Since I began reading, I noticed that many of the books I read were male-centric. They were written by men, about men, and the women were seemingly missing, over-sexualized, or boring. Until I re-read Shakespeare. Now I am one of those strange people who adores classic literature. Shakespeare was different for me, even in high school his words started small fires in my soul, and when I took a class on Renaissance literature, that fire completely engulfed me.
Yes, Shakespeare is a dead white guy, who did, in fact, write a lot about men, but his women are different. Lady Macbeth is one of my favorite characters because she defies almost all-female stereotypes, taking power from the men and abusing it herself.
The paper below is a comparative analysis of Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth and Webster's Duchess of Malfi. Two women who wield an incredible amount of power, yet use it so differently. Last fall I submitted this paper to an English honors society that I belong to, to be presented at their yearly conference. Lucky for me, it was accepted. As I scanned over the other papers that had been accepted I looked for people who had written on a similar topic.
I found many people who wrote on Shakespeare, though none who were giving agency to his female characters. It is this paper that led me to write my thesis, but that is a reflection for another page. Having to defend the women of Shakespeare and prove that they too were engaging, enflamed me in a new way. The fire in me was now concerned about how Shakespeare was taught, theatre, and women.
When I began writing this paper it was not organized. It did not follow the plan or form I had followed since I was twelve years old. It was messy and loud and flurried. I had so much to say that I couldn't organize my thoughts and the paper resembled someone with multiple personalities talking in the same sentence. For the first time, in a long time, I was able to analyze two characters who displayed absolute opposite characteristics, but I didn't see them as opposites. I saw them as two sides of the same coin, both with an undying resilience and strength.
Sadly, I was unable to present this paper because the conference was canceled due to COVID-19. However, I included this paper because it would have given me the opportunity to return agency to these characters in a public setting. As well as a platform to express my vehemency that Shakespeare possesses a relevancy that his contemporaries could never grasp. His writings should remain a part of the literary canon because of it.
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