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Shakespeare dominates ONU Department of English capstone projects

William Shakespeare was the main topic used for the ONU Department of English senior capstone projects (photo/

William Shakespeare was the main topic used for the ONU Department of English senior capstone projects (photo/

The end of the 2016-17 academic school year is approaching and that means it is time for seniors to present their capstone projects across departments at Ohio Northern University. On Wednesday, April 26, ONU's Department of English students presented their capstones in a formal presentation in front of faculty, students, and friends. Junior literature major Kelley Lewis and senior literature major Erika Mortimer both presented capstones over two William Shakespeare dramas, "Macbeth" and "The Taming of the Shrew," respectively. 

First, Lewis presented her project, titled “Unsex Me Here: A Collision of Gender and Struggle for Power in Macbeth." Her project looked at how strict gender roles affected the plot of "Macbeth." Lewis talked about how Lady Macbeth sheds her femininity so she can be ambitious and how Lady Macbeth questions Macbeth’s masculinity so he will be spurred to action.

Lewis also brought up the point that Macbeth tries to prove his masculinity by killing others. Lewis points out that throughout the play, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth shed their femininity so they can be masculine.

Lewis also applied this play to present day. She said that even today, sometimes ambition in women can be frowned upon or deemed as a bad trait.

Although there has been a lot of movement toward better and more equal gender expectations, a lot of the basic criticism of gender can still be found today," she said.

Lewis also stated why she chose "Macbeth" to focus on for her capstone project. It was the first play she had read on her own, so she decided to use it for her capstone class, Shakespeare Studies.

Lewis plans to observe gender in seminary once she graduates from ONU next year and hopes to submit her project to the Ohio Valley Shakespeare Conference.  

Mortimer's project was a bit more surprising, titled “That’s so Meta: Studying BDSM Play Within the Meta Drama of 'The Taming of the Shrew.'”

At the beginning of the presentation, Mortimer dispelled any assumptions about BDSM [Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Masochism], especially assumptions based on "50 Shades of Grey." She went on to say that even though people view the play as demeaning towards women, she did not see it that way. Mortimer saw it as the leading protagonist, Kate, being content as a submissive wife.

When asked about the play being viewed as perverted and demeaning, Mortimer said the work “The Wife Lapped in Morel's Skin," which Shakespeare loosely based his play on, is more perverse and has sexual violence that is not consensual. "The Taming of the Shrew" is different, Mortimer said.

 Here in my reading of Kate and Petruchio's relationship, there is explicit consent, 'yes, please,' consent, which is essential to every BDSM interaction,” she said.

Mortimer said that the pivotal scene where Kate admits to being submissive to her husband is commonly seen as Kate being beaten down into her submissive role, but Mortimer did not see it that way. She saw it as Kate feigning the people around her. Mortimer said Kate and Petruchio’s relationship is a case of Petruchio being too dominating.

Petruchio knows he would never ask more than what she can give and she knows that. That’s a part of that trust,” she said.

Mortimer plans on attending the University of Findlay's Rhetoric and Composition program in the fall and also plans to submit her project to the Ohio Valley Shakespeare Conference. 

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