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Unformatted text preview: 1-1Communication Arts 102HResearch Essay12 October 2007Designing WomenShakespeare StyleA womans place is in the Houseof Representatives. This statement presents two conflicting views of the role of women in our society today. Just as modern Americans cannot come to a consensus on what the proper place for women is, neither does Shakespeare create just one type of woman in his history plays. In Antony and Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, Shakespeare creates a variety of female roles rather than making all of his female characters interchangeable: the same woman with four different names and places in society. ThoughShakespeare includes some weak female characters, particularly Calphurnia and Octavia, hegives them strong counterparts in Portia and Cleopatra and gives the female characters the abilityto affect the spectacle of the plays, even when history did not give them an opportunity to impactthe actual events.Cleopatra and Octavia play strongly contrasting roles in Antony and Cleopatra. As a title character, Cleopatra appears frequently and is a major source and focus of the plays action. Some have even tried to argue that she, rather than Antony is the plays central protagonist, though this claim has not been well-received in the critical world (Hall 91). A similar case would not be dreamed of for Octavia, nor for the women of Julius Caesar. Octavia functions as a foil to Cleopatra, in both personality and in power. Octavia, with her modest eyes, (Antony 4.15.28) clearly contrasts witchcraft joined with beauty, lust with both (Antony 2.1.22). In a similar way that their physical appearances contrast, even Octavias language is plain and modest when compared to Cleopatras flair for the dramatic (Hall 70). Their situations are also quite 2variant; while Cleopatra is a successful player in the game of politics, Octavia is merely a pawn (Dusinberre 294). Cleopatra and Octavia are both royal women who have a relationship with Marc Antony, but their similarities do not extend much beyond this.Calphurnia and Portia serve as secondary, yet impactful, characters in Julius Caesar. Neither of them says much on stage, especially compared to their husbands, yet what they do and say leaves an impression on the audience (McMurtry 45). Their roles are parallel as both women are concerned for their husbands, and with good reason (45). The differences in them appear when we examine the dialog between the women and their husbands more closely. When Portia questions Within the bond of marriage, tell me, Brutus/ Is it expected I should know no secrets/That appertain to you? (Julius 2.1.280-282), she implies that Brutus has shared secrets with her in the past, that they have had a very egalitarian relationship. While Brutus never tells Portia what is bothering him, at least not to the knowledge of the audience, he shows respect to her throughout their conversation, even asking the gods to render [him] worthy of this noble wife...
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