Feminist criticism explores gender themes in literature, assesses the worth of female characters, promotes unknown women writers, and interprets the canon from a politically-charged perspective. Shakespeare has proven more difficult to categorize than other white male masters of the written word, precisely because of the humanity of his female characters. Critic Kathleen McLuskie urges feminists to “assert the power of resistance, subverting rather than co-opting the domination of the patriarchal Bard” (McLuskie 106). Yet many feminists find strength in Shakespeare. Irene Dash, for instance, proclaims that “Shakespeare’s women characters testify to his genius …. they learn the meaning of self sovereignty for a woman in a patriarchal society” (Dash 1). Paulina of The Winter’s Tale provides support for Dash’s argument. With courage and passion, Paulina defends Hermione against chauvinistic paranoia and enshrines female virtue.
Perhaps the best testimony to Paulina’s power is the historical reaction of male critics. In 1733, editor Lewis Theobald condemned Paulina as “too gross and blunt” for daring to call the King “downright a Fool” (Dash 135). In 1863, scholar Charles Cowden Clarke whined that Pauline was excessive: “… she does play the tattoo upon his skull with amazing vivacity and after he is down, too …. Paulina cannot forego the gratification of punching him in his maundering distress” (Clarke 356). In 1969, Fitzroy Pyle acknowledged Paulina’s “goodness” but applied the label “militant” (Pyle 41).
With a similar sentiment but more blatantly hostile language, the fictional King Leontes abuses his adversary Paulina with sexist insults…
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…ti. Webster’s First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language. Boston: Beacon Press, 1987
Dash, Irene. Wooing, Wedding, and Power: Women in Shakespeare’s Plays. New York: Columbia University Press, 1981
McLuskie, Kathleen. “The Patriarchal Bard: Feminist Criticism and Shakespeare.” Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield, editors. London: Cornell Univ. Press, 1985
Neeley, Carol Thomas. “The Winter’s Tale: Women and Issue” (1985). Reprinted in the Signet Classic Edition of The Winter’s Tale. New York: Penguin, 1988.
Pyle, Fitzroy. The Winter’s Tale: A Commentary on the Structure. New York: Routledge
Comparing Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail
Comparing Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and Martin Luther King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail
The two essays, “Civil Disobedience,” by Henry David Thoreau, and “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” by Martin Luther King, Jr., effectively illustrate the authors’ opinions of justice. Each author has his main point; Thoreau, in dealing with justice as it relates to government, asks for “not at once no government, but at once a better government. King contends that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Both essays offer a complete argument for justice, but, given the conditions, King’s essay remains more effective, in that its persuasive techniques have more practical application. Both essays extensively implement both emotional and ethical appeal to give their respective ideas validity.
One persuasive technique that each author implements to support his ideas emotionally is the use of biblical allusion. However, in comparison, King’s use is stronger in that the tone of his allusions is more appealing to the reader. King’s allusions cause the reader to want take action against injustice, whereas Thoreau’s are darker — more likely to make the reader want to submit to and accept the injustices portrayed. For example, King, in his first biblical allusion, manages to draw glory into his struggle by comparing himself with the Apostle Paul, feeling “compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular home town,” just as Paul “left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city in the Graeco-Roman world.. . .” This stirs admiration in the reader for King and adds relevance to his struggle. Later King discusses the history of his style of civil dis…
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…ide: “. . .one does not remain inert to make way for the other, but both obey their own laws, and spring and grow and flourish as best they can, till one, perchance, overshadows and destroys the other.” All three of these comparisons, while being beneficial to the essay’s main idea, are too obscure and irrelevant to have any real persuasive power.
Granted, both essays effectively implement both emotional and ethical appeal to the reader in order to be persuasive, and each, given the right conditions has the potential to be equally effective. But, given the conditions we are under, including the time frame, (“Civil Disobedience” was written over one hundred years before “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”) King’s essay, overall, features more of the characteristics, as well as the accessibility to produce a higher level of comprehension and relevance for the reader.