What I propose to make is to analyze from the point of position of my ain clip the representation of adult females in Elizabethan play. To state that in Elizabethan drama adult females about ever figure as helpless victims would be a instead thoughtless statement. I believe Shakespeare ‘s dramas are a suited illustration of how adult females were presented within the theater. Society at this clip was male dominated, so of course the dramas will picture the unjust intervention of adult females ; but Shakespeare takes it further. The adult females may be ruled by work forces but the female characters within his dramas are frequently strong, they go against traditions in society and their characters have depth. It would nevertheless be pathetic to state he was a women’s rightist because the term did n’t even be during this period. Shakespeare merely takes both a masculine and feminine point of position, to show an overall cognition of society at this clip ; on occasion showing what an equal society could be like. Shakespeare may be picturing his ain feelings towards the inanity of unequal gender functions. In this essay I will analyze of import scenes from ‘A Midsummer Night ‘s Dream ‘ , ‘Hamlet ‘ , and ‘Titus Andronicus ‘ ; in an purpose to unknot from Shakespeare ‘s plays the enunciation of a baffled cultural response to adult females. I will besides do mention to dramas by other playwrights during this period to exemplify an overview of adult females in Renaissance play non merely written by Shakespeare. For the intent of this essay, audience will mention to non merely a actual audience but besides readers of the dramas.
DEFINE GENDER THEN AND GENDER NOW, AND WHAT MEAN BY FEMINITY
I believe it is besides of import to observe that even though the histrions executing were male, the theater would hold besides been for the amusement of adult females ; the feminine gender was hence displayed through costumes. The theater was non intended to portray adult females as incapacitated adult females, as after all the state was run by a female, Queen Elizabeth I. Phyllis Rackin describes how
the theater provided an sphere where altering gender definitions could be displayed, deplored, or enforced and where anxiousnesss about them could be expressed by dramatists and incited or repressed among their audiences.
I would propose this was Shakespeare ‘s purpose. He wanted to research the feminine gender, their functions in society every bit good as the cultural response towards them, without simple portraying them as helpless victims. This is immediately demonstrated in the opening scene of ‘A Midsummer Night ‘s Dream ‘ ; where Shakespeare portrays Hermia as a developed female character, instead than a hapless ownership. He presents a caput strong adult female who is restrained by society. Egeus attempts to maintain his girl Hermia under his ownership, he describes her as a ‘form of wax ‘ ( 1.1.49 ) ; Here Egeus is exteriorizing his girl as ‘wax ‘ is strictly a substance. He besides states ‘As she is mine, I may dispose of her ‘ ( 1.1.42 ) . The usage of the word ‘dispose ‘ aligns Hermia with an object that can merely be thrown off. Egeus would instead hold his girl killed than allow her get married the adult male she loves. He is seeking to non merely command his girl ‘s emotional life but besides her sexual 1 every bit good, as she would hold to ‘endure the livery of a nun ‘ ( 1.1.70 ) . The usage of ‘nun ‘ clearly signifies a alone life for Hermia without a hubby or kids. The audience nevertheless can non take Egeus quandary earnestly as there is no difference in wealth between Lysander and Demetrius ; so alternatively we align with froward Hermia, who will non fall victim to her male parent commands. She illustrates the power of female gender by non giving up her virginity to person she does n’t love. Even though the drama contains powerful emotions the amusing representation reminds audiences it is a comedy. If Shakespeare wanted to portray a incapacitated victim certainly Hermia would immediately get married Demetrius ; alternatively he illustrates the societal restraints every bit good as portraying a brave adult female, who is willing to run off. The fact that is it Demetruius that is following Hermia clearly shows she is non a weak adult females, and he is in fact helpless because she wo n’t love him. A amusing consequence is created when Hermia goes against outlooks of her fearful quandary and alternatively says ‘O snake pit, to take love by another ‘s eyes! ‘ ( 1.1.140 ) .The repeat of ‘O ‘ when she replies to Lysander with ‘O cross! ‘ , ‘O spite! ‘ and ‘O snake pit! ‘ depicts how she will non give him up.
A similar state of affairs is presented in Thomas Dekker ‘s ‘The Shoemaker ‘s Holiday ‘ , where ( act ) Rose ‘s father likewise interferes by indicating out that ‘too mean is my hapless miss for this high birth ‘ ( ) ; his girl can non be with her lover Lacy because she is from a lower category. Shakespeare was non the lone author to stand for society ; Dekker besides tried to portray the intervention of adult females within his drama.
In Shakespeare ‘s ‘A Midsummer Night ‘s Dream ‘ , Hermia is non the merely strong female within the drama ; Titania besides illustrates power and the strength of female relationships ( despite being a faery ) . In Act 2 Scene 1 she justifies to her hubby Oberon why she should maintain the orphan, she states ‘ [ … ] for her interest do I rise up up her male child, / And for her interest I will non portion with him. ‘ ( 2.1.136-137 ) Titania ‘s relationship with the orphan ‘s female parent appears to intend more to her than the 1 with her hubby. Titania challenges her hubby unlike the traditional Elizabethan married woman, making a balance between male and female. In Act 2 Scene1 the audience are presented with Oberon, oppugning her responsibility to him ; he asks ‘Tarry, rash wanton. Am non I thy lord? ‘ ( 2.1.49 ) ; the usage of ‘wanton ‘ mentioning to her unprompted behavior for waiving ‘his bed and company. ‘ ( 2.1.63 ) Titania so accuses him of holding another lover, Hippolyta ; once more exemplifying a caput strong, brave female. One must observe that Titania ‘s power is besides reflected in the construction of the drama, where Titania amongst other females drive the drama frontward in moving brave against ordering males.
Titania besides describes how Oberon ‘s ‘forgeries of green-eyed monster ‘ ( ) are halting her from seeing other faeries, possibly implicating that if work forces were non in the universe, upseting the peace so society would be a happy topographic point. It could be said that the attitudes of work forces in Elizabethan society caused adult females to be condemned and perceived as helpless victims. Simone de Beauvoir describes in her book ‘The Second Sex ‘ a typical male perceptual experience of adult females saying that:
Humanity is male and adult male defines adult female non herself but every bit comparative to him… she is the minor expense, the unessential as opposed to the indispensable. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute- she is the Other.
This is precisely how Oberon perceives his married woman ; she is an object to him, but she is strong plenty to contend back. Oberon is perceived by audiences as being in the incorrect for demanding the kid from Titania ; after all she has cared for him since his female parent passed off. It could hence be interpreted that in Shakespeare ‘s dramas it is the work forces who are weak for taking their ain mistakes out on their adult females. This is besides the instance in the Tragedy ‘Hamlet ‘ .
In Act 3 Scene 1 Hamlet criticises adult females for conveying out the mistakes in work forces. He uses makeup to propose adult females paint their faces to mask the ugly, which besides acts as a metaphor to propose that adult females are dishonest, but conceal it good. He states ‘I have heard of your pictures excessively, good plenty. God/ has given you one face and you make yourselves another. ‘ ( 3.1.142-143 ) He believes that her misrepresentation ‘hath made [ him ] … mad ‘ ( 3.1.146 ) . It is of import to retrieve that this conversation is a trial of Hamlet ‘s insanity ; the audience are cognizant from Claudis ‘s and Polonius ‘s ‘withdraw [ Al ] ‘ ( 3.1.57 ) earlier on in the scene, that they are watching Hamlet. This leaves the audience inquiring, is Hamlet merely moving mad or is he genuinely insane? Are these his true feelings for Ophelia even though he ‘s merely moving? I believe he is strictly faulting Ophelia for his ain mistakes ; he has lost his male parent and does n’t cognize how to cover with it. Linda Bambe in her book ‘Comic Women, Tragic Men ‘ describes how ‘The hero ‘s position of adult females ranges bottom at the minute when he is out of control of himself and his universe. ‘ ( Footnote page 15 ) This doubtless could be the instance ; and could be a ground behind the mistreatment of adult females in Elizabethan society. It is easy to fault the people closest to you and accordingly as a signifier of penalty the adult females became objects to their work forces. I would travel as far to state that it was the work forces who were incapacitated victims and dealt with it by reprobating adult females ; adult females were hence basically microcosms of a baffled society.
Hamlet ‘s female parent Gertrude stems his torture, as she seems to hold no control over herself. His male parent has died and his female parent has immediately fallen for his uncle. The audience gets a sense of how rapidly Gertrude has moved on, when Hamlet describes how the ‘The funeral baked meats/ Did in cold blood supply the matrimony tabular arraies. ‘ ( 1.2.179-180 ) He jokes that the nutrient from his male parent ‘s funeral could besides provide for the nuptials. Hamlet is so fed up with his female parent that he distances himself from her ; this is clearly depicted through the usage of a 3rd individual narrative. Gertrude hence has power over Hamlet her actions are commanding his head, feelings and actions. On the other manus Gertrude could be interpreted as ‘helpless ‘ because she clearly ca n’t be without a adult male.
In ‘Titus Andronicus ‘ Shakespeare uses powerful imagination of Lavinia ‘s organic structure as a ‘changing piece ‘ ( ) to picture how adult females enabled work forces to hold a sense of power. In the gap of the drama Titus perceives his girl as his ownership as she is chaste. Bassianus and Saturninus desire Lavinia as she is ‘Rome ‘s rich decoration ‘ ( ) ; she is chaste, she is the girl of Titus ( the possible emperor ) and no 1 in society seems to oppugn her virtuousness. Therefore any adult male that makes her his married woman is traveling to hold the power of ownership by taking her valued virginity and will be a measure nearer to power if he marries the girl of the likely following emperor. Lavinia illustrates the virtuousness of adult females by being soundless. In the gap act Saturninus claims her, saying ‘Lavinia will I do my empress ‘ ( 1.1.240 ) , the audience are cognizant she is on phase but she remains soundless. Lavania has the power to give any of the three work forces the power of ownership, she could stay chaste and hence remain the belongings of Titus or she could get married Bassianus or Saturninus. Shakespeare so depicts a societal upset through the colza of Lavinia in the Act 2.
In this act Shakespeare represents a three-dimension character, audiences learn that Lavinia is non all perfect and accordingly her despicable linguistic communication ends up in her losing her whole individuality. Whereas old Lavinia was vitreous and decided to stay soundless, here she illustrates that she does hold the power to talk. Lavinia says to Tamora ‘ [ … ] you have a goodish gift in tusking ‘ ( 2.3.67 ) . The footer informs readers that ‘horning ‘ refers to ‘The hubbies of unfaithful adult females were supposed to turn staglike horns ‘ ( 425 ) . Lavinia is naming Tamora an extramarital. She is so raped and a phase way in the following scene informs readers that she has had ‘her custodies cut off and her lingua cut out, and ravished ‘ ( 2.4 ) . I would propose that the mutilation of her organic structure is a literary device instead than an existent mutilation picturing Lavinia ‘s loss of power. In the gap of the drama she could take if wanted to talk, now she is unable to. She had her virginity now it has been taken off. Her organic structure now symbolises a black female in Elizabethan society. The colza besides signifies the societal and political upset in this period, where virginity was a contradiction. Men wanted adult females untouched, by their indispensable purpose was to derive power through taking a adult females ‘s virginity. Sexual appetency nevertheless would hold played on a adult male ‘s anxiousness, because adult females would hold a sense of control. I would propose Shakespeare uses flooring imagination of Lavinia to educate adult females into moving virtuous as a warning that society will alter them into ‘helpless victims ‘ .
The power of this scene would nevertheless depend on the directorial representation of Lavinia. Directors may take to picture a strong adult female still seeking to contend back despite the colza and mutilation others may take to do her a delicate female, who accepts licking and the loss of her individuality.
I would besides wish to do mention to Thomas Kyd ‘s representation of Bel- Imperia in ‘The Spanish Tragedy ‘ ; as it is similar to Shakespeare ‘s word picture of Lavinia and Tamora. Bel-imperia has the same qualities of Lavinia in the gap of ‘Titus Andronicus ‘ , she is chaste and is extremely valued by work forces in society for this. However like Tamora, she seeks retaliation ; Balthazar ‘s concluding behind the violent death of Horatio is because ‘ [ … ] Balthazar loves Bel-imperia. ‘ ( 2.4.59 ) . The audience are subsequently presented with Bel-imperia taking Balthazar ‘s life every bit good as her ain to get away male use. Her terminal shows the strength of her complex character for being able to kill, yet besides is tragic because it was the lone manner she could get away.
To reason, I would wish to hold with R.S White ‘s description that: ‘A playwright ‘s occupation is to give voices to opposing moral point of views [ … ] . ‘ Shakespeare, Kyd and Dekkar all challenge society, whilst leting their audiences to witness the objectification of adult females. These adult females were exploited in society and were ever inferior to work forces except for Queen Elizabeth of class. They create dimensional female characters to picture that adult females excessively were in fact powerful excessively ; it was society that constrained them. Womans in these dramas do n’t merely look as helpless victims they show bravery, personality and are doubtless head strong. The adult females are restrained by society but battle for their desires. But unluckily because of the patriarchal society adult females ever end up as ‘helpless victims ‘ . I hence believe the female gender Acts of the Apostless as a microcosm of the tragic universe outside. It has to be consider were these authors excessively scared to allow adult females be winning in the terminal or did they merely want to portray a realistic overview of the society they lived in. But, within these dramas one thing is certain, the female characters were deriving existent personalities and depicted that they would no longer let themselves to be pure ownership of work forces.