Feminine and Patriarchal Representation in The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Throughout Shakespeare’s plays, early feministic critics saw women as less influential characters than the men who are portrayed, even including the male fools. The critic Phyllis Rackin brings to light this idea and its importance in love, sexuality, and gender in one of her articles of Shakespeare and his pieces. She says: “reminders that women were expected to be chaste, silent, and obedient probably occur more frequently in recent scholarship than they did in the literature of Shakespeare’s time; the connections between female speech and female sexual transgression are retraced and the anxieties evoked by the possibility of female power are discovered in play after play” (Rackin 44). Rackin’s point of view is representative within The Two Gentlemen of Verona in as much as the female characters make the work more substantial whether they are emotionally irrational or not. Modern feminist criticism suggests that The Two Gentlemen of Verona implies a quite feminist attitude taken by Shakespeare toward the gender identity and sexuality of women through the complex friendships and simple personality traits he created between characters; however, the ending of the play suggests the opposite, that patriarchy is sustained as a result of the silence and obedience of the women characters. A look at the male friendships provides a great contrast to the females of this play. William Carroll previews the thought of male friendships being changed and transformed within the temple of marriage. He says in his introduction: “As with male friends, romantic love here interjects discord into the now past-tense ideal friendship; ‘two seeming bodies but one heart’ have now split apart, and at the end of the play the two couples will leave behind same-sex friendship for marriage” (Carroll 9).Valentine and Proteus uphold a very peculiar same-sex friendship from the very beginning of the play. Proteus says to his departing friend, “Will thou be gone? Sweet Valentine, adieu. Think on thy Proteus when though seest Some rare noteworthy object in thy travel” (1.1.11-3). This foundation that is built within this friendship of the male counterparts leads into the sexual foundation of the marriages to come. The woman sexuality and influence that is brought into marriage and sexual “friendship” changes the male greatly in sexuality and in identity. This transformed identity of the male is a result of the silent and feminine influence upon the male by his new ‘friend’, his wife. The thought of women friendships is also discussed by Carroll. “Women’s friendships, of which there are numerous examples and accounts, are ‘commonly portrayed in the Renaissance, but normally as coexistent with marriage’, rather than in opposition to it” (Carroll 8). This friendship of women that coexists with marriage is discounted though; it does not seem to be as influential as that of male friendships which are ‘two seeming bodies but one heart’ (Carroll 9). The idea of budding romance seems a lost cause when a man was once a half of a heart with another, yet he is to be one with his wife as well. Feministic power and emotion is shown well by Sylvia in a dialogue with Julia exerting her power of belief and choice: The more shame for him that he sends it me,
For I have heard him say a thousand times
His Julia gave it him at his departure.
Though his false finger have profaned the ring,
Mine shall not do his Julia so much wrong. (4.4.131-5)
Although Julia is disguised in this scene as a boy, Sylvia voices her point of action to this male figure as more or less an equal. Sylvia confides and trusts in Julia even though she is dressed as a male. The underlying attraction between the two may suggest that women are drawn to one another and strive to protect their own kind. This discourse between the two is one example of the Shakespeare’s sympathy toward the oppression of woman. Shakespeare’s idea...
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