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McGuire, J.L. (1982). Shakespeare's Tempest: Rhetoric and Poetics. Am. Imago, 39(3):219-237.

(1982). American Imago, 39(3):219-237

Shakespeare's Tempest: Rhetoric and Poetics

Jerry L. McGuire

“No tongue! All eyes! Be silent!”

In one of the finest essays written to date on the fluctuant and volatile treatment given to gender by Shakespeare, David Leverenz writes, “Shakespeare uses the opposition between male and female to denote the impossibility of speaking in a public role without violating or being violated.”

I like the emphasis this throws—with great precision, I think—on the way Shakespeare not only develops an interesting view of gender but also “uses” the male-female split, as he does so many apparent oppositions, as a poetic and rhetorical mechanism for exploring questions of a quite different order. I want to take up Leverenz's suggestion of the relation between gender and public authority or power in what follows, after first briefly describing what I perceive to be Shakespeare's characteristic way of foregrounding gender opposition and ambiguity.

By now, the initiating structure of the male-female split is established canonically, both in the Lacanian mode and in the model set forth by D. W. Winnicott, which I quote:

1 “The Woman in Hamlet”: An Interpersonal View,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 4, no. 2 (1978), p. 307; reprinted in Representing Shakespeare: New Psychoanalytic Essays, ed. Murray M. Schwartz and Coppelia Kahn (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Univ.

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