The nature of cursing : efficacy, femininity and revenge in Shakespeare's curses
Bitz, Amanda Rose Echeverria
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Curses are present in many of Shakespeare's texts, specifically his first tetralogy and tragic plays. In an effort to elucidate the various effects they have on the plays in which they occur, I apply J.L. Austin's speech act theory to curses, in conjunction with fostering a cultural understanding of the beliefs surrounding curses in the early modern period. The role of curses differs based on the genre of the play in which they are uttered, so this thesis is divided into a chapter on the histories, namely Shakespeare's first tetralogy, and a chapter containing analysis of three tragedies: Titus Andronicus, King Lear, and Timon of Athens.The efficacy of curses varies with their position against Austin's performative and constative speech acts, and they frequently embody characteristics of both. Curses in Shakespearean plays are nearly always feminized and function as a tool for vengeance by marginalized characters, which serve to represent and reinforce the beliefs of the time surrounding curses.