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Masculinity is "the quality, state, or degree of being masculine."[1] The term is used to differentiate the male and female. Contrary to masculinity are terms such as emasculate or feminine. A synonymous term for masculine is virile. There are many contexts to which the notion of the masculine male refers. For example, Shakespeare, in many of his plays, depicts societies in which his male characters are deemed as hegemonic.

Examples of Masculinity in Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is perhaps the most recognized and influential writer to have ever existed. One of his writing trademarks, so to speak, is his employment of the motif of masculinity in many of his plays. For example, he differentiates his male and female characters by showing their disparities. He also presents moments where his male characters are emasculated such as his King Lear. An exemplary moment of Lear's emasculation is when he is taunted by The Fool.

Lear says: "O, how this mother swells up toward my heart!/ Histerica passio down, thou climbing sorrow;/ Thy element's below."

Bruce R. Smith says that Lear's words mean that Lear sees his upper body as a representation of "reason" and logic, and his lower body as passion.[2] Smith goes on to say that Lear sees the division of his upper and lower body to be gendered: "the heart that he calls 'mine' is threatened by 'this mother' from below. Lear's loss of reason...can be the triumph of this female passion within, a loss of both patriarchy and masculine identity."

Male Status

In modern day society, masculinity is often associated with "prestige, power, and freedom."[3] Since men are considered to be the ones ruling the world, there's still the idea of unequal division of labor. However, given the history of women's oppression, men always had somewhat of an advantage over women, since the women were the ones who had to stay home and nurture the "foetus and young children." Thus the men had more time to develop a competitive nature in gaining wealth and power, whereas women developed more of a caring and nurturing sensibility.


  1. Webster, Inc. Merriam-Webster's dictionary and thesaurus. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster ;, 2006. Print. [1]
  2. Smith, Bruce R.. "Introduction." Shakespeare and Masculinity. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print. [2]
  3. Leone, Bruno, and Terry Neill. Male/female roles: opposing viewpoints. St. Paul, Minn.: Greenhaven Press, 1983. Print. [3]

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