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Female Figure and the Idea of Feminity Across Time

Professor, PhD., Elena Farago Secondary School, Craiova

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Published on December 3, 2023

The history of women’s struggle for equality during the last two centuries is relatively well documented; studies of women’s history often construct a meliorate narrative in which the progress women have made in recent times represents the final stage in a long upward trajectory. Women’s power and authority extended beyond the limits of their families. The example of the Tudor queens Mary and Elizabeth is well known, and the ‘anomaly’ of Elizabeth’s position has been endlessly noted; but they were not the only women who exercised political authority.
Generations of women have found a source of their own empowerment in the power of Shakespeare’s writing and in the cultural authority it carried. In the recent years, as we have seen, the validity of these enthusiastic responses has been called into question by arguments that mobilize the authority of history to insist that the original productions of Shakespeare’s plays-written by a male author to be performed by an exclusively male company of players-expressed an overwhelmingly masculine point of view. The most compelling of these arguments rest on the fact that the presence of a male body beneath the costume of a female character was never far from the awareness of Shakespeare’s original audiences.

stereotype, natural expression, dramatic adaptation, spectacular mannequin, heroine


  1. Eggert, Katherine, Age Cannot Wither Him: Warren Beatty’s Bugsy as Hollywood’s Cleopatra, in Lynda E. Boose, Richard Burt (eds.), Shakespeare the Movie: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV, and Video, London and New York, Routledge, 1997, pp. 198–214.
  2. “General Macbeth” originally published in Harper’s Magazine, June 1962, reprinted in the Signet Classic Edition of Macbeth, edited by Sylvan Barnet, New York, New American Library, 1963.
  3. Hamer, Mary, Signs of Cleopatra: History, Politics, Representation, London, Routledge, 1993.
  4. Laqueur, Thomas, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud, Cambridge, Mass, Harvard University Press, 1990.
  5. Schoenbaum, S., William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life, New York, Oxford University Press and Scholar Press, 1975.
  6. Ziegler, Georgianna; Dolan, Frances E.; Roberts, Jeanne Addison, Shakespeare’s Unruly Women, Washington, The Folger Shakespeare Library, 1997.

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