Date of Graduation

1982

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Abstract

As the title, "O Mother, Mother! What Have You Done"?: Shakespeare's Mothers in Relation to Catastrophe," suggests, this study explores the connection of Shakespeare's mother figures with plot catastrophe. As background procedure, Renaissance thought is studied in terms of its roots in the works of Plato and other Classical Greek writers, and of Augustine and Aquinas and other Medieval writers, particularly in terms of the significance of the concept of chaos and catastrophe, and its antithesis, order. Then Renaissance documents are analyzed to determine Renaissance attitudes toward women, and, in particular, mothers, and their relationship to the social and moral order. Secondary historical sources are also used. Information gleaned from this procedure is contained in Chapter II. Chapters III and IV then pursue analyses of some strong mother figures which are both developed and decisive in the plots of Shakespeare: Tamora of Titus Andronicus; Margaret of 2 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI and Richard III; Volumnia of Coriolanus; Gertrude of Hamlet; and Hermione of The Winter's Tale. In these analyses, which constitute the bulk of the dissertation, literary commentaries are employed, as well as performance commentaries, but the major focus is directly on plot analysis in terms of the impact of maternal figures. The conclusion finds that where mothers are aggressive in the affairs of their children; i.e., Tamora of Titus Andronicus; Margaret of the Henry VI series and Richard III; and Volumnia of Coriolanus, catastrophe results. Where mothers are patient or at least passive in regard to the action of the play and the affairs of their children; i.e., Elizabeth of Richard III; Gertrude of Hamlet; and Hermione of The Winter's Tale, they support and indirectly assist in the restoration of order and peace.

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