Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure poses questions about sexual coercion and governmental corruption that resonate today. Recent scholarship has examined sexual abstinence in Measure for Measure in terms of its historical economic and religious context regarding Isabella. However, Angelo and the Duke, the play's other central characters, also make claims about the value of abstinence. I put these characters’ claims into dialogue with Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity and extensive scholarship on Shakespearean England. I argue that abstinence is the axis around which Measure’s main characters revolve, and that Measure locates these characters’ abstinences as competing performances of manhood and womanhood to normative manhood and womanhood in 1583-1604. I further suggest that we experience parallels to Measure’s gendered double standards, and Measure studies should be interdisciplinary.
Makuc, Joseph, "Strict Restraints: Abstinence's Gender Problems in Measure for Measure" (2019). History Honors Papers. 6.
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