Abstract As Shakespeare’s young Juliet falls in love, desire catapults her from innocence towards womanhood. She has not yet been carefully taught her culture’s patriarchal dictates about female behavior in courtship, sex and marriage. Juliet’s unfettered expression of desire in explicit and complex language confirms her subjectivity; speaking, she is lover as well as beloved. […]
The title As You Like It suggests satisfaction of the audience’s fancies. We propose that the play’s construction incorporates the strategy of dreams, in which a dream wish is disguised by dream work: here the “wish” is the consummation of Rosalind and Orlando’s mutual desire, and the dream work includes elision of logic, magical thinking, displacement, condensation, and symbolization. The audience become dreamers, and the improbable plot the dream. The dream-like qualities of the play are enhanced in the Forest of Arden, the realm of snake and lioness and fairy-tales, a territory that evokes wishes and fears. Shakespeare’s use of condensation accounts for some of the variability in interpretation and perception of the plays.
This essay proposes that Shakespeare’s Cleopatra is a male fantasy of a love object for Antony. She is an extravagantly feminine construction of a character who effects a transformation in Antony that enables him to finally perceive himself as a heroic lover as well as a heroic warrior. A fluidity of gender roles in the passionate relationship between Cleopatra and Antony elevates their mutual love, making it both transformative and transcendent. An examination of key passages in the play will demonstrate that Cleopatra’s empathic mirroring of Antony’s love is facilitated by her comfort with the “phallic” aggressive components in her own sexuality. The interpenetration of this mirroring helps Antony to expand the concept of his own masculinity in such a way as to resolve within himself the dichotomy of Rome/male/warrior versus Egypt/female/lover that underlies the dynamic of conflict in this play.
This essay presents contrasting psychosexual profiles of Shakespeare’s heroines Isabella, in Measure for Measure, and Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra. Isabella, a classic Freudian hysteric, has no conscious awareness of her desire or her seductiveness, and protects her chastity. Cleopatra is fully cognizant of her powerful and playful sexuality, and joins her lover Antony in a passionate intersubjective relationship. We also look at the patriarchal social order in these two plays, as it affects comedic and tragic form, and raise the possibility that the assumption of sexual subjectivity in women may diminish the impact of misogyny.