Shakespeare's Heroines

Shakespeare's Heroines

Characteristics of Women, Moral, Poetical, and Historical

Book - 1977
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Originally published in 1832 as Characteristics of Women: Moral, Poetical, and Historical, Anna Jameson's groundbreaking exploration of the female character has had a role in both literary and academic circles ever since. By the turn of the nineteenth century it had been retitled Shakespeare's Heroines, and has been reissued periodically over the years. This particular edition has retained all the text of the original, including Jameson's provocative introduction. Complemented by over 70 charming period pen-and-ink wash illustrations by artist W. (Walter) Paget, this volume is further distinguished by a new foreword by modern-day Victorian scholar Jessica Slights. Jameson's respect for Shakespeare's work is clear. As she says in Shakespeare's Heroines, "[his characters] combine history and real life; they are complete individuals, whose hearts and souls are laid open before us: all may behold, and all judge for themselves." Jameson's innovation was to use female characters from William Shakespeare's writing to develop her theories. At the time she was writing male critics wrote little if anything about female characters in theatrical productions. Jameson recognized that lapse, and sought to correct it by discussing what being a woman really means -- as compared to "feminine" and "masculine" stereotypes and period expectations -- through this profoundly creative approach. Selecting 25 of Shakespeare's most well-known female characters from 21 of his plays, Jameson places each of them in one of four categories: Intellect, Passion and Imagination, The Affections, and, Historical Characters. From Viola in Twelfth Night and Opehlia in Hamlet, both of whom she considered to be "characters of passion and imagination," to the "historical character" of Lady Macbeth, the one of "the affections" seen in King Lear's Cordelia, and that of Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, as a "character of intellect," Jameson creates a three-dimensional life for each. She builds on Shakespeare's paper creation and invites the reader to grasp the essence of that particular female, her "womanliness," and projects how she would think, and moreso, how she would be viewed, within the social context of the Victorian era. Rejecting a solely political agenda, Jameson -- hardly a radical feminist herself -- effectively uses this device as a means to expose the very stereotypes she apparently deplores. Both Anna Jameson and Shakespeare's Heroines have found a particular resurgence of interest in recent years. The audience has grown, from avid students of Shakespeare and Victoriana, to those studying the history of the reform movements and specifically that of women's rights, to a revisit by feminist scholars. To new readers Jameson will surprise, as her Victorian prose reveals a keen understanding of the most contemporary of issues. Book jacket.
Publisher: Folcroft, Pa. : Folcroft Library Editions, 1977
ISBN: 9780841452534
Characteristics: viii, 341 p. ; 24 cm


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