Date of Thesis



Interpretations of Shakespeare’s characters have been subject to the pressures of history, exhibiting a progression of performance styles in accordance with changes in ideas and concerns over time. Shakespeare’s complex portrayals of women leave room for cultural influences of a time period to greatly influence interpretations because of the ambiguous nature of some of his major female characters. Lady Macbeth and Much Ado About Nothing’s Beatrice both overstep and challenge gender boundaries, and the combination of their defiant natures and textual ambiguities have made these characters highly controversial over the past four centuries.Various cultures over time have imposed specific readings of the characters that serve to reinforce the male-dominated expectations of a given society. The examination of variations in performance styles and interpretations of these two extremely canonical characters revealinsights into gender ideologies that existed during various time periods throughout history. The combination of this analysis with an exploration of the effects of the more recent applications offeminism and film, which have both helped to reshape the cultural images of both Lady Macbeth and Beatrice, will aide in an observation of the status of gender relations in our contemporary society. The current trend of interpretations of these characters could also provide predictions about future gender relations in our culture.


William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Much Ado about Nothing, Lady Macbeth, Beatrice, Women, Gender Studies, Theater, Film, Feminism

Access Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)



First Advisor

Jean Peterson