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University of Ni Faculty of Philosophy English Department

Shakespeare A Special Course

Women as victims of Patriarchal Society: Choosing the milk of human kindness or direst cruelty

Student: Radmila Filipovic 2753

Teacher Adviser: prof. dr Ljiljana Bogoeva Sedlar

Ni, Serbia September 2010

Introduction...............................................................................................3 Donna Read : Goddess Remembered Signs out of Time , Interview with Maria Gimbutas Message from the Heart Of the World

O cruel, irreliigious piety!..........................................................................6 Titus Andronicus Julie Taymor: Titus

Farewell: Commend me to My Kind Lord!..............................................14 Othello, the Moor of Venice Paula Vogel: Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief Djanet Sears: Harlem Duet

Top-full of Direst Cruelty..........................................................................25 Macbeth Terrence McNally: Master Class

Conclusion: Caryl Churchills Owners and Shakespeare...................33 Reference...................................................................................................34


The 'Conqueror Has Replaced the 'Nurturer' as the Symbol to Be Respected History teaches us about the beginnigs of mankind, about violent and raging cavemen that wandered the earth without conscience about the world around him. Later on we are aquanted with the cradle of civiliaztion, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Ancient Greece; we learn about their mythologies, their world view and most importantly, the wars they waged and the means they used to defeat their enemies.From the earliest days of civilization, we have an impression that the important historical figures were always male, leading their nations into fights for power and territory. At the same time, there is a few notable women in the history books. We learn about Egyptian pharaohs, Yugoslavian royal dinasties and a whole list of presidents of the United States. If we take into consideration important historical events, we realize that some wars were fought for woman's love, there were few important queens worth mentioning and the rest belongs to the world governed by a male principle. Our ancient ancestors thus seem to us as aggressive, greedy, violent and corrupted. With the beginning of civilization, the rule of patriarchy began and nowadays, we can witness the consequences of its domination. There were two catastrophic World Wars, the first atomic bombs exploded in Japan, the mighty dictators, highly-civilized and highly educated decided to kill millions of people. The concentration camps stand as a proof to remind the mankind of its cruelty and shame. Is it possible that human beings are naturally born cruel, greedy and hungry for power? What would have happened if our civilization was not turned aganst women principle but followed it and respected it? Marija Gimbutas' research in the field of archaeology discovered that before the dawn of Western Civilization, there were long-lasting and peaceful cultures who lived on the territories of todays East Europe. Long before written history began in Suma and Egypt, there were settlements which were made by nations that were on the high level of culture and art and most importantly,no evidence of organized warfare were found. There were no military burials, no weapons, no defensive walls and no art recording warfare or male dominance. Instead, they had a rich religious life in the center of which were Gods and Goddesses. The primary deity was female, the giver of life, and she represented the unity of all life in nature, both male and female. Evidence for their

belief in such a deity were numerous figures of the goddess which were found in their settlements in various parts of Europe. The figures was in the shape of a female form with huge belly, breasts and buttocks, representing the procreative parts of a woman and the power of her fertility. Therefore, fertility of a mother was connencted to the fertility of the Earth. These people lived in accordance with nature, following the seasonal changes and respecting the mother. However, this all changed when aggressive Indo-European nomads came from the Russian steppes and invaded this culture, destroying its customs and worldview. Marija Gimbutas explains that the reason for their victory is the fact that they had weapons and they had horses1. In old Europe there were no weapons, only the ones used for hunting. In contrast to these semi-nomadic people, people in Europe were agriculturists and they spent their lives in one place, without moving. Therefore, there was a clash between these two cultures and the ones that won are the ones who have horses, who have weapons, who have small families and who are more mobile. 2These barbaric nomads worshipped another kind of god, a male divinity, Perun, a lightning god. The peaceful matriarchaloriented civilizations were quickly conquered and the patriarchal values were imposed on them. Consequently, we named the people who lived in harmony with the Mother Earth a pre-civilization people since we learn that civilization began with weapons, invasions and warfare. The people of the Goddess were civilized by the invaders and their religion and values were lost forever.3 Similarly, in Donna Reads documentary Goddess Remembered, the women from the Womens Spirituality Movement discuss the ancient times when people believed in the goddess, the Great Mother. They lived in a world without violence and hierarchy where woman was highly respected as a life-giver and child-bearer.4 A womans power of childbirth was associated with earths power in the spring to awaken the nature from its deep sleep and therefore, their Goddess has taken a female form. Nevertheless, it all changed with the Golden Age of Greece. The documentary states, For the man, it was the beginning. For the woman, it was the end. 5 Athena, who was once the Goddess of Wisdom, was transformed into the Goddess of War. In Greek mythology, Athena was born from the brow of her father, Zeus, Father of Gods and Men6 who
1 2

http://www.sibyllineorder.org/history/hist_marija.htm, Interview with Marija Gimbutas Ibid. 3 Signs Out of Time-Maria Gimbutas http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=ozaeuULrLjM&feature=PlayList&p=42DD8748183C9B11&index=0&playnext=1 4 Donna Read , Goddess Remembered http://www.nfb.ca/film/goddess_remembered/ 5 Ibid. 6 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeus

ruled all the Olympian gods on Mount Olympus. He was the god of sky and thunder, something high up in the air which cannot be controlled or touched by humans. Goddess becomes Gods wife; she was suddenly less important and inferior to her male partner. Furthermore, this relationship of male dominancy continued in Christianity. Adam made Eve from his rib, which furthermore implies that female was a mere invention of a male whom he created out of sheer boredom. Eve was the cause of Adams fall from Eden because she seduced him with her sexuality. Therefore, women were labeled as culprits for males suffering. The consequences of the patriarchal order of things in this world can be seen in the documentary movie by a BBC journalist, Alain Ereira. It is about the Kogi people, a unique indigenous community that lives on the Columbian shore of the Caribbean Islands. They call themselves The Elder Brothers, the guardians of life on Earth.7 The modern man is their Younger Brother. If we look at them, the way they live and the values they believe in, we can compare them to the people of the Goddess. They believe the Sierra Nevada, a mountain they live on, to be the "Mother" and the "Heart of the World because it can be seen as a copy of the whole planet in miniature due to its diverse ecological system. They understand the relationship between different parts of the mountain, and treat it as a whole. The Kogi have an important message for the Younger Brother: If you continue living in the father, it will be too late! They believe that the Great Mother divided the Earth and put them in South America and sent the Younger Brother away from them. Nevertheless, the Younger Brother crossed the ocean and begun killing their people and destroying everything, their woods, their crops, and their beautiful nature. Contrary to the values of the patriarchal society, the Kogi believe that unbalanced masculinity is dangerous and can cause many problems. On the other hand, the Younger Brother did everything he could to destroy the Great Mother; he took out her heart out and cut her to pieces.8 His greed and belief that he can be in total control of nature dried up the Earths resources and set into action a chain of events which will lead to our destruction. Contrary to this behavior, the Kogi know what they can take from the Earth, without extracting its petrol, minerals and gold. In their community, the woman plants the beans, which signifies the direct relationship between the mother of the family and the mother earth. They say that we must respect
7 8

Youtube, The Kogi Warning : Message from the heart of the World Ibid.

nature in the same way we respect our parents. For everything that we take from the land, we must pay a price. By means of greed and warfare, the Younger brother wounded the mother and she is now bleeding to death. William Shakespeare, in his numerous plays, portrays the position of women in patriarchal society and their attitude towards values imposed on them. He proves that no matter whether they live in Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire or in Shakespeares contemporary Elizabethan England, and independently of the social class they belong to, women are always oppressed by the patriarchal society. The only difference is that some women choose to internalize patriarchal values and purge themselves of their femininity while the others choose to go beyond culture and embrace feminine values. Whatever way a woman chooses, she is victimized by the patriarchal order, being totally degraded and destroyed. Does this mean that patriarchy always wins and that no matter what women do, the age of female principle will never rule again?

O, cruel, irreligious piety!

Titus Andronicus9 is William Shakespeares first tragedy and therefore the bloodiest and most violent one. It is a story about the absurdity of revenge and how ones blind loyalty to the patriarchal system can lead to his total destruction. The plays tragic hero is Titus Andronicus, a famous Roman general who is a faithful servant of the Empire, never questioning its laws and rules. He is an instrument of his government, one that is depicted as a den of blood-sucking

Shakespeare, William, Titus Andronicus, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Wordsworth Editions Ltd, Ware, 1996

manipulators, torturers, and murders that thrive on the sweat and honor of its loyal citizens, and then turn a merciless cheek. As we move towards the ending of the play, we are able to conclude that the Roman Empire is unjust and corrupted, based on a system of lies and treason. Besides, it is a typical example of patriarchal society, where women do not have any voice and are dominated by male figures in their lives. Titus, by blindly following the traditional rules of his Empire, and rejecting to be disobedient or to step out of the pattern, sets in motion a chain of events, which lead to an outburst of violence, and his own death in the end. Lavinia is the most tragic character in the play and her destiny is among the most desperate ones in Shakespeares plays. Lavinia is Titus Andronicus daughter. Her tragic destiny shows that, in the patriarchal society, once women lose their chastity, they lose their previous roles in society. She loses her identity as a respectable Roman female archetype to the point of existing only as a mutilated body. Before that she was an obedient daughter, praising her father, unable to question him. The first time we encounter Lavinia in the play, is in the familys tomb of the Andronici where she comes to console her father with the words of praise: In peace and honour live Lord Titus long;/ My noble lord and father, live in fame!....... O, bless me here with thy victorious hand,/Whose fortunes Rome's best citizens applaud!10. We can conclude from her words that Lavinia is a loyal daughter, who never questions the actions of her father, just like Titus never questions the values of the Roman Empire. She is happy because he returned to Rome and to its citizens, who are celebrating his victory in war. When Titus decides to sacrifice Tamoras oldest son Alarbus, Lavinia respects his decision and does not judge her father. In the patriarchal society she lives in, she is taught to behave in that way. Her fathers word is a sacred one and she must be obedient in every way. When the Roman Emperor, Saturninus, decides to marry Lavinia out of gratitude to Titus for choosing him over his brother, he never asks her whether she wants to marry him or not. Instead, he asks her father Tell me, Andronicus, doth this motion please thee?11.In other words, Lavinia does not have a will of her own, or is not supposed to have it in the society governed by the male principle. Her father is her owner, he speaks for her daughter and is not concerned with her will; he knows that he has to respect the Emperors will and let his Lavinia become the queen of Rome. Furthermore, Lavinia shows how agreeable she is when Saturninus asks her if she is not displeased with his freeing Tamora, the enslaved queen of Goths. She answers

Shakespeare, William, Titus Andronicus, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Wordsworth Editions Ltd, Ware, 1996,Act I, Scene i 11 Ibid, Act I, Scene i

obediently Not I, my lord; sith true nobility/Warrants these words in princely courtesy.12 She does not have anything to say and this is a consequence of the inflexible aspects of her environment: the fact that women at that time had no rights and were not encouraged to speak their minds. Later in the play, when Lavinia is seized by Bassianus, she is once again treated as a possession. Bassianus declares that he is in love with Lavinia but his brother Saturninus calls his actions a rape that should be punished by law. In other words, Lavinia is a subject to rape at the hands of her brothers and her future husband even before the actual physical rape happens. Bassianus openly states that Lavinia is his own and that he has every right to claim his possession, while we once again do not hear Lavinias voice. The text does not make it clear whether Lavinia wanted to be with Bassianus or Saturninus. Titus exclaims that Lavinia is surprised13 thus implying that maybe Lavinia did not want to come with Bassianus. In the patriarchal Roman Empire, women existed as property first of their fathers, then of their husbands. Nevertheless, later in the play, we can see that Lavinia speaks for herself when she and her husband run into Saturninus. He alludes to the fact that as newlyweds, they seem to have left their bed awfully early. Here for the first time Lavinia speaks up, though only after prompting by her husband: I say no./I have been broad awake two hours and more.14 It seems that she becomes less dependent under the support of a husband who wishes to hear her voice. Moreover, when Lavinia and Bassianus come across Tamora and Aaron in the woods, we can see that she can be extremely rude. She mocks Tamora and being desgusted by her actions, she insults her for being adulterous. She says that Tamora has a goodly gift in horning;15 thus implying that she put horns on her husbands head and that they should take him for a stag.16 Lavinia defends the sanctity of marriage because of her traditional and conventional upbringing; she is taught that a woman is not allowed to betray her husband. Lavinia also insults Aarons Black race; she will let Tamora enjoy her raven-colour'd love;17in the valley. This also shows that Lavinia is taught that the white race is the superior one, and that it is unimaginable for her that Tamoras lover is Black. Unfortunately, a woman who speaks her mind in this environment will be swiftly silenced. Tamoras sons, Chiron and Demetrus, come and kill Bassianus and start to drag off Lavinia with
12 13

Ibid,Act II,Scene ii Ibid, Act I, Scene i 14 Ibid,Act II,Scene ii 15 Ibid,Act II,Scene iii 16 Ibid,Act II,Scene iii 17 Ibid,Act II,Scene iii

the intention of raping her. They had several reasons to do that: they are both in love with Lavinia and want to achieve her, they want to revenge their brother that Titus mercilessly sacrificed and they want to defend their mothers honor. Lavinia again insults barbarous Tamora by attacking her womanhood. The milk thou suck'dst from her did turn to marble;/ Even at thy teat thou hadst thy tyranny.18By saying this, Lavinia says that Tamoras milk turned to marble while she was breast-feeding her sons and that they were born as tyrants. Tamora is enraged because she attacked her femininity, since the milk that a mother produces for her child is traditionally considered as the most sacred. We can see that Lavinia is scared and that she does not know what to say, since in one moment she insults Tamora, and in the next she begs her to show a woman pity and spare her life. She desperately begs Tamora to be a charitable murderer.19 and to kill her rather than let her sons rape her:O, keep me from their worse than killing lust,/And tumble me into some loathsome pit,/Where never man's eye may behold my body.20 The fact that she would rather be killed than lose her chastity implies that womans reputation and virginity were the most important things at that time. If other men saw her violated body, she could not survive the shame. In this scene, equally important is the fact that there is a failure of communication between two women, who do not appreciate each other. The most tragic scene in the play is described by Shakespeare in the stage direction: [Enter DEMETRIUS and CHIRON with LAVINIA, ravished; her hands cut off, and her tongue cut out]21 Lavina is raped and disembodied by a patriarchal society and, as a result, she lost her chastity, her tongue and her hands. Basically, she lost her chance for getting married and being respected, she lost her ability to work and be creative, and most importantly, she lost her ability to speak. When her uncle Marcus finds her in the woods, he poetically describes Lavinias face: Alas, a crimson river of warm blood,/Like to a bubbling fountain stirr'd with wind,/ Doth rise and fall between thy rosed lips,.22 From the first moments after her rape, we can see that Lavinia is once again dependent on male figures in her life, being unable to say her wishes and communicate in any way. Her uncle asks her Shall I speak for thee?23 which means that she is reduced to a state of needing to be cared for. When Marcus brings her mutilated body to her father, he says:This was
18 19

Ibid,Act II,Scene iii Ibid,Act II,Scene iii 20 Ibid,Act II,Scene iii 21 Ibid,Act II,Scene iv 22 Ibid,Act II,Scene iv 23 Ibid,Act II,Scene iv

thy daughter24 implying that he brought what is left of her; she is useless now. Titus is immediately interested in who did it; nobody asks her how she feels, has she lost a lot of blood, and nobody cares her wounds. It is revenge that is important, so Lavinia does not have room to react to her victimization. She cries, gesticulates and they are unable to understand her. However, in Act IV something changes inside Lavinia and she begins to chase her nephew with a book Ovids Metamorphoses and she points to the tragic tale of Philomel, who was raped and her tongue was cut out. This is important, because in this book, Ovid collected all the myths and stories from Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece and wrote it describing the history of the world from its creation. We can see that nothing changed in the patriarchal society since women are still being raped both physically and emotionally. Afterwards, Lavinia is given Marcus staff and she uses it to write the names of her rapists on the ground. When Titus, Lucius and Marcus finally find out who deflowered and disembodied her, their attention is immediately switched to Chiron and Demetrus and Lavinia is left in the background. As males, they know that they have to revenge her, but we are not sure whether they do that for Lainias sake or for their own. Nevertheless, she is still engaged in her fathers revenge; when Titus kills Chiron and Demetrus by cutting their throats, he lets Lavinia hold the basin and collect their blood. By the end of the play, Lavina has exhausted her function in the society. She is a ruined woman and since her rape is revenged, Titus will not let her suffer any more. He prepares a dinner for Saturnisus and Tamora, serving the dish made from Chirons and Demetrus cooked heads. After being asked by Titus if Virginius did the right thing by killing his raped daughter, Saturnisus replies that the girl should not survive her shame,25. Therefore, Titus kills Lavinia, who is dressed in a veil, prepared for her own death. It is almost with a sense of relief that we see her murdered by her father and we consider it as an act of mercy. Titus last words And, with thy shame, thy father's sorrow die!26 imply that she could no longer cope with her shame, as well as he. She, as well as her brother Mutius, is killed according to the standard of honor. Lavinia, disembodied and raped, could not survive in the world of patriarchal society. Therefore, she has to be destroyed by the arm of her father, her owner for whose mistakes she paid for.

24 25

Ibid,Act II,Scene iv Ibid,Act V,Scene iii 26 Ibid,Act V,Scene iii


Tamora, the other main female character in Titus, is Lavinias direct opposite. She can be seen as a precursor of Lady Macbeth; she has a strong desire for power, her husband is the weaker one in their marriage and she is a great manipulator. The motive that governs her actions in the play is revenge and she becomes an incarnation of it by the end of the play. She is sympathetic in her first appearance, when she is seen pleading for her son's life, but becomes increasingly unsympathetic as the play progresses. Her cruelty and her almost masculine behavior are the product of patriarchal values of war, revenge and hatred. We first encounter Tamora as a captive, brought as a trophy of Titus victory over Goths. Her first lines, while demonstrating a mothers love in pleading for the life of her son, are nonetheless glib and superficial: Stay, Roman brethren! Gracious conqueror,/Victorious Titus, rue the tears I shed--/A mothers tears in passion for her son.27 While pleading for her sons life, she also compliments her captor with the words of praise. Since her plea for mercy is not worth anything to Titus traditional rules, Tamora has to witness the murder of her first-born son. Although she humbly praises Titus for his great military skills and compares his love for his sons to hers, Titus is deaf for her prayers. She states that she is a humiliated queen, whom they brought to Rome and made her kneel on the streets .Furthermore; she tries to explain that in the same way that Titus noble sons fought for their country, her sons also did the same thing for theirs, with the same piety. She begs for Titus to be merciful: Sweet mercy is nobility's true badge:/Thrice noble Titus, spare my first-born son28. Nevertheless, Titus replies that religiously they ask a sacrifice29 which means that he must obey the rules due to the laws of the country and their religious beliefs. At this point, it seems that the Romans appear to be more barbarous than the Goths. In their civilized patriarchal society, they still perform a ritual of human sacrifice for the Gods. Tamoras furious cry:O cruel, irreligious piety!30 marks the beginning of her transformation from a mother and a queen into a ruthless incarnation of Revenge, seduced by the incredible lust for vengeance. We can observe the process of a mother becoming a killer due to the laws imposed on her by patriarchal society. A woman, who is supposed to be a caring and loving being, internalizes the masculine principle and stripes herself of her femininity in order to revenge her child.

27 28 29 30

Ibid, Act I , scene i Ibid, Act I , scene i Ibid, Act I , scene i Ibid, Act I , scene i


After Titus Andronicus killed her son, he decides to give Tamora and her sons as a gift to the new Emperor, Saturnisus, To him that, for your honour and your state,/Will use you nobly and your followers.31 Titus words can be interpreted in two ways: the Emperor will treat the queen well, or he will use her as an object. Therefore, we can see that Titus treats Tamora as a possession in the same way that he treats his daughter. The Emperor is thankful for the gift; he tells the queen to cheer up, and that princely shall be her usage every way 32which means that he will respect her and treat her as a queen. In this part of the play, we can conclude from Saturnisus words that he already regrets his decision to marry Lavinia. It seems like he admires the queen of Goths for her courage and passion, which Lavinia lacks. After he has been betrayed by Lavinia and his brother, it seems like he is relieved because he can now ask Tamora to be his wife. From this moment on, Tamora is finally able to start planning her revenge. Despite having just lost a son, she is able to assess and take advantage of an opportunity presented. She makes promises to Saturninus that she hopes will encourage him to take her as his wife: And here, in sight of heaven, to Rome I swear/If Saturnine advance the Queen of Goths/She will a handmaid be to his desires,/A loving nurse, a mother to his youth33. And then, once she believes she has his attention and he is under her power, she moves on to manipulation. She has the ability to use language to manipulate others. In comparison to Lavinias silence, Tamora uses words to achieve her goals. After all, as the Queen of Goths she was the head of a great and fierce tribe of warriors. In order to control the Goth tribe, she needed the ability to use words to control others, to focus on her own desires and the ability to disregard the rights of others. Therefore, she is capable of quickly turning unfavorable circumstances into opportunity. She moves beyond her mothers grief for the loss of her son in an instant, and becomes a decisive avenger. She accepts to marry Saturnisus because it serves her purpose. Immediately, she takes the male role in this marriage, leading the younger Saturnisus. She cunningly uses her female powers to make her husband forgive Titus, thus wanting to appear gentle and forgiving in the eyes of the Roman people. Nevertheless, she takes Saturnisus aside and tells him privately that it would be better for him to forgive Titus and accept his friendship because his throne is not stable yet, and people could easily take Titus side. Then she declares her vicious plan: I'll find a day to massacre them all34. From her words, we can see that the cruelty grows stronger in her which would enable her to influence her husband and her sons.
31 32 33 34

Ibid, Act I , scene i Ibid, Act I , scene i Ibid, Act I , scene i Ibid, Act I , scene i


In the first Act of the play, Tamoras lover Aaron talks about her wit and beauty, and compares her to Goddesses and sirens, because of her power to seduce a man and then lead him to his death. He says that she is This siren, that will charm Rome's Saturnine,/ And see his shipwreck and his

commonweal's35 implying that Tamoras femininity will eventually destroy the Empire. In the second act, Tamoras feminine side and her power of seduction are brought to surface. Being a mature woman, she knows that she cannot abide by the rules of chastity like Lavinia, and uses her sex to influence both her lover Aron and the Emperor. She is with Aaron in a forest, while her husband is hunting. She approaches him and lavishes him with gentle words: We may, each wreathed in the other's arms,/Our pastimes done, possess a golden slumber;36. She wants to make love to him while her husband is hunting deer in the woods. She is here taking a role of an adulteress, stepping out from the pattern by choosing an evil, black Moor for her lover. This behavior was outrageous for a woman in Shakespeares time and even more so in the Roman Empire. However, it is of great significance that Tamora is a Goth, she was born in another culture, and her values are perhaps different from the Roman, civilized ones where black people were treated as slaves. Unfortunately, Aaron rejects Tamoras offer with the words: Blood and revenge are hammering in my head.37. This implies that the feeling of revenge and shedding of blood became more important than the most important feeling in life- love between two human beings. Aaron is concentrated on revenge to such an extent that he cannot make love to her. Nevertheless, she controls Aaron too; he becomes her ambassador of revenge. He organizes and plans everything, and Tamora only gives her consent. They are caught by Bassianus and Lavinia , who begin to insult them. Aaron leaves, and Tamora stays alone with them and when her sons Demetrius and Chiron appear, she begins to act as a victim:These two have 'ticed me hither to this place And then they call'd me foul adulteress, Lascivious Goth 38. She tells a story of how they brought her there, and been planning to tie her to a tree and let her stay the night there, in the dark, listening to monstrous cries. She wants her sons to revenge her honor. Demetrius and Chiron immediately stab Bassianus and he dies. Therefore, Tamora is here seen as a manipulating mother whose sons would do everything to defend her honor. Furthermore, Tamora encourages her sons to rape Lavinia and it is she who suggests that they should make sure that she never talks about it. Her cruelty is on its highest at this point in the play, when she does not feel
35 36 37 38

Ibid, Ibid, Ibid, Ibid,

Act II, Act II, Act II, Act II,

scene i scene i scene i scene i


compassion for poor Lavinia, and does not want to listen to her prayers. Indeed, she implies that her refusal to listen to Lavinia is a direct consequence of Titus' refusal to listen to her pleas at the beginning of a play. Her seemingly masculine immunity to pity is actually the byproduct of a deepseated grief. We have here a mother, who turns her sons into rapists and killers, a mother without compassion. The reason that she does not want to help Lavinia is that she internalized patriarchal values and now she uses them cruelly to punish Lavinia for her misbehavior. Later in the play, we once again see Tamora as a mother, giving birth to another child. However, the childs father is Aaron and the queen wants to kill it because she does not want the Emperor to find out. It seems that Tamora is crueler than ever, she is focused on her revenge and she does not want anything that will stand in her way. Moreover, since she does not want a black child, her love child, it is possible that she accepted the values of white civilization which has no compassion for black people. Just like Aaron did, she rejects love because of her lust for revenge. In Act IV, when she and Saturninus learn of an approaching army under Titus' son, Tamora encourages her husband by telling him that he is a mighty ruler and that he has enormous power as such. She promises to enchant the old Andronicus/With words more sweet, and yet more dangerous,/Than baits to fish, or honey-stalks to sheep. 39With her sons, Tamora goes to Titus in disguise, pretending to be Revenge, a spirit from within the earth who came to help the mad old man achieve his vengeance. At this point in the play, she becomes an incarnation of Revenge: I am Revenge: sent from the infernal kingdom,/To ease the gnawing vulture of thy mind,/By working wreakful vengeance on thy foes.

She introduces her sons as Rape and Murder, her faithful

ministers. This is a turning point in the play and it represents Tamoras tragic mistake. Her attempt to mock Titus' revenge and ruin him at the banquet is the greatest miscalculation in the play. Without their help, Titus may have never been presented with the opportunity for such a horrific revenge. Indeed, prior to their arrival before him he seemed content to continue his letter-writing approach. Thinking that she has won, she leaves her sons with Titus thinking that they would be safe with an insane man. Instead, Titus kills her sons and prepares them in a meal that he will serve to their mother. In the final act of the play, Titus dehumanizes Tamora on an almost unimaginable level. She consumes her own children in an unnatural act which is more suitable for a beast than for a human
39 40

Ibid, Act IV, scene iv Ibid, Act V, scene ii


being. Tamora is once again acting against the roles of the society; apart from having an affair with a black man and being able to control her husband, she now eats the flash of her children. Nevertheless, her punishment is truly horrifying and she does not have much time to deal with it, since she is immediately murdered by Titus. He kills her out of revenge and hatred, but it seems like she is supposed to be killed since a life after having eaten her children would be unbearable, even for her. After her death, the new Emperor Lucius gives instruction to his people what to do with Tamoras dead body by calling her heinous tiger who should have no funeral rite, nor man m mourning weeds,/No mournful bell shall ring her burial41. He orders them to throw her forth to beasts and birds of prey42 because her life was devoid of pity. Therefore, he will not have any pity for her. Lucius cruelty shows that although Rome has a new Emperor, nothing is changed. He continues the revenge, and with his brutality he proves that the ideals of violence will outlive Roman society.

Julie Taymors Titus

This modern movie interpretation of Shakespeares play starts with an image of a boy with a paper bag on his head, with holes only for his mouth and eyes. He is playing with toy soldiers, violently cutting their heads off and covering them with ketchup. There is some movie on the television. Suddenly, the boy is interrupted by the explosion just outside his window. A strange man appears, dressed as a pilot from the World War II. He snatches the boy; they pass through a mysterious door and find themselves in a Colloseum of fourth century Rome. There is a stage in the center of it and the crowd is cheering outside, standing both for the people of Rome and an audience watching the show. The soldiers march in, carrying the coffins of Titus dead sons. Some of them are riding horses, while the others are riding motorbikes which mean that there is a mixture of modern and ancient. There are cars running on the streets, the modern music can be heard from the bars, and there are rooms filled with machines of the modern age. Even Rome itself is compared to Rome in the time of Mussolinis Fascist Italy. In the movie, Lavinias character is portrayed just like in the play; the only difference is that now we can see her suffering. The rape of Lavinia is as some kind of nightmare; she is crying while


Ibid, Act V, scene iii Ibid, Act V, scene iii


her rapists are laughing. When Marcus finds her in the woods, she is standing on a stump in a clearing with her white dress blood-stained and her hands replaced by branches. She is compared to a lamb taken by a tiger. Lavinias numbness and her suffering can be clearly seen on her face and in her empty stare. Finally, in the last scene, her obedience is exemplified when she enters the room, wearing a black veil and comes to her father, waiting for him to kill her. There is a strong accent on Tamoras feminine sexuality in this movie. She, as the queen of Goths, has tattoos on her body and is wearing gold and fur. Her savage nature and her lust for revenge are portrayed in the scene in front of the palace: Titus and Tamora are standing opposite each other while the cut-off limbs, arms and a headless naked body of her dead son stands between them in the background. We can see the enormous hatred in her eyes and her increasing power. She is also portrayed as a mother who is too close with her sons, especially with Chiron. We watch her trick Aaron, Saturnisus, and even her sons into pleasing her whims. To sum up, the movie starts with a boy entering the world of violence where he acts like a spectator and occasionally as an actor. We later find out that he is a Young boy Lucius, Titus grandson. He is exposed to absurd outbreaks of violence throughout the movie. Consequently, it seems that children then and children now do not have a good example in their society. The violence is everywhere and it is justified by the system. Nevertheless, there is a significant difference between Titus and Shakespeares play: at the end of the play, Lucius becomes the Emperor of Rome but there is no hope since he is as cruel as the one before him. However, at the end of the movie, Young Lucius takes Aarons and Tamoras black child and walking towards the rising sun, he leaves the setting of a play. There is a union of two races, the black and the white, and together, they are heading towards the brighter future. In the end, revenge and cruelty are forgotten and humanity and compassion win the battle.

Farewell: Commend me to My Kind Lord!


Othello43 is a tragic play about true love between two human beings that is destroyed by the rules of patriarchal society. The plot revolves around the villain Iago whose plan is to destroy Othello, the Moor. The setting of the play is Venice, then notorious for its multinational population and its approving of the unconventionality. Desdemona, the plays tragic heroine, is first encountered at the beginning of the play in the conversation between Iago and Rodrigo. Rodrigo is desperately in love with Desdemona, but she does not pay any attention to his feelings, having already refused many rich men who asked for her hand. Iago tricks Rodrigo into going to Desdemonas house and informing her father Barbantio, a senator that his daughter has eloped with Othello, the black Moor of Venice. They shout:Awake! what, ho, Brabantio! thieves! thieves! thieves!/ Look to your house, your daughter and your bags!/ Thieves! thieves!.44 When Brabantio answers the door, they tell him that he has been robbed and that a black ram is tupping his white ewe. Even now, at the beginning of the play, we can see that Desdemona is being considered as her fathers possession. He is robbed and she is stolen which entails that her father and the society treats her as an object. Moreover, Iago tells him that his daughter, his white, chaste eve is making love to an old black ram, and if he does not hurry up the black devil will make him a grandchild. Iago's vivid and crude description of the lovemaking between a black man and a white woman is meant to scare Brabantio into thinking that Desdemona's lamb-like purity and whiteness are being contaminated by her sexual relationship with a black man. At first, Brabantio does not believe in these accusations, but later on, when he discovers that his daughter has left home, he becomes furious. His daughter has married a black man and all that without his permission. He immediately goes to Senate and wants Othello to be trialed. When he finally confronts Othello, he exclaims O thou foul thief, where hast thou stow'd my daughter?/ Damn'd as thou art, thou hast enchanted her;45. He again refers to Desdemona as his property and he insults Othello, telling him that he tricked his daughter by enchanting her with black magic. This implies that Desdemona is incapable of having an affair because she does not have a will of her own. He calls Othello a thing thus directly insulting his different race. They go to court together, and Othello confesses that he married Desdemona. Brabantio cannot believe his ears : A maiden never bold;/Of spirit so still and quiet, that her motion/ Blush'd at herself; and
43 44

Shakespeare, William, Othello, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Wordsworth Editions Ltd, Ware, 1996 Ibid, Act I, scene i Ibid, Act I, scene ii



she, in spite of nature,/ Of years, of country, credit, every thing,/ To fall in love with what she fear'd to look on!46 At this point in the play, we can clearly see Brabantios attitude towards women. Speaking of Desdemona before she erred, he describes her as perfection, Of spirit still and quiet and A maiden never bold. By expressing these qualities of women in the masculine domain of the Venetian senate, Brabantio develops the traditional expectations of women in a patriarchal society. Moreover, when she marries Othello, going against his wishes and stepping out of the ideal mould of woman, he describes her erring as Against all rules of nature. Venetian society presents its own social beliefs as immutable laws of nature. It is natural for women to be feminine and to do as their husbands and fathers tell them. It is unnatural for them to do anything else. In addition, it seems that Venetian society is a liberal one, since black people and Jews were allowed to live there without any judgment. However, it was obviously all pretence. Everyone pretends to like Othello and they respect his military skills but when it comes to marrying their daughters, they call him a devil. In Senate, Othello tells a story of how Desdemona and he fell in love, explaining that She loved me for the dangers I had pass'd,/ And I loved her that she did pity the 47 which means that Desdemona was fascinated by the adventurous stories he told her, and by his courage and endurance. To a chaste girl like her, Othello seems as a heroic figure, an epitome of masculinity. Perhaps this is the reason that she fell in love with him. After his speech, Desdemona comes to the courthouse, and Brabantio asks her: Do you perceive in all this noble company /Where most you owe obedience? 48. She utters her first words in the play: My noble father,/I do perceive here a divided duty:............ I am hitherto your daughter: but here's my husband, /And so much duty as my mother show'd To you, preferring you before her father,/So much I challenge that I may profess Due to the Moor my lord.49 Desdemona disobeys her father and decides to obey her husband now. Just like her mother was obliged to obey him, and not her grandfather, she is now supposed to be on her husbands side. According to her words, we can see that women were treated as properties of their husbands for generations, even in the Venetian unconventional society. It seems that Desdemona shows defiance, first by marrying a black man and then by disobeying her father. She acts unconventionally for her time, courageously breaking the borders of the system.
46 47 48 49

Ibid, Act I, scene ii Ibid, Act I, scene ii Ibid, Act I, scene ii Ibid, Act I, scene ii


However, although at the beginning we perceive Desdemona as disobedient daughter and a free, adventurous spirit, she still fails to assert herself. Although she disagrees with her father, she formulates this in terms of merely switching her duty from father to husband. Her ownership is passed from Brabantio to Othello. In their time, it was natural for a woman to obey her lord, but it was unnatural for a man to choose love over his duty. Consequently, when Desdemona asks the Duke to let her go to Cyprus to war with her husband, Othello responds that he would never let her presence there affect his military duty. This entails that no matter how much he loves Desdemona, his country and his job will always have more priority. Thus, love is replaced by duty to ones country and war. He says that he will go to Cyprus by a ship, and Desdemona will be sent by another ship with one of his officers - A man he is of honest and trust:/ To his conveyance I assign my wife50. Othello here talks about assigning Desdemona, which can be interpreted as her being his possession which needs to be transported and guarded. Equally important is the fact that the Duke and the senators, being the representatives of the patriarchal system in Venice, also treat Desdemona as her husbands property. The first senator, whishing Othello well, concludes by hoping that he will use Desdemona well. The word use seems to express the phrase look after, but also supports Venetian expectation of women- that they are to respect the wills of their husbands who can treat them as they wish. Furthermore, enraged and humiliated Brabantio warns Othello Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see: She has deceived her father, and may thee.51This again proves their opinion of women- if she has deceived her father; she betrayed the most sacred thing, with father figure being on the throne of patriarchal system. The idea is that an unruly daughter will make an unruly and promiscuous wife. In Act II, the function of women in marriage is also portrayed by Othellos loving words to Decdemona: Come, my dear love,/The purchase made, the fruits are to ensue52. Marriage is described as an act of purchase, where a woman is bought by her husband and is expected to fulfil his sexual desires in return to the privilege. Later in the play, when Iago plants a seed of jealousy into Othellos mind, he warns Othello that Desdemona has deceived her father by marrying him. Othellos response is: And so she did which
50 51 52










Instead of seeing Desdemona's decision to elope with him as a sign of his wife's loyalty to him,
Ibid, Act I, scene iii Ibid, Act I, scene iii Ibid, Act II, scene iii


Othello sees Desdemona's willingness to elope as a prelude to her infidelity. Moreover, when Othello talks about Desdemonas alleged deceit with Cassio , he says that he stole her from him, ultimately treating Desdemona just like her father did. Desdemona is one of the most loyal wives in Shakespeares plays. She is an affectionate, sensual, and submissive wife. When she speaks about Othello, we have an impression that she married a God; she has only words of praise for him. Her love causes her to conform to the ideal feminine behavior; she blindly idealizes him without noticing his faults. Unfortunately, because of her good intentions in trying to help Cassio get back his position, she intensifies Othellos jealousy. She knows how to use her feminine powers to manipulate her husband. She swears to Cassio that she will help him get back his position and she states metaphorically that her lord will never rest, which means that she will use her sexuality to get what she wants. However, there is no evidence in the play that Othello and Desdemona ever consummated their love. Perhaps it could be the reason why Othello is obsessed with her sexuality. Throughout the play, there are numerous speeches about her betrayal and her body. Moaning the fact that he did not know earlier of his wifes supposed infidelity, Othello argues that he would have been happier if the general camp,/Pioneers and all, had tasted her sweet body,/So I had nothing known. 53 Nevertheless, as he becomes more obsessed with his jealousy, it seems like he is no longer impressed with Desdemonas body. Speaking to Iago about his planned murder of Desdemona, Othello states that he will not expostulate with her, lest her body and beauty unprovide my mind again54. He is afraid that if he speaks to his wife, her overpowering sexuality will distract him from his intention. Her jealousy makes him look at Desdemona as some strumpet who is determined to use her body to deceive him. Later, on his way to murder his wife, he states that Thy bed, lust-stained, shall with lusts blood be spotted55. The repetition of the word lust, combined with the sexual associations of Desdemonas bed once again draws attention to Othellos preoccupation with sensual matters. Thus it seems that patriarchal society labels female sexual power as something evil. Othellos fear of Desdemonas sexuality erupts into slanderous abuse on a number of occasions. He refers to her as whore, a subtle whore and a cunning whore, in addition to multiple references to her as a strumpet. In any case, he gets away with it. Since
53 54 55

Ibid, Act III, scene iii Ibid, Act IV, scene i Ibid, Act V, scene i


Desdemona does not object to this, it is suggested that she has internalized societys expectations of her. Ironically, when Desdemona loses her handkerchief, she is very upset, but she thanks God that her husband is a reasonable man who will not torture her because of it. She believes that he is true of mind and made of no such baseness/As jealous creatures are 56. She does not know yet that she is completely wrong and that Othellos jealousy will destroy their lives. Soon, their relationship starts to fall apart; Othello has mood swings and is often very suspicious of her actions. She still acts as an obedient wife, continuing to trust Othellos judgment. However, there comes a moment when Othello is unable to hide his jealous ravings any more. He strikes her in front of his friends and calls her devil. The most surprising thing is that she does not react to his insults; she obediently leaves the room with the words that she will not stay to offend him. As a result, Lodovico praises her submissive nature. Desdemona is victimized by Othello although she has done nothing to hurt him, but his jealousy is justified in the eyes of patriarchal society. She internalized her role as a wife to such an extent that she thinks that she does not have any right to defend herself. She must accept his strikes and quietly leave the room. Later in the play, when Othello openly accuses her of adultery, Desdemona is shocked since such thing is unimaginable for her. She insists that she is his loyal wife but Othello is so engrossed in his jealousy that he considers her every word to be a lie. When in the middle of their fighting he orders her to dismiss Emilia and wait for him in their bedroom, Desdemona responds with submissive words: I will, my lord and she once again does not question his intentions. She says to Emilia that she has to respect his decision and that they must not now displease him. Emilia is not pleased with this and she says that she wishes Desdemona never met Othello. However, Desdemona answers that even his stubbornness, his cheques, his frownshave grace and favour in them.57 Her love is so blind that she cannot admit that something is terribly wrong with Othellos behavior. She does not question his actions both because she is too much in love and because she is not supposed to question her husbands decisions in the patriarchal society. Desdemona is so incorporated in her role of Othellos wife that she tells to Emilia that if she ever dies before her, she wants to be buried wrapped in her wedding sheets. Immediately after that, in her conversation with

Ibid, Act III, scene iv Ibid, Act IV, scene iii



Emilia, Desdemona reveals that besides her loyalty to her husband, she also has a very conventional attitude towards marriage. She cannot imagine a woman who would commit adultery. When Emilia admits that she would do it if she had the chance, Desdemona is disgusted since she would not do it for the whole world. Her attitude implies that she was brought up with patriarchal values and she internalized them. There is no alternative for her, she has a husband, she is fateful to him and she cannot imagine being with another man. It seems like she does not have her identity- at the beginning of the play, she managed to break free from her father, but in this marriage, she is just a passive participant who does not have a will of her own. Her free spirit has withered, and she now acts like her husbands puppet, with her destiny in his hands. Her feelings and her actions are not important to her husband, because in his eyes she is a woman who lost her chastity and ruined his reputation. Othellos angry remark : I will chop her into messes: cuckold me! means that he feels that he had been a cheated man, and that he cannot be a soldier anymore because of that, because being a soldier requires masculinity. By her supposed adultery, she made him a ridiculous figure, to be laughed at by whole Venice. When Othello comes and tells her that he is going to kill her, it seems like she does not have strength to struggle with him; she tries to prove that her only sin was loving him, but Othello is enchanted by unjustified jealousy and he mercilessly strangles her. Nevertheless, even in her final breath she tries to protect him saying that she has committed suicide: Commend me to my kind lord: O, farewell!58 Basically, she blames herself for the abuse she endured, placing Othellos interest before her own. Her love for him is so strong and her obedience of her husband last until the end. As a conclusion, a woman is suffocated because of her husbands hurt masculinity. Contrary to Desdemona, Emilia is the only character in the play who in the end of the play realizes that something is terribly wrong with the position of women in patriarchal society. She is Desdemonas maid, older and more cynical. She and Desdemona develop a close relationship since they both have troubles with their husbands: Emilia is not satisfied with her marriage with Iago and Desdemona is tortured by Othellos jealousy. Similarly to Desdemona, Emilia is an obedient wife. Iagos chauvinistic behavior and his low opinion of women are depicted in many places in the play. He offends his wife in public; he criticizes her of talking too much at night and trying to seduce him when he wants to sleep. Even

Ibid, Act V, scene ii


though Desdemona is furious because of Iagos behavior, Emilias only response is that he is not supposed to offend her. When Desdemona asks him what he thinks about her, he says that if a woman is pretty and smart, she uses her good looks to achieve her goal. Iago goes even further in his law opinion of women that he states that even an unattractive and stupid woman is able to seduce a man into being intimate with her. His ideal women is the one who is supposed To suckle fools and chronicle small beer,59 which in modern English means that she should raise babies and clip coupons. Admonishing his wife for being a nag in Act II, Iago goes on to create this stereotype by suggesting that all women are not as they appear. He seems to believe that all women are, essentially, wild-cats and housewives when they lie with their husbands every night. Moreover, when he talks to Rodrigo about seducing Desdemona, he tells him that Desdemona will soon be bored by Othello and she will want a new lover. He advises Rodrigo that he should put money in his purse and in that way he can win Desdemonas love. Desdemona will be tired of Othellos body and she will want somebody younger. In other words, Iagos opinion of women is that they are capable of anything when it comes to money and that they use men like puppets and then throw them when somebody better comes along. Therefore, it is quite easy to impress a woman, just show her some money. According to Iagos actions in the play, it seems that he exhibits little love for his wife, insulting her in public and ultimately killing her. From his conversation with Rodrigo, we can see that he does not believe in love, only in lust. In his opinion, people are rational beings and they must use their rational thinking to prevent lust from overwhelming them. Also, his desire for revenge on Othello is, in part, dictated by his view of women as possessions. He believes that Emilia cheated him with Othello it is thought abroad that twixt my sheets/Hes done my office60. The thought that the lusty Moor/hath leaped into my seat drives Iago mad, the thought that Othello used his property. He deprives his wife of her humanity by addressing her as an office and a seat. Nevertheless, Emilia seems like she does not care about his opinion and it is questionable whether she loves him or not. Despite all this, she seems eager to please him. She steals Desdemona's handkerchief in the hope that Iago will appreciate her for once. "I nothing but to please his fantasy,61" she says as she does so. She hopes that she will get a little attention in return,
59 60 61

Ibid, Act II, scene i Ibid, Act I, scene iii Ibid, Act III, scene iii


but she is cruelly rejected by Iago, who grabs the handkerchief and tells her to go away. This Emilias fateful move has devastating consequences and ultimately causes Desdemonas death and her own. Even though she still obeys her husband, Emilia is very critical of men and patriarchal system in general. Emilia argues that women are physically no different to men: Let husbands know, Their wives have sense like them; they see and smell,/ And have their palates both for sweet and sour/As husbands have62She goes on to say that in addition to sharing some identical physical characteristics, they also suffer from the same affections, desires for sport, and frailty. The only difference, Emilia emphasizes, is that men are mentally weaker: it is frailty that thus errs63. This links to her earlier description of the appetite of males, comparing them to stomachs that eat women hungrily, and when they are full, they bleach us. Emilia suggests that men are beastly and simple, unable to control their desires with logical thought. It is perhaps ironic that the actions of Iago and Othello in this play confirm her arguments. Her opinion is that it is their husbands' faults If wives do fall: say that they slack their duties,/And pour our treasures into foreign laps, /Or else break out in peevish jealousies,/Throwing restraint upon us; or say they strike us, Or scant our former having in despite64 According to Emilia, husbands cheat on their wives and often physically abuse them, thus motivating them to engage in an affair. What's more, women have sexual desires, just like men, and women are also "frail" and imperfect, just like some husbands. In other words, Emilia recognizes there is a double standard when it comes to gender and fidelity and she heartily objects to it. After Desdemonas death, Emilia has a chance to redeem herself. She discovers Iagos plotting and reveals it to the world. She declares: Good gentlemen, let me have leave to speak:/'Tis proper I obey him, but not now.65 This proves that she knows her place in society and she knows she is supposed to obey Iago, but she will not, for the first time in the play. She breaks free from the boundaries imposed on her by the patriarchal society and she wants to speak. She even says that she may not return home. Iago, not being able to withstand the humiliation, kills her. Nevertheless, Emilia dies knowing because she realized that she is not inferior to men. She decisively exclaims:
62 63 64 65

Ibid, Act IV, scene iii Ibid, Act IV, scene iii Ibid Ibid, Act V, scene ii


I peace? No, I will speak as liberal as the north./Let heaven and men and devils, let them all, /All, all cry shame against me, yet Ill speak.66 It is her final resistance against male principle, she speaks out loud and nobody can make her stop. She destroys Iago in the end, even though he underestimated her. This shows us that women, too, have power of destruction. The best example of male objectification of women in the play is portrayed through character of Bianca. Although she is in the background of the plot, her role is very important. Shakespeare shows to his audience how women, in both Elizabethan and Venetian society, are used and perceived as possessions, secondary to the grand plans and desires of men. Bianca is a Venetian courtesan who is madly in love with Cassio. However, Cassio loves to play games with her and to ridicule her emotions. He loves her sexuality, but he refuses to be seen with her in public. In Act III, scene iv, they meet on the street and are having a conversation, when Cassio soon requires her to leave, saying that he is waiting for Othello and that he is not allowed to be seen with a woman. He adds: Not that I love you not.67 clearly ridiculing her emotions. When Cassio turns her down, Bianca consoles herself by arguing that she must be circumstanced which means that she must put up with Cassios behavior since she has no other choice. Patriarchal society weighs heavily on the shoulders of women like her; they feel that they must support the men and defer to them, even if the actions of the men are questionable. In the same way that Cassio does not treat Bianca as a lady, other men in the play do it too. When Iagos states his opinion of Bianca and his description of Cassios behavior towards her: Now will I question Cassio of Bianca,/A huswife that by selling her desires /Buys herself bread and clothes:/ it is a creature That dotes on Cassio; /as 'tis the strumpet's plague /To beguile many and be beguiled by one: /He, when he hears of her, /cannot refrain From the excess of laughter68 he calls her a creature and reveals the fact that Cassio is actually only mocking Bianca. According to the values of the society, a man should marry a lady, not a strumpet. Therefore, even if he liked Bianca, Cassio could not imagine having a serious relationship with such a woman. In the Act V, scene i, when Cassio wounds Rodrigo, Iago calls Bianca and she immediately comes, worried for Cassio. However, from the moment she comes in, vicious Iago starts to insult her by calling her trash and he suspects it is her fault that Rodrigo attacked Cassio. He says that this is the fruit of whoring and he arrests her although she is no guilty. Therefore, we can see that
66 67 68

Ibid Ibid, Act III, scene iii Ibid, Act IV, scene i


men in Venetian patriarchal society have the power to accuse women of plotting, murder or adultery. It is not important whether they are wrongfully accused or not; in either way, they are punished. All three women of the play are accused of prostitution and inappropriate sexual conduct, yet it appears that none of them are guilty. As male society falls apart in Cyprus, its constituent members seen to vent their anger by labeling all of the female characters whores. When things go wrong, it appears to be acceptable for men to blame the women.

In Paula Vogels modern version of Othello, Desdemona: A play about a handkerchief, the author focuses on the three female character from Othello: Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca. To emphasize that this is a play from the female perspective, there are no male characters in the play but we only hear their names in womens conversations. Although they do not appear in the play, Othello, Cassio and Iago influence their behavior. In the first scene, we see the famous handkerchief, the one with little red strawberries that ruins Desdemonas life. Emilia steals the handkerchief and leaves. From that moment on, Emilia and Desdemona lead numerous conversations until the end of the play. In the stage directions, we learn that Desdemona is from the upper-class, Emilia speaks cockney which implies that she comes from the lower classes and Bianca is Irish. Desdemona is an adulterous wife; Emilia a chaste wife; and Bianca a prostitute who wishes to become a wife. Contrary to Shakespeares Othello, Desdemona is here portrayed as a wild, capricious woman who uses her sexuality to travel the world. She is married to Othello, but she indulges in affairs with other men all the time. For her it is simply natural to have more partners. Moreover, Desdemonas language is vulgar since she swears all the time which was not considered appropriate for a woman in her time. From her conversation with Emilia, we learn that she was not a virgin before her wedding night with Othello. She and Emilia bought some chicken blood which Desdemona spilled on her wedding sheets to make it look like it was her blood. Desdemona would not have to do this if it were not for that barbaric custom that the wedding sheets were supposed to be displayed in the sun for one month so that everyone could see the proof of ladys virginity. As their conversation goes further, Desdemona reveals that Othellos accusations make her nervous, since Cassio is the only one that she has not slept with. While looking for her handkerchief, Desdemona finds a hoof-pick and she immediately has erotic associations with it.

Despite her unconventional attitudes and behavior, Desdemona says one important thing about Othello: she married him because she thought that he was different. Despite his different race, it turned out that under that exotic faade was a porcelain white Venetian. Therefore, this adaptation of the play openly states that what is left unsaid in Othello: even though he has black skin, he internalized rules and values of patriarchal order and white race. When it comes to Emilia, she is a total opposite to Desdemona. We learn that she was a virgin before she met Iago, and he is the only man she has ever been with. She believes that a woman should be fateful and chaste and completely devoted to her husband. Emilia detests Iago, but she stays with him because it is her only chance of climbing the social ladder, since she is not born into an aristocratic family like Desdemona. In contrast to Emilias character in Othello, she cannot imagine cheating on her husband. Basically, she and Desdemona have now reversed their roles. Emilia appears to be Desdemonas fateful friend, while in fact she laughs behind her back and constantly lies to her about the handkerchief. Moreover, she does not approve of Desdemonas friendship with Bianca and she does not want her in their house. What will the woman in town say? asks Emilia, obviously concerned with public opinion. In addition to her submissive behavior, Emilia is obsessed with religion and she uses it to justify her role in society. At the end of the play, she confesses that she has stolen the handkerchief. Desdemona seems to understand and is not angry, since she does not care about it; she only wants to show it to Othello as a sign of her loyalty. The significance of relationships between these women is emphasized in the play. Emilia hates Bianca and she openly insults her whenever she has a chance. Therefore, it can be concluded that Emilia is very conservative and that she is not able to support Biancas job as a prostitute. Nevertheless, Emilia seems to care for Desdemona, even though she lies to her about the handkerchief and laughs behind her back because of her reputation in Venice. She ultimately wants to escape with Desdemona and leave her husband and everything behind her. On the other hand, Desdemona seems to prefer Biancas company until the moment Bianca suspects that Desdemona has an affair with Cassio. Since she is deeply in love with him and she secretly hopes that he will marry her, she is furious at Desdemona and their friendship ends there. In the act 27, we see that Emilia is finally aware of her subordinate role in her marriage and she realizes that men only see each other in their eyes. This statement signifies mens desire for power and supremacy and their


attitude to women as their possession and their inferiors. Finally, we have the two women who try to free themselves of patriarchal system, and it is ambiguous in the end whether they succeed or fail. The play ends with the scene of Emilia combing Desdemonas hair while she is waiting for Othello to come to bed. It seems like everything that happened was a dream that Emilia and Desdemona had in Othello. However, we are still presented with a chance to see what would have happened if these women were different. Contrary to Desdemona, Djanet Sears adaptation of Othello, Harlem Duet, deals with a totally different aspect of the play. The plot of the play is placed in a time before Othello married Desdemona, when he was still married to his first wife, Billie. The play is set in a renovated apartment at the comer of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Boulevards in contemporary Harlem and it is centered around the break-up of the marriage of Othello and Billie, a middle-class, professional African-American couple. Billie has worked hard in order to pay for her husbands PhD studies in anthropology and he has just abandoned her for Mona, his white colleague at Columbia University. Othello and Mona are going to Cyprus to supervise some graduate students and before his departure, he comes to Billies apartment to collect his belongings, among which are Shakespeares collected works and a white handkerchief, given to Othello by his mother. Since Billie is a student of psychology, she examines Othellos decision to leave her for a white woman. During the course of the play, both of them question black masculinity and their position in a society governed by the whites. In addition, Shakespeares Emilia and Bianca are replaced by Billies sister-in-law Amah and her landlady Magi. They are here to support her and to provide her with female solidarity. Nevertheless, the return of her father, Canada, with whom Billie does not have a good relationship, only makes Billies condition worse. Her father, a figure representing patriarchy, and Othello have both abandoned her and now she is unable to question their behavior in a rational way. Instead, she turns to alchemy, putting poisonous magical portions on Othellos handkerchief. In the end of the play, having suffered a nervous breakdown, Billie ends up in a mental institution with Amah, Magi and Canada being by her side. It is important to mention that there are two sub-plots in the play and they are both set in Harlem, one in 1860 and the other in 1928. In the first one, a couple, simply named HIM and HER, are former slaves and they are planning to start a new life of freedom in Canada. Nevertheless, they do not achieve their goal, since HIM cannot leave Miss Dessy, the white woman for whom they work.


In the other sub-plot there are HE and SHE, they are in the dressing room, and he is rehearsing his lines for his role of Othello in Shakespeares play. HE is in love with the white actress who plays the role of Desdemona. Later in the play, we find out that SHE killed HE with a razor. These two subplots are significant since they emphasize the passage of time and possibility that such things happened in earlier epochs. Othello, although he is black, is tired of everyones obsession with race, and he finds it easier to be with Mona because she is white. To a Black woman, I represent every Black man she has ever been with and with whom there was still so much to work out. The White women I loved saw me could see me . [ . . .] I am a very- single, very intelligent, very employed Black man . And with White women it's good. It's nice.69 Black masculinity is in crisis here. In the similar way that Shakespeares Othello feels emasculated by Desdemonas alleged betrayal, Sears Othello feels emasculated by his race. He wants to feel like every other man; he wants his intelligence and success to be noticed. It seems that he assimilated in the hierarchy of the white world. Billie is also tired of Blacks feeling of inferiority and she struggles to come to some conclusions that would help her remain sane. Unfortunately, she loses both her husband and her mind, singing old songs of Black singers. In the end, just like Shakespeares Desdemona, she is suffocated by the values and desires of vicious patriarchal society that has always been greedy, colonizing the continents and its people.

Top-full of direst cruelty


Djanet Sears, Harlem Duet, scene 7


William Shakespeares play Macbeth70 is set in a hyper-masculine world, a world of war, hierarchy, and aggression, where men gain advancement through the number of people they kill on the battlefield. In such a world, there is little space for the feminine to survive. In the beginning of the play, we learn that Scotland was invaded by Norwegians and that the Scots are successfully defending their country. One Scotsman in particular, Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, distinguishes himself in fighting off the invaders. After the battle, he and his friend Banquo come upon the three witches who prophesy that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor and one day a King. Macbeth is at first skeptical about that, but later on he begins fantasizing about murdering King Duncan and becoming the king. However, Duncan announces that his hair will be his son Malcom, and decides to spend a night in celebration at Macbeths castle. The first time we encounter Lady Macbeth, she is alone at the castle and she has just received a letter from her husband Macbeth. In the letter, Macbeth tells her what happened with the three witches since she should not be ignorant of what greatness is promised to them. Lady Macbeth is thrilled with the idea of her becoming a queen, but she does not believe that her husband has enough strength to do what it takes to become a king: Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be What thou art promised: yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o' the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great; Art not without ambition, but without The illness should attend it71 Lady Macbeth considers her husband to be too full of milk of human kindness which means that he is not capable of hurting another human being without feeling guilt. She vows that she will push him to murder Duncan and take the crown that very night. It seems that the traditional gender roles are inversed here. Lady Macbeth is a powerful woman, attractive, seductive and not afraid to do terrible deeds in order to achieve her goals. She is similar to Titus Tamora; the only difference is that Tamora is driven by the lust for revenge and Lady Macbeth is driven by the lust for power and

70 71

Shakespeare, William, Macbeth, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Wordsworth Editions Ltd, Ware, 1996 Ibid, Act I, scene v


higher social position. Being a woman, she knows that she cannot climb the social ladder without the help of male figure in her life. After she is finished reading the letter, a messenger comes and informs her that Duncan will arrive at their palace that evening. Lady Macbeth, overwhelmed with the idea of killing Duncan, delivers one of the most upsetting speeches in Shakespeares plays: Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood; Stop up the access and passage to remorse, That no compunctious visitings of nature Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts, And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers, Wherever in your sightless substances You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night, And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, To cry 'Hold, hold!72 She evokes the mortal spirits to come and unsex her and fill her up with direst cruelty. In other words, she is asking to be stripped of everything that makes her a reproductive woman, including menstruation or, the visitings of nature. The most terrible request is that the spirits come to her breast and exchange her milk with gall or poison. In Lady Macbeth's mind, being a woman especially a woman with the capacity to give birth and nurture children interferes with her evil plans. Lady Macbeth perceives femininity as compassion and kindness and also suggests that masculinity is synonymous with "direst cruelty and violence. Since she is smart and cunning, she knows that history does run on the fuel of milk of human kindness, but direst cruelty. The cities were never conquered by kind leaders, but always by the cruelest in the group. She prays for the

Ibid, Act I, scene v


voice not to come and try to stop her. Therefore, people are faced with the history that kills a woman and a mother and transforms her into an embodiment of masculine principles. Shortly after, Macbeth comes to castle and his wife advises him to look like the innocent flower,/But be the serpent under't.73 At first, Macbeth hesitates by saying that they will talk later about the plan, but Lady Macbeth assures him that he should only look cheerful and that she will do all the rest. In the next scene, the King arrives, and they welcome him heartily. Lady Macbeth hypocritically pretends to be a humble hostess while she is planning to make her husband murder the King. Nevertheless, Macbeth is confused, changing his mind all the time. His speech: But in these cases/We still have judgment here; that we but teach/ Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return/ To plague the inventor74shows that he is afraid of sense of guilt which is going to hunt him after the murder. In his opinion, Duncan has been such a humble leader, so free of corruption. People will shed a flood of tears when they found out about his death. Macbeth furthermore states that he has no spur to prick the sides of his intent but only vaulting ambition thinking that he does not have enough courage to spur him to action. The only thing he has is ambition, but it can make people rush ahead of themselves towards disaster. This is not enough to justify the act of killing a king, which is why he resolves to not go through with it after this speech. When Lady Macbeth notices his hesitation, she quickly chooses a strategy which will make him be a man and act according to the plan. When he says that they will not proceed further with that business, his wife is furious. She immediately begins to attack his courage and manhood; asking him if he is afraid to act the way he desires and live a coward in thine own esteem,/ Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would75. She cannot believe that he would rather live as a coward, saying I cant instead of I want to, than take the crown he wants so desperately. Macbeth begs her to stop and states that he will behave in a way proper for a man. However, Lady Macbeth continues insulting him: When you durst do it, then you were a man;/And to be more than what you were, you would/ Be so much more the man.76 This implies that when Macbeth was prepared to kill Duncan, he was a man, but now as he is hesitating, he is not a man any more. She believes that a
73 74

Ibid Ibid, Act I, scene vii Ibid Ibid

75 76


true man takes what he wants but Macbeth states that a true man must restrain his desires. Their conversation is significant because it proves that no one is allowed to challenge a mans masculinity, especially a woman. Moreover, Lady Macbeth argues that she has given suck, and she knows how tender tis to love the babe that milks her. This is significant since we learn that Lady Macbeth was a mother; she has sucked a baby and she knows the feeling of sweetness when baby was in her arms. Nevertheless, she goes on to insist that she would while it was smiling in her face,/ Have plucked her nipple from his boneless gums/ And dashed the brains out,77 if she had sworn to do something like Macbeth swore to kill Duncan. This is a disturbing image of a mother prepared to kill her child because of her lust for power. In addition, this can be linked to her remarks about the milk of human kindness being synonymous with milk that a mother gives to her baby. It is unnatural for a woman to be completely devoid of her female characteristics and purge herself of her sexuality, but when she does, she can be as cruel as man can. Patriarchal society puts restraints on women and that is why they cannot be cruel. At this point, we can compare Lady Macbeth to Bernard Shaws Joan of Arc. She, too, acquires some masculine principles in her behaviour; she wears mens clothes, rides a horse, and fights in a war. Unlike Lady Macbeth, she is fighting for a higher goal. Lady Macbeth, on the other hand, desires power and wealth. Furthermore, Macbeth asks his wife what will happen if they fail but she assures him they will not fail if they summon courage: But screw your courage to the sticking-place,/ And well not fail78. She outlines the plan: she is going to give Duncans bedroom attendants enough wine to ensure they black out from drunkenness. Then she and Macbeth will commit the murder and accuse the attendants. Macbeth, impressed by her courage, agrees. Macbeth acknowledges his wife's strength and power by suggesting that it would be fitting if she gave birth to "men-children only." Her "undaunted mettle" suggests that she has all the makings of a strong and brave man. This is an ironic statement, since his wife will not give birth to a child and their marriage will become sterile. After Macbeth murders Duncan, he is in a shock. Lady Macbeth comes across him in the hall and he is carrying two bloody daggers. He looks at his bloody hands and says This is a sorry sight which implies that he already feels guilty. His wife encourages him by saying that it is a foolish

Ibid Ibid



thought. When he starts to panic, she says that he should not be too concerned with it. She warns him that they will go mad if they think about what they did, so it would be best to forget about it. However, Macbeth is possessed by gloomy thoughts; he believes that he has murdered sleep and that he shall sleep no more. Once again, Lady Macbeth insults his manhood by asking him why he lets himself become weak and thinks about things in cowardly way. She advises him to go get some water, And wash this filthy witness from your hand.79 She has grown so cruel and coldblooded that she suggests washing blood from their hands with water. She is convinced that they will succeed, that there will not be any consequences of their evil deeds, that they will be able to sleep well, without any sense of guilt.This is the point when Macbeth breaks down, since he is not mentally strong enough to smear the guards with Duncans blood. Lady Macbeth furiously accuses him of cowardice and childishness and goes to finish the dirty work herself. Soon after Macbeth proves his "manhood" by killing Duncan and becoming a king, Lady Macbeth disappears into the margins of the story and becomes the kind of weak, feeble figure that she herself would probably despise. When she learns that the king's dead body has been discovered, she grows faint and must be carried from the room. Later, when Macbeth decides to murder Banquo in order to secure his position of power, he excludes his wife from the decision making altogether. This is a major turning point in the relationship between Lady Macbeth and her husband. It's the first time Macbeth, who seems to have taken all of Lady Macbeth's accusations about his manhood to heart, excludes his wife from the decision making. He's planning to have Banquo murdered but he insists that Lady Macbeth be "innocent," that is, until he decides to let her in on his secret. Then she, "his "dearest chuck," can be leader to his heroic "deed." This is where the two are beginning to drift apart. The last time that we see Lady Macbeth and Macbeth together is in the palace hall. Her husband has made her a queen, and she is supporting him as a loyal wife. She advises him how to treat his people at the dinner party and she lies to them that he has a strange disorder when he in fact hallucinates about Banquos ghost. Although we've just seen Macbeth assert himself as the dominant figure in the marriage, his frantic response to the appearance of Banquo's ghost is taken as a sign of weakness. Lady Macbeth reduces her husband's claim to an old lady's ghost story, thinking that he should be ashamed of himself for feeling guilty and afraid.


Ibid, Act II, Scene ii


By Act V, Lady Macbeth has been reduced to a figure that sleepwalks, continuously tries to wash the imaginary spot of blood from her hands: Wash your hands, put on your nightgown;/look not so pale./I tell you yet again, Banquo's buried;/ he cannot come out on's grave80, and talks in her sleep of murder .In her dreams, she gets in touch with her true human nature and realizes that what they have done is a sin. She grows so ill that the doctor says there's nothing he can do to help her. "The disease," he says, "is beyond" his "practice," and what Lady Macbeth needs is "the divine", a priest or God, not a "physician". We can read this as a kind of psychological breakdown. Lady Macbeth is so consumed by guilt for her evil deeds that she eventually loses her mind. We can also say that her transformation reestablishes a sense of "natural" gender order in the play. In other words, Lady Macbeth is put in her place as a woman she's no longer the dominant partner in her marriage and Macbeth makes all the decisions while she sleepwalks through the palace. One more reason that she falls into madness and loses her mind is that the milk of human kindness in her won the direst cruelty. Suddenly, she has become compassionate- she asks herself what happened to Macduffs wife. Although she has tried to endorse the darkness and become cruel, the laws of the patriarchal society and her own human nature did not let her do that. The conclusion is that a woman can never be stronger than a man, even though she desperately tries to. Thus, it is important that the male characters in Macbeth all deny the female in themselves and by the means of that, they succeed in the male-dominated world. Macbeth himself believes that there is not a single trace of femininity in him since he is not vulnerable, sensitive and guilt-ridden. According to the witches prophesy, he can only be killed by a man who is not born from a woman. Unfortunately for Macbeth, Macduff is the one who was from his mother's womb / Untimely ripped81, which means that he was born through a caesarian section. Therefore, the idea is that a child should not have a single contact with his/her mother, even during child-birth. Mothers and women in general only make the men in their lives weaker; therefore they should be put in their place. When Lady Macbeth dies, it seems like her death does not concern her husband. He is so overwhelmed with the battle and his desire to succeed, that he completely forgets about his wife. When he hears about it, his response is that She should have died hereafter82 but since he is
80 81

Ibid, Act V, Scene i Ibid, Act V, Scene viii 82 Ibid, Act V, Scene v


preparing for the battle, he is too busy to talk about her death. He does not mention his sorrow because of losing her, but he gives a speech about meaninglessness of life. The words "to-morrow, and, to-morrow, and to-morrow" suggest that the world has lost all meaning for him. He says that life is a "tale" "full of sound and fury" and, ultimately, the story signifies "nothing." In the end, the conclusion is that both Macbeths and his wifes lives did not have any meaning, since they filled it with direst cruelty which ultimately destroyed both of them. Following the rules of patriarchal society and fighting for supremacy in it has devastating effects on both male and female characters. Nevertheless, patriarchy wins the battle in the end. The second group of female characters that is of great importance for the whole play are the three witches. They are called witches only once in the play, as opposed to being referred to as weird six times. Since their prophesy triggers a chain of events which will lead to Macbeths rise to power and ultimately his death, they can be associated with the three fates from classical mythology. Nevertheless, their influence of Macbeths actions is questionable since it is not sure whether they are governed by Macbeths will or the witches prophesy. These women are excluded from patriarchal society. Their weirdness has no place in that kind of society and their purpose is to attack that order. In the beginning of the play, these women are referred to as witches in stage directions. They come amidst thunder and lightning and move about the fog and "filthy" air. Most of the time, they are gathered around a bubbling cauldron, chanting, casting spells and conjuring visions about the future. In the opening Act of Macbeth they all exclaim Fair is foul, and foul is fair83 which indicates the reversal of natural order in the play. They speak in rhymes which sets them apart from all the characters in the play. Moreover, they are portrayed as having supernatural powers since they talk about casting a spell on a man whose wife refused to share some chestnuts with them. The First Witch creates a storm to torment the sailor and she drains him dry as hay which means that she makes him become impotent. This introduces the topic of women emasculating men, the same thing that Lady Macbeth did to her husband. Moreover, the fact that the witches have beards elaborates on the idea of women acquiring male characteristics. Banquo says to them You should be women,/ And yet your beards forbid me to interpret/ That you are so84.In his opinion, the witches are too masculine to be women. In Shakespeares time, the ideal woman was silent, obedient, chaste,
83 84

Ibid, Act I, Scene i Ibid, Act I, Scene iii


beautiful and submissive, and the powerful sisters possess none of these virtues. Their power to manipulate men and change their destiny is evident in the influence they have over Macbeth. They prophesize All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!85 It is questionable whether they plant a seed of evil in Macbeths head or they simply trigger his murderous ambition which was already present. Since they are unearthly and they are governed by the forces of nature, it is more likely that Macbeth had this ambition buried deep inside him all along. In patriarchal society, males compete for power and they use various means to be the winners. They represent the fears and ambitions within humanity that exist in the patriarchal order. Finally, the third important character in Macbeth is Lady Macduff, Macduffs wife. Although she has a brief appearance in the play, her character is significant since she is an embodiment of a loyal wife and a good mother and she stands in total opposition to the three witches and Lady Macbeth. She appears only in one scene in the play, but her purpose is to give voice to some important questions. She is in her castle, with her son and she is trying to understand how her husband is capable of leaving her alone. She exclaims: Wisdom! to leave his wife, to leave his babes, /His mansion and his titles in a place /From whence himself does fly?86. She says that her husband does not love them and that he does not want the natural touch which means that he does not act according to his instincts as a father and a husband, but he serves the order. Macduff goes to fight against Macbeth to prove his manhood, but because of that he would lose his family. His wife is left alone to protect their child like the bird protecting her young ones. When her son hears a word traitor and wants to know what it means, his mother explains that traitor is the one that swears and lies. She states that all traitors must be hanged but the son replies that liars and swearers are fools; for there are liars/and swearers enough to beat the honest men and hang up them87. This is an open criticizing of patriarchal society; it is corrupt and there are more traitors than honest men in it. They are destroyed in this kind of society. Therefore, Lady Macduff and her child are brutally killed by Macbeths murderers. In the same way like Lady Macbeth had to die when she realized that she should not have embraced direst cruelty, Lady Macduff also has to be silenced by patriarchal society. Finally, the woman cherishing feminine qualities and the woman who transformed them into masculine are both victims of this kind of society. In the end, it seems that only the three witches, having supernatural powers, can escape this victimization
85 86 87

Ibid, Act I, Scene iii Ibid, Act IV, Scene ii Ibid


Terrence McNallys Master Class is a two-act play based on singing classes given by famous opera soprano Maria Callas. In the play, she has finished her singing career and she now teaches young girls how to interpret opera and how to prepare. During the classes, while listening to the students sing, she remembers her old life. We learn that music was the most important thing in her life and that as a beginner she was disciplined and courageous, although she had to overcome many obstacles. As each young opera singer went up onto the stage to sing, Maria seems to judge her own actions from the past with greater intensity. A lot can be told about Marias character from her words; she is proud, demanding and arrogant. She tells her students that in order to succeed, they should get the look first. Throughout the play she tries to emphasize the fact that it is not about her, but as the play progresses, there is an impression that she desperately wants to tell her story. In the end of the first Act, Maria talks about her love affair with Greek ship-owner, Aristotle Onassis. She speaks as herself and as Aristotle, imitating his vulgar speech. Their relationship was based on her giving him class and respectability and he brought her money. He says Everyone is for sale and I bought you, meaning that he treats her as his possession. Furthermore, he persuades Maria that she does not need his love and that he does not need her either. He says that love and admiration of her audience should be enough for her. Maria also shares with the audience that Onassis wanted her to leave the stage and have a child. In Act II, one of Marias students sings the lines from the letter scene from Verdis famous opera Macbeth. After the student is finished, Maria is not satisfied with her entrance on the stage, so she decides to demonstrate the proper way to enter the stage. She begins to sing the first lines of Lady Macbeths recitative. What comes out is a cracked and broken thing. It is a terrible moment. This is the point in the play when we discover that Maria has lost her voice. Several pages later, we see Marias live performance of Macbeth from 1952. She prays the spirits to come and fill her with malevolence in order to let her become Lady Macbeth. She says that the audience sees her and wonders Who is that fat little girl we never heard of making our debut in our temple of temples?. At this point, present and past intermingle, while Maria remembers her debut in La Scala, her relationship with her first husband and with Onassis. She remembers that she could not love Battista and that they slept in different bedrooms since he was old enough to be her father. The culmination of her monologue is the moment when she tells to the audience that she was pregnant with Aristotles baby but that he changed his mind about having a child with her. He did not want

to leave his wife and she did not want to give birth to the baby. She let him make her do an abortion, and afterwards, she started losing her voice. When Maria remembers her being Lady Macbeth in an opera, it can be concluded that she is similar to Shakespeares heroine. Just like Lady Macbeth, she wanted to succeed; she had a desire to be the best. She was a fat little girl but her enormous ambition encouraged her to lose weight and get a look for herself. She was among the best sopranos in the world, but she fell. Just like Lady Macbeth, when she rejected her child, she rejected an important part of herself which filled her with direst cruelty. She was flying too high, so her fall was painful-she started losing her voice, the most important thing in her life. Her lover, Onassis, did not believe in love and by rejecting to leave his wife and marry her, he ruined her. Her monologues about her past resemble Lady Macbeths sleepwalking, where she questions her actions and realizes her mistake. Once again there is Maria Callas, one more woman ruined by the male figure in her life. Like Macbeth, Onassis provided Maria with money and power, but when it came to deep connection between two human beings, he betrayed her. At the end of the play, Maria tells to her students that she does not want them to ruin their lives because of great ambition to succeed. She tells them that she would be satisfied if they sang properly and honestly. She gathers her things and goes.

Conclusion: Owners and Shakespeares Plays

The central motif in Ceryl Churchills play Owners is characters identifying with their possessions. There are two couples in the play, Marion and Clegg and Lisa and Alec. There are two more characters, Alecs mother and Worsely, Marions lover and her employee. Clegg is a closing his butchers shop because business is not going well. He is a typical example of a man brought up by the rules of patriarchal society. He had a dream- he wanted to open a shop and name it Clegg and son; he wanted to have a male child who would inherit the family business. His mother was an obedient wife, similar to Desdemona, who always respected her husband and never questioned her


role in society. Clegg tries to be a despotic figure of authority without success. His wife, Marion, is a dominant figure in their marriage, she is a strong, unscrupulous woman shares the characteristics of Lady Macbeth and Tamora. Like most of Shakespeares male figures mentioned above, Clegg considers his wife to be his property, since he invested heavily in her. Nevertheless, he is only deluding himself because he is unable to cope with the fact that his wife behaves like a man in their relationship. Furthermore, it seems that she owns him. Just like Tamora, we find out that she was once a person of great energy and vitality. However, she had a nervous breakdown and she was placed in a mental institution. While she is at a hospital, they tell her that being a good wife would cure her condition. Up until that moment, she was a creative artist; she enjoyed painting. Nevertheless, she realized that art and creativity are not the right way to gaining money and power. Therefore, just like Lady Macbeth, she decides to subvert her traditional gender and embrace direst cruelty. She gathers all the money, she loans some from her husband, buys a house, makes a profit and soon becomes a rich proprietor. She becomes powerful and is thus able to control people in her life. Just like Tamora, she internalizes the values of the patriarchal order and she becomes one of them. Nevertheless, there is one person in her life that she cannot possess- her former lover Alec. Whatever she tries to do to control his life she fails. First, she tries to buy the house where he lives with his wife and children, and then she manages to legally adopt his newborn baby. Since her love for Alec is the only remnant of milk of human kindness in her, she destroys it when she pays Worsely to kill Alec, by setting his house on fire. Eventually, Alec dies, trying to save his landlords baby in the fire. Therefore, Marion is seen as a woman who has lost her humanity and is now capable of everything. Contrary to Lady Macbeth, she does not feel guilty and she easily moves on. Thus, she is an embodiment of complete immersion in the rules and values of corrupt patriarchal society. Alec is a character that is a total opposite of Marion. He also wanted to learn and succeed but he got disappointed very quickly because education is also one of the states apparatuses used to control the people, one of the pillars of society. You cannot step beyond culture by learning and being a part of the educational system. Nevertheless, he somehow managed to go beyond the ideological structure. What seemed to other characters as Alexs breakdown is actually breakthrough for Alex. He reached some inner harmony and he was satisfied with that, not being interested in material things. Alec does not want to possess anything, not even his children. His attitude to love It would be wrong to love anyone more than anyone else signifies the fact that he

does not want to refuse anyone who asks for affection. In the end, by transcending his egotistic self, Alec makes a willing sacrifice and he dies in order to save another human being. According to everything mentioned above, we can conclude that both Shakespeare and modern writers criticize patriarchal society and show different ways in which women behave when suppressed by its values. Tamora and Lady Macbeth reject their femininity and become more masculine than men in their lives. Desdemona and Lavinia on the other hand are obedient wife and daughter, believing that it is what it is and that they must act according to the rules imposed on them. Nevertheless, there are characters like Emilia and Lady MacDuff who realize the corrupt and evil nature of patriarchal society, but are still murdered after their realization. To sum up, it does not matter if a woman is strong or weak, wealthy or poor, a queen or a servant-she will be a victim of patriarchal society in either way. They are raped, brutally murdered or imprisoned because they are disobedient, too affectionate or for no reason at all. Therefore, the message is that a woman should find another way to go beyond culture- to find the Goddess and herself and fill her heart with the milk of human kindness.

Ted Hughes, Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being, Faber and Faber, 1992 Shakespeare, William, Titus Andronicus, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Wordsworth Editions Ltd, Ware, 1996 Shakespeare, William, Othello, The Moor of Venice, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Wordsworth Editions Ltd, Ware, 1996 Shakespeare, William, Macbeth, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Wordsworth Editions Ltd, Ware, 1996 Taymor, Julie, Titus Andronicus The Interview with Marija Gimbutas Read, Donna, Signs Out of Time Read, Donna, Goddess Remembered

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9. Sears, Djanet, Harlem Duet 10. Vogel, Paula, Desdemona: A Play About a 11. McNally, Terrence, Master Class 12. Churchill, Caryl, Owners



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