"The great cycle of the ages is renewed. Now Justice returns, returns the Golden Age; a new generation now descends from on high." - Virgil, Eclogues 1.5
As Virgil stated so many years ago, history is a cyclical phenomenon. The experiences of one age tend to be repeated in future generations. Knowing that, we should not be surprised to find the seeds of modern styles and philosophies sprouting in earlier ages.
Elizabethan England was a society undergoing major social changes. In religion the country had recently left the fold of Catholicism to establish the Church of England. While England during this time was a major world power, she also enjoyed a level of security thanks to her easily defended boundaries as an island nation with a powerful navy. The sense of power and security allowed for the growth of a prosperous middle class. Within this milieu of power combined with internal security and economic growth the seeds of change were nurtured#. Intellectual and artistic freedom and growth were fostered in this environment, Elizabethan England provided an environment that allowed men like William Shakespeare to find a voice that reached not only his own generation but continues to speak to the modern world.
Just as today a woman's wedding was one of the most important days of her life. The major difference to Elizabethan wedding customs to a modern day Western marriage is that the woman had very little, if any, choice in who her husband might be. Elizabethan Women were subservient to men. They were dependent on their male relatives to support them. Elizabethan woman were raised to believe that they were inferior to men and that men knew better! Disobedience was seen as a crime against their religion. Marriages were frequently arranged so that both families involved would benefit. Marriages would be arranged to bring prestige or wealth to the family - a surprising fact is that young men were treated in a similar way as to women! Many couples would meet for the very first time on their wedding day! This particular Elizabethan custom usually applied to the nobility but the married or religious life were the only real options for the Elizabethans ( a career for a woman was absolutely unheard of!) Regardless of their social standing women and men were expected to marry. Single women were thought to be witches by their neighbours.
This old custom of the Shakespearean times has much to do with the relationship of the four lovers and deals with the theme of desire, a theme that see fro the beginning of the play. From the beginning, Hermia defiantly denies her father’s attempts at an arranged marriage, saying that she loves and wants to marry Lysander. In her defense, she uses words of chastity and moral purity to claim her fidelity and love towards Lysander and inability to marry Demetrius “I know not by what power I am made bold / nor how it may concern my modesty”. What Hermia fears is...