Advisory Committee Chair
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Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences
In early modern drama, cuckoldry is used as the focal point for jokes and as a major plot device. Playwrights who use cuckoldry as a plot point often put the burden of blame on the women of these trysts, regardless of if they have made the women guilty or not, while failing to critique the behavior of men who act out in the face of these accusations. Unlike his contemporaries, Shakespeare seems to criticize men who choose to believe accusations of cuckoldry by putting their faith in homosocial bonds over their marital bonds. Across the timeline of Shakespeare’s plays, four plays explore similar facets of cuckoldry while reinforcing the idea that men who trust homosocial bonds over their marital bonds should face consequences: Much Ado, Othello, Cymbeline, and The Winter’s Tale. In each of these plays, Shakespeare uses honor culture and the importance of homosociality to instill a sense of shame in his characters while increasing their masculine anxiety. Threatened by the affront to their masculinity via cuckoldry accusations, these men lash out against their beloveds to varying degrees of consequence based on how consumed they are by their anxieties. While Shakespeare does critique the behavior of men who lash out against their innocent wives, he also issues a warning to them: be wary of putting faith into faulty homosocial bonds.
Cutting, Hannah M., "What "Makes a Monster of Their Minds": The Influence of Honor Culture, Shame, and Homsociality on Anxious Masculinity in Shakespearean Cuckoldry Plots" (2022). All ETDs from UAB. 596.