Shakespeares Portrayal Of Women English Literature Essay

Shakespeare ‘s female characters are represented across a assortment of societal categories. In this essay I will research how Shakespeare portrays adult females in A Midsummer Night ‘s Dream inclusive of several female characters in this drama. This allows us to analyze in deepness, to a really limited extent, how they were treated in society and the stereotyped functions Elizabethan society imposed upon them. I will be analyzing specifically the characters and portraiture of Hippolyta, Helena and Hermia and how they defy the stereotyped impression of how adult females were treated by work forces.

First, the most obvious facet sing Shakespeare ‘s portraiture of adult females in this drama is that the female gender is commodified. Throughout the drama, adult females are treated like objects to be sold or traded. With mention to the background of the characters Theseus and Hippolyta, Greek mythology provinces that when Theseus, the Duke of Athens, sailed to the land of the Amazon, the Amazons offered Theseus gifts of peace. However, Theseus kidnapped Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazonians, and forcefully made her his married woman.[ 1 ]This resulted in the war between the Athenians and the Amazons. Theseus ‘s action of claiming Hippolyta as a award and a married woman might demo that he treats them as objects instead than human existences.[ 2 ]This thought is reinforced when Theseus says ‘Hippolyta, I wooed thee with my blade, and won thy love making thee hurts ‘ ( I.i.16-17 ) . This statement refers to how Theseus won the conflict with the Amazons and in suppressing the Amazons ; he has “ conquered ” their queen, Hippolyta, both physically and emotionally.

Hippolyta ‘s lines in this drama are of comparatively undistinguished sum and value every bit compared to Theseus ‘s. For illustration, in the first Act, Hippolyta merely comforts Theseus by stating that ‘Four yearss will rapidly immerse themselves in dark ; Four darks will rapidly woolgather away the clip ‘ ( I.i.7-8 ) and they will hold the matrimony ceremonial shortly. In add-on, Theseus appears to be doing the determinations sing everything, runing from their matrimony to Hermia ‘s matrimony. This is important as it shows that Hippolyta is subservient to Theseus as she has small say in these province events despite being seated following to Theseus. In add-on, Hippolyta ‘s silence could perchance demo how she is unhappy about being forced into a matrimony with Theseus[ 3 ]as shown in the 1970s BBC production of A Midsummer Night ‘s Dream. Hippolyta ‘s silence could besides be seen as a rejection of male laterality.[ 4 ]However, it is besides important that Hippolyta gets is given more of a voice in the last scene after being married and this will be explored subsequently.

Another relationship that suggests the marginalizing of adult females is seen once more between Egeus and Hermia. Egeus, Hermia ‘s male parent, has made up his head to get married Hermia to Demetrius but Hermia refuses to make so. Egeus so brings up this ailment to Theseus, trusting Theseus is able to assist him. In making so, Egeus is shown to see Hermia as a trade good. Egeus says that Hermia has ‘turned her obeisance, which is due to me ‘ ( I.i.37 ) and that since ‘she is mine, I may dispose of her ‘ ( I.i.42 ) . These 2 lines show Egeus handling Hermia as ‘mere belongings ‘[ 5 ]because he made her and therefore Hermia ought to listen to her male parent ‘s instructions. This thought is besides proven by some parents in the early seventeenth century such as Sir Edward Coke who whipped his girl into matrimony with a mentally unsound adult male.[ 6 ]

Furthermore, Theseus becomes the personification of the jurisprudence in Athens as he tells Hermia to ‘either to decease the decease, or to recant for of all time the society of work forces ‘ ( I.i.65-66 ) . Harmonizing to the ‘ancient privilege of Athens ‘ ( I.i.41 ) a adult female ‘s male parent has the right to make up one’s mind who she should get married and she has no say in his determination. If the adult female goes against the wants of her male parent, she can either be put to decease or to remain a virgin everlastingly by going a nun. The figure of different options given by both Theseus and Egeus merely goes to back up the fact that Renaissance adult females were constrained in the verbal medium and that silence was ‘the virtuousness most strictly required from Renaissance adult females. ‘[ 7 ]

However, it is besides through these three adult females that we see the female gender withstanding the society ‘s intervention of adult females so. Hippolyta, Helena and Hermia go against the grain in their alone ways and show that despite the restrictions and Torahs that society imposes upon them, they are able to asseverate themselves and demo society that they have the possible to be every bit capable as work forces. Critics have said that Shakespeare ‘s portraiture of adult females in this mode could perchance be his ain base on how adult females should be treated every bit as work forces but since he belongs to the Elizabethan epoch, it is still hard to earn Shakespeare ‘s precise positions on feminism and its issues entirely based A Midsummer Night ‘s Dream and even if we could, it is still debatable to judge his 16th – seventeenth century mentality based on the definitions and standards of 20th century feminism.[ 8 ]In add-on, Shakespeare is based in the Elizabethan epoch yet he writes about the lives and attitudes of the ancient Greeks. This suggests that construing Shakespeare ‘s mentality from his plant is merely dependable to a little extent. Hence, his representation of adult females merely serves as an apprehension to how he was irregular in the gender premises of his epoch.

One highly effectual method of demoing that adult females should asseverate holding their sentiments and rights recognized by work forces is to hold the characters in A Midsummer Night ‘s Dream either prosecute in a power battle or a function reversal. The really first power battle shown in the drama exists between Egeus/Theseus and Hermia. In Act 1 Scene 1, Hermia openly defies Egeus ‘s wants for her to get married Demetrius alternatively of Lysander. Through Egeus ‘s eyes, Hermia is seen to hold a ‘stubborn abrasiveness ‘ ( I.i.38 ) and she will non ‘consent to get married with Demetrius ‘ ( I.i.40 ) . She defies Egeus despite cognizing that ancient tradition grants the male parent power to get married his girl off whoever he wishes to. However, she even conspires with Lysander and agrees to his program of go forthing Athens to Lysander ‘s widow aunt whose house is ‘remote seven conferences ‘ ( I.i. 159 ) and out of range of the ‘sharp Athenian jurisprudence ‘ ( I.i.162 ) . While running off might look like a nuanced and elusive signifier of rebelliousness, it is still an avowal of Hermia ‘s rights and freedom as a adult female to take who she marries.

In the same scene, she defies Theseus in both her tone and her linguistic communication. For illustration, when Theseus tries to carry Hermia to get married Demetrius by stating that ‘Demetrius is a worthy gentleman ‘ ( I.i.52 ) Hermia asserts, ‘So is Lysander ‘ ( I.i.53 ) . In add-on, when Theseus tells Hermia that she faces either a nunnery or decease, she replies that ‘My psyche consents non to give sovereignty ‘ ( I.i.82 ) and she would instead be a nun than holding to get married Demetrius. In Hermia ‘s instance, the act of adult females asseverating themselves is about unheard of as Shakespeare ‘lived in a patriarchal civilization in which authorization and privilege is peculiarly invested in the custodies of the patriarch of a household. ‘ This shows that adult females were low-level to work forces.[ 9 ]

The most obvious illustration of gender reversal is between Demetrius and Helena. In Act 2 Scene 1, Helena reminds the audience about this function reversal by stating, ‘We can non contend for love, as work forces may make ; we should be wooed, and were non made to court ‘ ( II.i.241-242 ) . This line refers to how, in this state of affairs, Helena is playing the function of the male chasing after the female ( Demetrius ) through the forests and carrying Demetrius to love her. Although I acknowledge that Helena is forced to court Demetrius due to her state of affairs of unanswered love, it is non proper for a adult female to act in this mode in Ancient Greece.

This function reversal between Helena and Demetrius suggests that in Ancient Greece, adult females were generalized as insensible and unable to do proper judgements and hence needed a male defender.[ 10 ]By acquiring Helena to play the function of work forces, Shakespeare creates amusing alleviation as the audience sees it as pathetic and absurdly amusing. In add-on, some members of the audience may experience sympathetic for Helena alternatively. Inducing sympathy and disputing the audiences ‘ perceptual experience of adult females could hold been Shakespeare ‘s purposes to advance equal intervention regardless of gender. However, this apparently amusing state of affairs still holds true to this twenty-four hours as we, to a little extent, still stereotype adult females as human existences to be wooed by work forces despite assorted organisations forcing for female equality. This may be due to our familial make-up as human existences or cultural influences about adult females but we do non precisely know.

The concluding case of a power battle between the genders occurs between Theseus and Hippolyta. In Act 5 Scene 1, Hippolyta voices out that she disagrees with Theseus on the events that happened to the lovers the old dark. While Theseus says that he ‘may ne’er believe these antique fabrications ‘ ( V.i.2-3 ) , Hippolyta disagrees and says that it must hold been true because ‘all their heads transfigured together ‘ ( V.i.24 ) and it was ‘more witnesseth than illusion ‘s images ‘ ( V.i.25 ) . Hippolyta ‘s verbal reply can be seen in two ways. First, Michael Boyd, a phase manager implied that Hippolyta has accepted Theseus as she gives her hubby a buss. This suggests that Hippolyta is merely discoursing the whole issue about the lovers with Theseus. The darker manner of looking at this is that Hippolyta is involved in ‘struggles for power in a patriarchal society. ‘[ 11 ]In making so, Hippolyta empowers the female gender by traveling against how adult females were supposed to be submissive and agreeable to their hubbies.

In decision, I hope this essay demonstrates Shakespeare ‘s several witting and subconscious women’s rightist purposes, through A Midsummer Night ‘s Dream, in his portraiture of adult females as ‘opposition to the supposed virtuousnesss of matrimony. ‘[ 12 ]More significantly, this paper would hold suggested that A Midsummer Night ‘s Dream may be interpreted to connote Shakespeare being a proto-feminist who understood and sympathized adult females who were treated below the belt.