Symbolic and Social Boundaries During Shakespeare’s Time in America

free essaySince the beginning of time, the human race has adopted a way of bringing out its inner differences. The diversity of mankind appears in various forms, whether it is the ethnicity, the language, or their economic status. Without doubt, the symbolic boundaries are a society’s way of creating borderlines against the people it wants to reject. Lamont and Molnar draw attention to the meaning of the symbolic boundaries and its relationship with the social boundaries, as in its context symbolic boundaries can be evident even among the small children.

Symbolic and Social Boundaries

People invent various ways of distinguishing between different aspects of life. Examples of such abstract things are the symbolic boundaries that are widely recognized by society, as they help classify practices, people, and other items into specific groups. If symbolic boundaries are taken into consideration during the process of the assigning the categories, it is possible to learn the similarities and the differences among the individuals. In detail, while some people with similar features may feel a sense of belonging together, the ones with different qualities would be excluded from the group (Lamont and Molnar 167). Additionally, sociologists have identified symbolic boundaries that people use to classify others. For instance, individuals in the workplace or education institutions may group themselves according to national boundaries, culture, as well as gender. Other symbolic boundaries that regularly alienate people while at the same time uniting others are race and social class (Lamont and Molnar 168).

Since symbolic boundaries assist in creating sub-groups, it is also possible to employ them in the categorizing the handling of public resources. On the one hand, these resources may be material such as public funds, infrastructure, and labor resources. On the other hand, such social opportunities as an access to education or a quality health care are another, non-material form of public resources. To be utilized as a social method of differentiating people, the boundaries must be recognized as an appropriate way of including and excluding others (Lamont and Molnar 169). Consequently, most people advance their status in the society by exploiting the symbolic boundaries that concern race. Another way the social and symbolic boundaries are connected is the fact that in some cases, the symbolic boundaries can replace the social boundaries. Even so, the society often uses the symbolic boundaries to achieve social boundaries. For instance, a group of individuals sharing a similar symbolic boundary can move itself from one social status to another. Hence, symbolic boundaries are important in making social boundaries appear as a rational means in the community structure formation (Lamont and Molanr 186).

Borderwork and Symbolic Boundaries

Borderwork, as described in the book, explains the role of engaging in game activities in bringing out the child gender. In other words, gender boundaries are created in the playground when the children feel threatened by the actions of the representative of another gender (Thorne 64). The idea is almost similar to that of symbolic boundaries: for instance, the boys have different preferences in their games opposing those created by girls, so an attempt to enter the other gender’s activities is met with hostility. That is a way of excluding, for example, the girls from interacting with the boys. Hence, the children are separated from one another and classified into groups according to common qualities, which in this case is their gender.

Borderwork occurs naturally when the children are participating in diverse entertainment activities, whether in school or in the neighborhood. One gender excludes the other from their sports making it almost impossible for children to engage in the cross-gender activities. Furthermore, those children who cross to the other gender’s interactions are discriminated. Even if such girls are being less shamed compared to the boys, they are still teased with such names as tomboys (Thorne 86). Moreover, the different themes in the playground also act as a borderwork, as including aggression, romance and power, they define the more feminine or masculine games the boys or girls should play depending on their gender. Accordingly, aggressive games involving power are meant for boys while those with romantic themes are for girls (Thorne 81).

In the playground, the different games between the girls as well as the boys cease to be just symbolic boundaries but a form of social boundary. In general, they reflect the discrepancy in terms of power and hierarchy in the society. Men are seen as the ones who should have power in the society, so the boys engage in physical activities revealing the same, mostly exploiting the girls in the playground: as the case of boys interrupting the girls’ sports or occupying a larger part of the playground than that taken up by the girls (Thorne 83). As such, the gender interactions result as a method of the male gender controlling the resources of children’s entertainment that leads to the inequality.

Shakespearian Performances

The journal article identifies some of the features Shakespeare possessed that made his work vastly entertaining and popular. First, the American literate people enjoyed reading or watching Shakespeare’s plays in theaters (Levine 36). Besides, the society found it easy to relate to his pieces because it focused on the common issues and attracted individuals from all the social classes irrespectively of their economic conditions. His recognition as an author was also caused by the social conditions, as there was a lot of pressure in the nation during Shakespeare’s lifetime and people required the distraction (Levine 40). Despite the emergency of other works in the theatres, his plays have taken a significant place in the minds of the audience. Some say that it can be attributed to the fact that his actors participated in farces (Levine 41 The willingness of the people to watch his plays has escalated to the level when a majority of them could even narrate almost entire plays. Finally, the Americans viewed Shakespeare as an individual with great qualities such as kindness, modesty, civility, and gentleness (Levine 42).?

American cities had theatres, which served the whole community at the same time. Nonetheless, to attract all socioeconomic groups, the rates charged for the Shakespearian shows were considerably reduced. The theatres were constructed in such a way that they had three sitting areas assigned for different social classes; for instance, the low-class audience could only watch from the balcony, as most of them did not have funds because they were either apprentices or mere servants, who. Along with other members of the society, as prostitutes or colored people, were treated as outcasts and were not allowed to sit in the same seats as the other groups. The middle-income persons sat in the orchestra, whereas the last group enclosed the most affluent upper-class representatives who could afford to pay for the boxes (Levine 43).


All in all, it is obvious from the discussions above that symbolic as well as social boundaries are significant to the human race. Sociologists identify these two elements as the causes of social inequality among individuals. It is interesting to note that people discover the power of symbolic boundaries while still young as small girls and boys often engage in sports that define their genders and raise the indestructible borders. In fact, the borders lead them to oppose each other whenever they interact in both home and school environments, the phenomenon was named a borderwork by Thorne, a sociologist. In the past centuries, social boundaries were evident in a variety of manners, including the theatre business, as even despite the popularity of Shakespeare’s plays, people from different social classes could not intercommunicate while watching them.

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