Domination And Defiance

Domination And Defiance: Fathers and Daughters in Shakespeare

Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Domination And Defiance
    Book Description:

    Shakespeare was clearly fascinated by the relationship between fathers and daughters, for this primal bond of domination and defiance structures twenty-one of his comedies, tragedies, and romances. In a conflict that is at once social and interpersonal, Shakespeare's fathers demand hierarchical obedience while their daughters affirm the new, more personal values upheld by Renaissance humanists and Puritans.

    In her penetrating analysis of this compelling relationship, Diane Dreher examines the underlying psychological tensions as well as the changing concepts of marriage and the family during Shakespeare's time. She points to the pain and conflict caused by sex role polarization. Shakespeare's possessive fathers tyrannize over their daughters, unwilling to relinquish their "masculine" power and control and leaving these young women with only two alternatives: paternal domination or defiance and loss of love. The logic of Shakespeare's plays repudiates traditional stereotypes, showing how women like Ophelia and Desdemona are destroyed by conforming to the passive Renaissance ideal.

    The book concludes with a consideration of Shakespeare's androgynous characters -- dynamic women in doublet and hose, and fathers who become sensitive, caring, and empathetic. Shakespeare's balanced characters thus reconcile the polarities within themselves and bring greater harmony to their world.

    Domination and Defianceis the first book on this most provocative relationship in Shakespeare. Shedding new light on the complex father-daughter bond, character, and motivation, it makes a major contribution to literary studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5917-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. CHAPTER ONE A Psychological Perspective
    (pp. 1-15)

    The father-daughter relationship figures largely in twenty-one of Shakespeare’s plays, from the earlyTwo Gentlemen of Veronato his last complete work,The Tempest. The father of two daughters himself, Shakespeare explored this relationship throughout his dramatic career; it appears as an integral element in comedies, tragedies, and romances. Shakespeare wrote in an age of transition, as Renaissance discoveries gradually transformed the world from medieval to modern, authoritarian to individual. In his portrayal of the father-daughter bond, he touched on a corresponding personal transition in the lives of parents and children. Repeatedly, his plays depict the father at middle life,...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Renaissance Background
    (pp. 16-39)

    During Shakespeare’s time, attitudes about women and the family were in transition. Traditional sources defined love as obedience in a woman’s relationship with her father or husband, while in progressive discussions companionship in marriage was emphasized, and the wife was called a friend and helpmeet. Although in Shakespeare’s plays he upheld order and degree in the political sphere, he presented more progressive views of women and marriage. A consideration of Shakespeare’s historical background will help us understand both the condition of women at the time and the profound cultural significance of the father-daughter relationship.

    In the traditional Renaissance world order,...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Paternal Role in Transition
    (pp. 40-75)

    When confronted by their daughters’ marriages, Brabantio, Egeus, Capulet, and their Renaissance counterparts faced a difficult double transition, fraught with social and psychological conflict. The evolution from feudalism to capitalism during the early Renaissance shifted the center of authority upward from feudal lord to monarch and downward to individual patriarchs who ruled over their nuclear families with a power that made the father “a legalized petty tyrant within the home.”¹ As we have seen, however, progressive forces supporting personal choice and commitment in marriage gradually appropriated for the individual the father’s once exclusive prerogative. The conflict between traditional and progressive...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Dominated Daughters
    (pp. 76-95)

    Shakespeare offers three examples of young women dominated by patriarchal expectations. Ophelia, Hero, and Desdemona are victimized by the traditional power structure that identifies women exclusively as childbearers, insisting on a rigid model of chastity to ensure the continuity of pure patrilineal succession. This requirement leaves women highly vulnerable. What matters is not that they are modest, chaste, and obedient, but that men perceive them as such.¹ Imprisoned in their passive situation, women cannot actively affirm or defend their honor. The more they seek to be good women, conforming to traditional expectations, the more they are victimized. Politically and psychologically,...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Defiant Daughters
    (pp. 96-114)

    Seventeen of Shakespeare’s plays address the crisis of intimacy, when daughters leave their fathers for the commitment of marriage. This creates identity crises for them as well as for their parents. In what Erikson has seen as “the stage of life crucial for the emergence of an integrated female identity,” young women leave behind the secure bonds of childhood and go forth into the unknown, risking lifelong commitment to a stranger in the adventure of awakening love.¹ Most of Shakespeare’s daughters defy their fathers to make this commitment, actively affirming new values and priorities. With the sole exception of Ophelia,...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Androgynous Daughters
    (pp. 115-142)

    Shakespeare’s comic heroes stand in dramatic opposition to their tragic counterparts. The tragic personality is dominated by what A. C. Bradley called “a marked one-sidedness,” a fatal predisposition to one mode of behavior while comic heroes are versatile, dynamic, and resourceful.¹ They demonstrate a vast repertoire of behavioral modes, varying from formal to informal, rational to emotional, masculine to feminine. Tragic personalities are beset by mental illness and aberration; comic heroes consistently demonstrate the resourcefulness that characterizes the mature and healthy personality.² While the majority of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes are men, his comic heroes are women, whose intelligence, wit, and...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Redemptive Love and Wisdom
    (pp. 143-163)

    While Shakespeare’s mature comedies are focused on androgynous women heroes, his romances emphasize the corresponding need of the fathers for balance and integration. In three romances, a father loses his daughter through his own folly and goes through a period of penitential suffering. He is reunited with her at the end of the play, finding spiritual renewal, individuation, and integrity.¹

    Because the dramatic point of view shifts to the father’s perspective in the romances, their daughters serve a symbolic, numinous function, more significant for what they represent than as characters in their own right. As one critic pointed out, they...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Beyond Domination and Defiance
    (pp. 164-170)

    Throughout his principal comedies, tragedies, and romances, Shakespeare examined the love between fathers and daughters from many points of view. The father-daughter bond reflects conflicts between progressive and traditional social norms, youth and age, male and female, self and other, and conflicting forces within the individual. In each play traditional stereotypes are rejected, affirming the need for a new synthesis, a resolution of conflict through cooperation.

    In the double developmental crisis defined in chapter 1, Shakespeare’s fathers and daughters face critical adult transitions. Leaving behind childhood security, the daughters reach out to embrace the challenge of romantic love, with new...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 171-190)
  13. Bibliographical Note
    (pp. 191-196)
  14. Index
    (pp. 197-206)