Student Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2020

Document Type


Degree Name


Honors Designation


Program of Study




First Advisor

Laura Kolb

Second Advisor

Allison Deutermann

Third Advisor

Shelly Eversley


In this project, I will not only shift a critical eye on both male and female friendship, but more specifically and extensively, I will examine how Shakespeare treats female friendship in three of his plays: The Merchant of Venice, Othello, and The Winter’s Tale. The female pairs of focus, in play order, will be Portia and Nerissa, Desdemona and Emilia, and Hermione and Paulina. Additionally, I will give an overlook of the history of Renaissance friendship portrayal in both the literary and historical accounts. This historical background will serve to highlight the clear contrast between the emphasized and esteemed Renaissance portrayal of male friendship and the invisible and forgotten depiction of female friendship. And to better understand Shakespeare’s divergent portrayal of same-sex friendships, I will also be looking at classical friendship theories from philosophers—such as Aristotle and Cicero—as it ultimately affected his writing of these friendships. In doing all these steps, I will demonstrate how essential it is to turn a more attentive eye to the female friendships of Shakespeare’s plays, despite the emphasis placed on male amity by its focus in the scholarship, the literature, and in the writings of the Renaissance. Female amity in Shakespeare, despite the lack of emphasis it receives as an object of discussion, is as fulfilling, enriching, and important to not only the stories of the plays, but in its role as solace and constancy in the domineering and oppressive male-centric worlds of the plays.


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