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Annotated Bibliography: Shakespeare Studies

Chedgzoy, Kate. Shakespeare, Feminism, and Gender: Contemporary Critical Essays. New York: Palgrave, 2001.

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Recently, feminist criticisms of Shakespeare’s works have greatly expanded. Chedgzoy notes that the modern field of feminist criticism is not as obsessed as it once was on whether Shakespeare’s works were feminist or proto-feminist, or in the very least compatible with feminism. Chedgzoy notes that contemporary female scholars are concerned more than ever with class, racial, political, cultural, and historical issues of disempowerment. In her book, the intersection of gender with other varying political and historical issues is explored. She looks at the various instances where women characters in the Shakespearean world are disempowered due to gender.

Orgel, Stephen. “Prospero’s Wife.” Representations 8.10 (1984): 1–13.

Orgel’s main intention in this article is to investigate why Prospero’s wife never appears in the story and why she lacks even in the memories of Prospero and Miranda throughout the play. Orgel discusses various issues that include psychoanalytic paradigms, power and authority, Prospero’s wife, and Ferdinand’s praise of the Masque. Orgel tries to find out why Prospero’s wife seldom appears in the play and looks at the various instances in which she and other female characters were mentioned.

Orgel notes that Prospero views women as a whole lack virtue. He only knew that Miranda was his heir after her mother assured him. Orgel analyzes how Shakespeare paints his women characters and finally concludes that women in Shakespeare’s play only exist to meet a specific need and are usually subordinate to their male characters. Miranda is utterly under the control of her father, and her subsequent marriage to Ferdinand will most likely lead to a situation of subordination. Orgel uses a Freudian approach and investigates why Prospero’s wife and almost all motherly figures lack in the play.

Thompson, Ann. “Miranda, Where’s your Sister: Reading Shakespeare’s The Tempest.” Kamps 1 (1995): 168-177.

The article by Thomson is a critical feminist essay on The Tempest. Thompson focuses on the absence of female characters in the play. She embarks on discovering the ideology of femininity in the play, which paradoxically rejects the importance of female characters despite attributing massive power to female fertility and purity. Thomson notes that despite Miranda being a subordinate character, her role is crucial for developing events in the play.

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Munoz, Sophia. Double Erasure in the Tempest: Miranda in Post Modern Critical Discourse. Sederi 9(1998): 299-305.

Munoz looks at the paradoxical nature in which Miranda has been portrayed in the play and the manner in which modern scholars have interpreted her character in the play. She notes that although Miranda is a dependant female whose whole life seems to be controlled by Prospero, she is essential for the play’s dynamics of power. She looks at the new paradigm of Shakespearean studies and presents several views from different writers on the aspect of feminism and the Tempest.

Munoz explains that the double erasure of Miranda in the play denotes how Miranda’s character has been neglected in modern political readings of the play, which have mainly focused their attention of the play’s power scheme on the issue of colonialism. She argues that modern studies mainly focus on Caliban as a symbol of the exploited native while ignoring the definite repression of Miranda.

Cygan, Lauren. Sexist Themes in Othello, Taming of the Shrew, and The Tempest. Shakespeare Studies 24 (1998): 134-143.

Cygan looks at how sexism themes exist in these three plays by Shakespeare. He notes that although Shakespeare used strong-willed women characters in his plays, he endowed them with several weaknesses that made it easier for people to relate to them. He also notes that Shakespeare had the habit of presenting his women characters as vicious, malicious, or spiteful. Cygan chooses three female characters: Desdemona, Kate, and Miranda, to determine how feminism and sexism can be found in Shakespearean works. Cygan argues that Shakespeare only developed two types of women: virtuous subhuman and deceiving subhuman characters.

He also notes that although female characters in his plays can shift from virtuous to deceiving, the opposite never happens. When Cygan looks at the character of Miranda, he notes that Shakespeare has been identified as a primary force behind the feminist movement, with some writers going as far as accusing Shakespeare of raping the identity of women. He notes that Miranda is too child-like and humanistic, sweet and well-spoken. According to Cygan, Miranda is inexperienced in world views but is not reserved; hence she can communicate with the male characters without being subservient.

Barbour, Kathryn. “Flout ’em and Scout ’em and Scout ’em and Flout ’em: Prospero’s Power and Punishments in The Tempest.” Shakespearean Criticism 94 (1998): 285–290.

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In this article, Barbour explores how Prospero punishes those responsible for the loss of his title as the Duke of Milan and the way he tries to regain his position. In the article, the terms punishment and power are used in many instances, and Barbour exposes the relationship in which Prospero inflicts emotional punishment for those people in higher ranks like Alonso and the physical punishment he inflicts on lesser beings like Caliban. The thesis of the article is that The Tempest is one of the several plays to explore the relationship between the a visibility of a ruler, his wish to be a compassionate ruler, his ability to retain power, and the means with which that power can be achieved and maintained (p.286).

Renes Cornelis. Whose New World? Derek Jarman’s Subversive Vision of The Tempest. Universitat de Barcelona (2006): 36-48.

The article re-examines Derek Jarman’s film The Tempest (1979) against modern progress in film adaptation theory to understand the film’s controversial handling of the Shakespearean play source material. The film is analyses by examining the film’s protagonist in terms of gender and plot. The article looks at the film presentation of Miranda’s relationship with Prospero and Ferdinand within a gendered context of geopolitical conflict. Next, the article looks at the characterization of Caliban as a non-threatening human. The author notes that the film was a victim of fidelity criticism and can serve as a subversive deconstruction of Shakespearean.

Slights, Jessica. Rape and the Romanticization of Shakespeare’s Miranda. SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 41.2 (2001): 375-379.

In this article, Slight embarks on establishing that political criticisms of Shakespearean plays lack a concrete theoretical basis from which to study female characters as active participants in the fictional worlds in which they inhabit. The article specifically looks at challenging Miranda’s omission from critical discourse. The author explores what happens when Miranda is portrayed only as a symbol of the Elizabethan ruling class rather than an active participant in the life-world of the play. The author notes that modern discourse usually misses on Miranda’s important strengths and characteristics as they never dig deeper to understand her as an individual character.

Leininger, Lorrie Jerell. The Miranda Trap: Sexism and Racism in Shakespeare’s Tempest. in Eds. Lenz, c. Green, G, and Neely, C. The Woman’s Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1980: 285-294.

This article looks at the two major themes in the Tempest: feminism and slavery. According to the author, the play was written fifty years after England openly entered the slave trade. The author notes that the native of the Island that Prospero colonizes has been presented as the embodiment of irredeemable evil, lust, and disobedience. In contrast, his enslaver is presented as a god-figure. This presentation makes a significant difference in the expectations raised as to the moral obligations of Prospero as a slave owner or a god-figure. The article also looks at the presentation of Miranda and presents her as a counterpart to Queen Elizabeth.

The author looks at the social classes that existed in England by looking at how Miranda was presented in the play. The article notes that although Miranda is wealthy and learned, she belongs to a lower class than her father. She is presented as chaste and virtuous, which was a common requirement for unmarried women. She is seen as a prize and a material possession both by Ferdinand and Prospero, respectively. The author comments that some of the symbolism used in the play is damaging as it deflects real attention to the issues facing the society at the time, such as the slavery issues where natives were viewed as being savages who were created to serve others and that women were lower beings under the dominion of man.

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Fox-Good, Jaquelyne. Other Voices: The Sweet, Dangerous Air of Shakespeare’s Tempest. Shakespeare Studies 24 (1996): 241-274.

This article looks at the musical metaphors used in the play and how they help bring out essential themes in the play. The author seeks to disapprove of two modern trends of the critical discourse of the play. The two trends include the humanism trend of fusing music with social unity and the historicist readings that make the same conflation. She argues that the two trends make a naïve claim and fail to realize that music exists free of its historical context. It is transcendent and trans-historical. She argues that many people do not appreciate and understand Shakespeare’s music because the songs are mainly treated as poems, and some critics assume songs are music.

She presents several differences between music, songs, and poems and how these distinctions can be applied to The Tempest to understand several themes. The various relationships between the principal characters are investigated according to the multiple songs and music in the play.

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