Defending Desdemona, Reclaiming Cordelia: A Woman-Centric Defense of Shakespeare's Heroines in Othello and King Lear

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Defending Desdemona, Reclaiming Cordelia: A Woman-Centric Defense of Shakespeare's Heroines in Othello and King Lear

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Title: Defending Desdemona, Reclaiming Cordelia: A Woman-Centric Defense of Shakespeare's Heroines in Othello and King Lear
Author: Doody, Jennifer Ann ORCID  0000-0001-9261-1842
Citation: Doody, Jennifer Ann. 2017. Defending Desdemona, Reclaiming Cordelia: A Woman-Centric Defense of Shakespeare's Heroines in Othello and King Lear. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
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Abstract: Since the debut of Othello and King Lear more than 400 years ago, the characters of Desdemona and Cordelia have largely served to highlight the despair and fall of their male counterparts. The rise of women’s power in the modern age, however, raises questions about this dismissive approach to two of Shakespeare’s most formidable heroines. Theatre professionals are approaching Desdemona and Cordelia with enlightened eyes, and today’s playwrights are even penning continuations of both Desdemona and Cordelia’s stories, reclaiming them for new audiences and continuing their journeys. Why do these characters resonate so deeply with us today, and is their resurgence justified? In-depth, woman-centric analysis of Shakespeare’s texts, extensive interviews with expert professionals in Shakespearean performance, and examinations of modern works that put both Desdemona and Cordelia center stage reveal an ongoing transformation in how these women are perceived, presented, and empowered in the modern age. While this evolution is by no means complete, the rise of women’s power, and the continued struggle for their own dreams, rights, and their very lives, plays an enormous role in how Desdemona and Cordelia are perceived. When we consider Desdemona and Cordelia as full human beings who deserve to be heard and to live, rather than as collateral damage for the tragic journeys of Othello and Lear, respectively, can we appreciate the true depth of Shakespeare’s tragedies.
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Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33813399
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