The Role of Women in British Literature
27 April 2011
Gothic literature has been notorious for the patriarchy in which it entails, as well as the violence that is continuously enacted on the female characters. In the different novels we have read this semester the role of women has been depicted gothic manner, but each in it’s own different way. Some authors completely disregard women in their works, while others include them to have characters that reinforce the status quo of the female being an educator and nurturer. Despite the differences, each work reflects some sense of the roles that women played during the time in which it was written. During the 17th century women played a very minimal role in society, and the literature of this time period confirms that stigma. Dr. Faustus is one such example, as no women characters are depicted and if they are, they are brought to light in the most degrading of manners. When Dr. Faustus summons Mephastophilis to fetch him a wife he says, “Nay sweet Mephstophilis, fetch me one for I will have one” (Marlowe, 19). Faustus has a “sinfully inordinate desire, not merely for a consort, but specifically for a wife” (Tate, 264) and that is the first thing he demands from Mephistopheles after signing away his soul. He only wants a wife to be “wanton and lascivious” and Mephistopheles responds with “why a wife, rather than a lover?” (Tate, 264) Dr. Faustus assumes that women are there for his taking, to be at his beckon call. Because women are objectified, Mephastophilis returns with a devil dressed as a woman and refers to her as a “hot whore” (Marlowe, 73). This novel also confirms the idea that only women are judged fro being promiscuous, because although men may behave in a similar manner, they do not receive negative titles for it. The only women mentioned in Marlowe’s play are Helen of Troy, the wife of Alexander the Great, and the devil woman that Dr. Faustus takes as...