Honors Theses

Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Department

English

First Advisor

Karen Raber

Relational Format

Dissertation/Thesis

Abstract

The purpose of this essay is to examine the role that gender plays in the construction of the human within Shakespeare's Macbeth and The Merry Wives of Windsor. While gender was a vital component of the immaterial essence that distinguished humans from animals, early moderns believed that true internal gender conformity could not exist if it was not accompanied by external expressions of it. Characters in each of these plays fixate on the external proofs of their own gendered identities, and in doing so, they inadvertently reveal that those traits which distinguish humanity are only cultural constructions and learned behavior that can only externally relate to an individual's rational inorganic soul. In chapter 1, I focus on how, in order to re-obtain the masculinity he believes he does not possess, Macbeth defiles his own humanity so that he can take what he believes to be the requisite actions in order to do so. In chapter 2, I analyze how when Mistress Page and Mistress Ford try to remove a threat to their appearance of chastity, they unknowingly lay bare their claims to both chastity and humanity.

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