How Does Shakespeare Present Relationship Between Men and Women and How Might a Modern Day Audience Respond?

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  • Topic: The Winter's Tale, Marriage, Woman
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  • Published : January 3, 2009
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How does Shakespeare present relationship between Men and Women and how might a modern day audience respond?

During the time of Shakespeare women lived in a male dominated society. Women In this period had virtually no legal power and lost all right to own all personal property when they married. Men were expected to be the heads of the households. Once a boy turned eight he no longer was required to obey his mother. The ideal woman was believed to be a virgin and a faithful wife. Female honour and social respectability were tied so closely to sexuality that death was often presented as preferable to the loss of female chastity. The relationships between Men and Women In this play do reflect the status between them at the time. Hermione would seem to fit in the idyllic woman’s criteria, and also seem to be an exception to the sexist views of the Jacobean time. Although Leontes hysterical paranoia would mean that he believes otherwise. Hermione begins with good standing in court, she is highly respected by Polixenes and this is shown by how he refers to her, “fair queen/my most sacred lady”. She is able to talk to men and not been seen as a second class citizen or a suboralinate as most women were during the Jacobean period. The loyalty her people have for her is genuine not just a duty because she is the Queen. Also as well as her people Hermione is highly revered by King Leontes as he has trusted in her by giving her the duty to try and make Polixenes stay a little longer. However Leontes dramatic change of attitude towards her is shocking to any audience. His intense jealously and derogatory language leads a modern audience to believe he is acting completely irrational and disrespectful to his innocent wife. From calling her “my dearest” to questioning if Mamillius is really his son “Art thou my boy?” Leontes also seems to change his attitudes towards women completely “Women say so, that will say anything” An audience of the time would have see this as an imbalance of the mind which can be reversed. Where as a modern day audience would be angered by his opposition to there rational mind, they would see it as an abuse of his power. However Jacobeans would think differently as during that period there was something not to trust about women, they were expected to obey men and were used for political success. For example, when Leontes asks Hermione to try and persuade Polixenes to stay longer. Leontes later regrets what he asked of Hermione. His speech patterns are fragmented indicating his jealously as it almost seems as if he’s talking to himself. Leontes jealously is shown through his crude language it almost seem he has lost all respect for his wife when begins to insult her “she has been sluiced in’s absence”. Leontes language is in complete contrast to others when talking about Hermione. As a modern audience has far more equal views they are enlightened in a situation like this, so although a Jacobean audience may be able to relate with this play a modern audience would still be interested in watching the play as they would be intrigued in how different the status of women was and how lunacy it was that Leontes behaviour would just have be accepted because of his royal status. In Act 1 Scene 2 we see that Leontes plan to have Camillo kill Polixenes establishes not only the extent of Leontes madness, that he now wants his best friend to be killed but Camillo’s defiance against King Leontes “I do’t not” proves how pure Hermione is and how many people loved her. Leontes and Hermione’s relationship is lead into turmoil due to the height and lunacy of Leontes’ paranoia. During the court case Hermione remains calm and maintains dignified despite the crude things Leontes calls her “she’s A bed-swerver”. A modern day audience would feel sympathetic towards Hermione during the trial because there seems to be no justice throughout it as he publicly humiliates his wife this would annoy and anger a modern...
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