Shakespeare and Women

Paperback | June 9, 2005

byPhyllis Rackin

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Shakespeare and Women situates Shakespeare's female characters in multiple historical contexts, ranging from the early modern England in which they originated to the contemporary Western world in which our own encounters with them are staged. In so doing, this book seeks to challenge currentlyprevalent views of Shakespeare's women-both the women he depicted in his plays and the women he encountered in the world he inhabited. Chapter 1, 'A Usable History', analyses the implications and consequences of the emphasis on patriarchal power, male misogyny, and women's oppression that has dominated recent feminist Shakespeare scholarship, while subsequent chapters propose alternative models for feminist analysis. Chapter 2,'The Place(s) of Women in Shakespeare's World', emphasizes the frequently overlooked kinds of social, political, and economic agency exercised by the women Shakespeare would have known in both Stratford and London. Chapter 3, 'Our Canon, Ourselves', addresses the implications of the modernpopularity of plays such as The Taming of the Shrew which seem to endorse women's subjugation, arguing that the plays-and the aspects of those plays-that we have chosen to emphasize tell us more about our own assumptions than about the beliefs that informed the responses of Shakespeare's firstaudiences. Chapter 4, 'Boys will be Girls', explores the consequences for women of the use of male actors to play women's roles. Chapter 5, 'The Lady's Reeking Breath', turns to the sonnets, the texts that seem most resistant to feminist appropriation, to argue that Shakespeare's rewriting of theidealized Petrarchan lady anticipates modern feminist critiques of the essential misogyny of the Petrarchan tradition. The final chapter, 'Shakespeare's Timeless Women', surveys the implication of Shakespeare's female characters in the process of historical change, as they have been repeatedlyupdated to conform to changing conceptions of women's nature and women's social roles, serving in ever-changing guises as models of an unchanging, universal female nature.

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Shakespeare and Women situates Shakespeare's female characters in multiple historical contexts, ranging from the early modern England in which they originated to the contemporary Western world in which our own encounters with them are staged. In so doing, this book seeks to challenge currentlyprevalent views of Shakespeare's women-both...

Professor Phyllis Rackin has taught Shakespeare at the University of Pennsylvania for forty years. A former President of the Shakespeare Association of America, she has published three books on Shakespeare as well as numerous scholarly articles on Shakespeare and related subjects in anthologies and in such journals as PMLA, Shakespea...

other books by Phyllis Rackin

Format:PaperbackDimensions:184 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.46 inPublished:June 9, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198186940

ISBN - 13:9780198186946

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. A Usable History2. The Place(s) of Women in Shakespeare's World: Historical Fact and Feminist Interpretation3. Our Canon, Ourselves4. Boys will be Girls5. The Lady's Reeking Breath6. Shakespeare's Timeless WomenSuggestions for Further Reading

Editorial Reviews

"Phyllis Rackin's own contributions to Shakespeare in this book make for a witty, interesting, and frequently compelling read. Overall, this volume not only challenges Shakespeare specialists but can also reach and educate strong upper-level undergraduate students interested in the construction of women's roles in Shakespeare's plays and beyond."--Laura Feitzinger Brown, Sixteenth Century Journal "Phyllis Rackin has provided us with a deftly defined casebook for the reconsideration of feminist criticism in the twenty-first century that looks to the future through a clear articulation of that criticism's past.... In each chapter, Rackin provides an alternative to the limiting assumptions she describes and thus offers brave new ways of seeing.... [Rackin] reexamines with a steady feminist eye the man who persistently claims our critical interest. In focusing on the question of Shakespeare and women in the twenty-first century, Phyllis Rackin has renewed a sense of the feminist agenda within the field of Shakespeare studies. Most importantly, she has done so for the next generation of scholars in an affordable volume that will be invaluable in the graduate classroom."--Shakespeare Quarterly "Believing that historical research can provide rich resources to revitalize feminist criticism (if one looks for them), Rackin ably and amply points the way. She examines the place(s) of women in Shakespeare's world; the tendency to shape the canon in the reader's own image; the powerful truths Shakespeare offers about women (notably in Cleopatra) and life, truths evident despite or sometimes because of the use of boy actors; Shakespeare's 'complicated negotiation with the Petrarchantradition' in the sonnets, which succeed, while addressing both sexes, in enabling women to think and feel honestly about themselves; and the continuous contemporaneousness of Shakespeare's women. The 'Further Reading' section is a vein of rich ore. Essential."--Choice