The Representation of the Renaissance Woman/man in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Othello
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This modest dissertation has for purpose the exploration of the major Renaissance themes in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (1596) and Othello (1603). It aims to examine Shakespeare’s representation of the Renaissance woman/man through his Renaissance Venetian characters. To fulfil our study, we have relied on the New Historicist theoretical assumptions that stress the importance of the social, historical and cultural contexts in the study and interpretation of literary texts. Indeed, the Renaissance context of the plays under study determines largely Shakespeare’s dramatic representation of the Renaissance females and males. We have divided our work into three chaptars. We have devoted the first chapter to the general historical background that represents a necessary step for our analysis. We have introduced first the main aspects of the Italian Renaissance focusing on the emerging philosophy of Humanism and Individualism with its new perception of man. Then, we have given an insight to the Elizabethan/ Shakespearean England, stressing the English interest in the Italian Renaissance. In the second chapter, we have tried to examine the Renaissance woman/man as a representative of the divergent Renaissance themes of subjectivity, individual will, independence, self-interest, tradition, communal ties, and social conventions. In the third chapter, we have examined the emotional life of the Renaissance woman/man in relation to the prevailing social conventions about racial difference. Finally, we have concluded that the Renaissance woman/man lives in a state of ‘inbetweeness’ embodying the ambivalent attitudes and thoughts of the transitional period. Therefore, the Renaissance woman/man can never be identified as an individual who has completely transgressed the impositions of the collective organic life.