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Ecofeministic reading of Shakespeare's plays
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In the transitional period from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, Shakespeare witnessed tumultuous changes in every fields of society and thoughts. God-oriented values from the medieval times were challenged, so humanism became more important. The dichotomous thinking such as man and woman or king and subject was deeply rooted in society, but as time went on, humanism had fluence on women fighting for their freedom and human right. These social changes were reflected in the heroines of some Shakespeare's plays. Some Shakespeare's heroines began to express themselves and solve problems on their own in new perspectives. In this thesis I tried to point out some characteristics of Shakespeare's three plays in ecofeministic view points. In contrast to feminism which emphasizes dichotomous structure, woman's rights and the revolt about the man-oriented thinking, ecofeminism pursuits the multi-view points, woman's life force, the change of social structure, the harmony between woman and nature and forgiveness and reconciliation. In As You Like It, Rosalind was depicted exactly as a new type of woman. In the first half of the story, however, she was depicted as a woman acceptant of male dominance and Frederick's oppression. but later she was leading other people to a happy ending. In The Winter's Tale, the heroines were oppressed by Leontes in the first half, but in the latter half, they played an important role in leading the storyline to a happy ending. Rosalind in As You Like It was emblematic of healing, regeneration, and reconciliation like the forest, Arden. In The Winter's Tale, Perdita stood for both life and spring, and Miranda represented innocence, a state of nature in The Tempest. Like their symbols, these three heroines acted as mediators of reconciliation. The three plays share some common ground in that they all put an emphasis on “nature” as a place of change and cure. The Arden forest in As You Like It, the island in The Tempest and the pastoral place in The Winter's Tale were contrasted with the place where conflicts and threat of death were filled. It can be deduced that the heroines and nature were connected and everything was harmonized in the conclusions through forgiveness and reconciliation. Along this line, I examined As You Like It, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest through ecofeminism which deals with the connections between women and nature and the pursuit of a harmonious life. This thesis analyzes the three plays centering on the four characteristics of ecofeminism which contrast with those of feminism. The first characteristic is that unlike feminism, ecofeminism sublates the dichotomous thinking which justifies suppression, putting an emphasis on diversity instead. In As You Like It, the fantasies Orlando had about Rosalind have been attributed to the prejudices and stereotypes of women in those times. In The Winter's Tale, Leontes's oppression of women stemmed from his negative views towards women. The second characteristic is that while feminism emphasizes individualism and independence, ecofeminism emphasizes interconnection and harmony. In As You Like It, Rosalind played a core role in reaching harmony. In The Winter's Tale, everything was in complete devastation as the life force of women was oppressed, but everything rose from the dead as the women's life force was revived. In The Tempest, Antonio and Alonso were repaid in kind for what they did to Prospero, and forgiveness and reconciliation were highlighted as important elements for harmony. The third characteristic is that feminism holds the tenant of urgent matters should be solved whereas ecofeminism contends that social structures such as patriarchy should be changed or eradicated so that problems completely disappear. In As You Like It, the identities of the women were not acknowledged and they did not have a right to decide anything by themselves under patriarchy; therefore, Rosalind and Celia were under the rule of Frederick. In The Winter's Tale, Leontes's oppression of women was an effect of patriarchy rooted in negative views towards women. The fourth characteristic is that while feminism denies the connections between women and nature, ecofeminism accepts their connections. In As You Like It, both Rosalind and the Forest of Arden symbolized healing, regeneration, and reconciliation. In The Winter's Tale, Hermione and Leontes showed contrasts in terms of “caring” which can be also found in nature. In The Tempest, Miranda was symbolic of innocence, just like how nature played a key role in the reconciliation between Prospero and his enemies. There are some more emphases put on each play, namely, women and nature in As You Like It, the life force of women in The Winter's Tale, and forgiveness and reconciliation in The Tempest. There have been quite a lot of feministic analyses and studies on Shakespeare's plays. However, not a lot of ecofeministic analyses or studies have been done. Ecofeminism deals with not only the oppression of women but also other kinds of oppression including the oppression of nature by human beings. Therefore, it is expected that more ecofeministic analyses and studies will be done for better understanding of Shakespeare's plays in the future.