nora is extremely important to her character. Nora is oppressed by a variety of “tyrannical social conventions.” Ibsen in his “A Doll’s House” depicts the role of women as subordinate in order to emphasize their role in society. Nora is oppressed by the manipulation from Torvald. Torvald has a very typical relationship with society. He is a smug bank manager. With his job arrive many responsibilities. He often treats his wife as if she is one of these responsibilities. Torvald is very authoritative and puts his appearance, both social and physical, ahead of his wife that he supposedly loves. Torvald is a man that is worried about his reputation, and cares little about his wife’s feelings.

Nora and Torvald’s relationship, on the outside appears to be a happy. Nora is treated like a child in this relationship, but as the play progresses she begins to realize how phony her marriage is. Torvald sees Nora’s only role as being the subservient and loving wife. He refers to Nora as “my little squirrel” (p.1565), “my little lark” (p.1565), or “spendthrift”(1565). To him, she is only a possession. Torvald calls Nora by pet-names and speaks down to her because he thinks that she is not intelligent and that she can not think on her own.

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