Thesis Title

A Feminist-Psychoanalysis of Measure For Measure's Isabella and Hamlet's Title Character: Their Nontraditional Travels Between Stoicism and Skepticism

Date of Graduation

Summer 1993


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

Mary Baumlin

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


What does it mean to be a woman? How does it feel to be a man? Having pondered those answers for a moment, now consider this: the time is three centuries ago, the woman has a bright mind and a strong soul which she values more than a brother, and the man places family relationships above all esle in life and expresses grief and other emotions openly. Imagine briefly how society might react: with confusion, distrust, fear, perhaps open anger, ridicule, admonishment. Now answer this question: Can you honestly say the reaction would be significantly different . . . today? Using principles of feminism and psychology, this exploration argues against cultural expectations of gender role stereotypes and celebrates two Shakespearean characters who bravely crash those barriers of convention. Societal pressure proves too much for them, however, and the consequences for both are devastating. Yet their impact as innovative role models shines strongly through, proving Shakespeare is "timeless in the sense that he anatomises and understands what is in men and women in any age, and what he has to say is always true and real" (Barton 190). This elusive notion - what is in men and women - merits further study, as do "thinking" Isabella and "feeling" Hamlet. By targeting for discussion not only "strong women" but also male characters who display "feminine" characteristics, we strengthen our stand against the literary, historical and societal oppression and repression of women and the feminine.


© Terry L Brown