Studying about William Shakespeare's literary legacy is of importance in the understanding phenomenon in contemporary lives. The knowledge gained from Shakespeare's writing is the basis for interpreting various literary works that have a connection with the history of the social roles in society (7, p. 16). The historical information provided by Shakespeare in his plays portrays the aspect of social. Shakespeare had a deep understanding of the social roles that define the day to day activities in society. The works by Shakespeare demonstrates the social role in a cultural and historical dimension with a connection to the civilization era of women empowerment. The idea of social roles among characters has an essential part in the Shakespearian tragedies (10, p. 114). The social role in the plays written by Shakespeare helps in not only for characterization but also as a means that assist in understanding some social issues affecting the society.
Additionally, the social roles of both male and female characters in the tragedies help the readers to have a universal knowledge into the nature of humanity within various social contexts. Therefore, literary studies that involve the analysis of Shakespearean tragedies reflect the modern philosophical and psychological theories concerned with social and public roles in a balanced way. As seen in the discussion of this essay, there is the balancing of the topic of social functions as both a historical, cultural, philosophical, as well as a psychological phenomenon (8, p. 12). Focusing on the plays of Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Macbeth, as well as Romeo and Juliet, the sociological method within the literary studies depicts the social roles in modern society.
Literary studies of Shakespeare's work illustrates how sociological method in understanding literature. Shakespeare creates vivid and memorable images on how male and female carry out their duties as expected in the society in the dynamic and exciting stage action (10, p. 114). The characters that portrayed social and public roles from the Shakespearean tragedies had defined purposes of demonstrating a social problem and ways of solving the identified social challenge. Such character acted with a passion for causing a deeper reflection of the topic of social roles leading to the renown of both the secondary and primary characters in the plays. Males who are fathers, sons, and husband and females who are mothers, daughters depict the aspect of a social role (7, p. 16). Lack of or presence of well-stated social and public roles in the society as seen in the plays indicates the need for mechanisms for the appropriate establishment of cultures that appreciate and define the place of both men and male for a stable society.
In his tragedies, Shakespeare provides information concerning the roles of male and female characters by defining masculine and feminine qualities and how each depicts social roles. The culture and history of the writings relate the place of both male and female in society (8, p. 12). There are socially constructed duties for male and female from the play as indicated in the character masculine and feminine traits in Shakespeare's plays. To some extent, there is also the demonstration of female characters having masculine characteristics in some parts of the plays, especially when portraying public social roles.
The fight for power and striving of power for some female roles leads to the possession of masculine characteristics. The social roles were under strife because, during the Shakespearean time, males exercised power than the females (10, p. 114). Women ought to take the action of possessing power and striving for power amid their defined roles as mothers, daughters, and wives. The challenge on the social and public duties by the female characters in the plays poses the strife for power control in the society. Within the patriarchal society, Shakespeare tries to demonstrate some of the issues affecting the community by showing the roles of female and male characters. In the tragedies, male played the role of superiority while female possessed a lower position that was negligible (7, p. 16). To some extent, the literary work by Shakespeare was underscoring the female obligation in the society as wives, daughters, and mother while exalting the roles played by males as husbands, sons, and fathers.
This literary study will take the notion of the social role as illustrated in Shakespearean tragedies in bringing out the social and public obligations of both male and female characters. The findings of this research will be used to teach theoretical courses in the literature on topics like literary theory, interpretation of literary texts, as well as the cultural and historical basis of English literature. The conduction of this research involved the psychological, philosophical, historical, cultural, and biological methods in demonstrating the notion of social role within the Shakespearean plays.
The Notion of Social Role
A Social role refers to the set of behaviors and obligations expected from an individual holding a specific status in the society. In most cases, people tend to confuse between a status and a role (6, p. 25). The difference between the two is that individuals play roles in their occupied status whereby each status is with expected behavior and obligations referred to as a role. People within the community perform various duties depending on their ranks because a change leads to differences in the expected behaviors and responsibilities. The definition of roles occurs through the determination of their statuses within the social institutions. For example, a person might change the social status from being a daughter to a wife or a mother to such an individual; the roles will also change.
Within the public roles or leadership, roles can also change because of a change in social status. For example, the role of a supervisor changes after getting a promotion to become a manager. The changes in roles occur because every social status has an accompaniment of behaviors and obligations. The other aspect of social functions is that they also change across cultures and time. Concerning culture, the expected behaviors, and requirements from one culture might be different from another one. For instance, the social roles of women in Western culture are different from the ones from the Middle East culture. (6, p. 29). Regarding time, on the other hand, social roles change with time. For example, there some differences in defining a role in modern society compared to the period of the 18th and 19th century.
Following Shakespearean plays, there is a difference in social roles compared to the contemporary social institution. Shakespeare focused on family and public when defining social roles (9, p. 340). Within the family, the writer majored on gender in defining roles as women expected to behave as daughters, wives, and mothers depending on their status in society. Males, on the other hand, were expected to act as sons, husbands, and father as per their social status. Based on the Shakespearean era, the institution of family was within the patriarchal society where males dominated the leadership positions as well as in decision making (10, p. 114). During that time, men had power over women, and they were the family providers and well as having the authority to make decisions.
Although males were key decision makers in the family, they had lesser functions in contributing to the stability of the family. Mothers were considered as the caretakers of the family with the task of ensuring that the family is emotionally stable by keeping the family together (6, p. 32). Mothers also had the role of ensuring that the functionality of the family is smooth. In most cases, adult females played the role of being a mother and wife while younger ones were expected to behave as daughters. Mothers and wives taught their daughter on their expected behaviors in adulthood. As a result, daughters had the role of learning from their mothers on how to become successful wives and family caretakers when they will be adults. Males, on the other hand, played the role of husbands and fathers for the ones who were adults while young ones had the task of behaving sons. Like mothers, fathers also taught their sons on their expected roles when they become adults. Therefore, sons had the role of learning on how to become successful fathers and husbands in their adulthood.
In the modern family, roles have changed where the definition of roles is according to the kind of engagements of family members. Every family has its way of roles assignments as well as stating the one with authority or a decision-maker (6, p. 33). In most cases, in the current society, wives and husbands are the leaders of the family and decision-making occur by consultation from each other. Children are expected to follow the principles set by their parents, but as they grow into adulthood, they are expected to behave like adults with the responsibility of taking up new roles.
Also, in the modern family, wives also contribute to providing for the family needs. The empowerment of women has led to a change in status from family caretakers to taking up other statuses in society like public servants, politicians, or scientists. Women are in a position to take up roles that were considered masculine because of empowerment through education, business, as well as the implementation of policies that fight for their rights (6, p. 33). The process of women having higher statuses in the society has led to the scenario of power strive where both male and female fight to power leadership, and authority leading to the definition of public social roles.
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