Domestic relations in Shakespeare

Kenny, Amy (2012) Domestic relations in Shakespeare. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis investigates how the size, structure and function of the family
presented in Shakespeare’s plays relates to an early modern understanding of the
importance and function of the family. By examining domestic manuals, pamphlets,
treatises and diaries from the early modern period, I establish what was considered
normative domestic behaviour at the time and analyse Shakespeare's plays through these
contemporary attitudes, specifically their treatment of privacy, household structure and
medical beliefs surrounding reproduction and gynaecology.

This thesis seeks to focus on the way in which people’s positions in the family
change over time, from infancy to adulthood, and how these relationships are
represented in Shakespeare’s plays. Beginning with marriage, where the family is first
formed; I examine Othello and Macbeth, and show how the marriages in these plays,
while tragic, are cherished and valued. Succession was integral to the legacy and
sustainability of a family, which is the topic of the next chapter, in which I explore the
notions of how children are conceived and raised in Richard III and The Winter’s Tale.
The transition from childhood into adulthood was fraught with change in both housing
and legal circumstances, and this struggle in adolescence is clearly depicted in Romeo
and Juliet, which comprises the third chapter. Aside from the familial relationships of
husband and wife and parent and child, the most influential relationships were those of
siblings, which I investigate in a number of plays in the fourth chapter. Finally, I focus
on the traditional and complicated nuclear families in The Merry Wives of Windsor,
Hamlet and Coriolanus, and analyse how the family is highlighted and valued in each of
these plays. The thesis concludes that throughout Shakespeare’s work, the family is
privileged over war, nobility and absolute patriarchal control, emphasising that it is vital
to understanding and analysing Shakespeare’s plays.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0161 By period > PR0401 Modern > PR0421 Elizabethan era (1550-1640)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR2199 English renaissance (1500-1640) > PR2411 The drama > PR2416 Individual authors > PR2750 Shakespeare, William
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2012 08:55
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:50

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