A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Sisterhood versus Male Inconstancy

In his comedies, Shakespeare critically examines the nature of female and male friendships as they relate to sexual desire. Specifically, Shakespeare contrasts the strong, faithful bonds of female sisterhood with the chaotic, contentious character of male rivalries. Without men, the women of Shakespeare’s comedies are completely capable of sustaining fulfilling relationships, nurtured by the loyalty and intimacy of sisterly love. Left to their own devices, men fall into competition with each other, almost as though combat and dissent are the default states of male interaction. These profound differences between male and female relationships are manifested in the characters of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. While the men are linked solely through mutual jealousy, the women are connected through kindred ties. While the men are fickle with their affection , the women remain faithful to their feelings. In the play, heterosexual desire is seen as disrupting--even damaging--the innate innocence and virtue of girlhood friendships. In addition, the conflict that arises from this desire is seen as a product of patriarchal law, a system Shakespeare is also critiquing. By making these palpable distinctions, juxtaposing love and devotion with...

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