Views of Women from Pre-Classical Era Through the Renaissance

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Martha Gilleece
World Lit 1 Term Paper
11/28/12
Word Count/1209
Views of Women from Pre-classical Era through the Renaissance

The attitudes of male characters towards female characters changed from pre-classical literature to classical literature drastically from the time “Gilgamesh” was written to the time Shakespeare’s sonnets were published. The change was slow, in Gilgamesh women are tempting animalistic people and in Homer’s “Iliad,” and the “Odyssey,” the women represent what was and wasn’t okay in society. In Dante’s “Inferno” the woman Beatrice was a symbol of holiness to him and he used her as a symbol to represent his salvation. Later, Petrarch used Dante’s mold to create Laura, who unlike Beatrice was described more as a physical symbol than as a holy symbol. Shakespeare changed the female from being idealistic and perfect in every way, to being a normal woman with flaws but who could be loved despite physical flaws. Women throughout history have changed from being lower beings than men, to higher beings than men to being on the relatively same level as men.

In “Gilgamesh,” women are viewed as nothing more than objects, for example the temple harlot is taken out in the woods for the sole purpose of taming Enkidu, Gilgamesh’s best friend.

“There he is. Now, woman, make your breasts bare, have no shame, do not delay but welcome his love. Let him see you naked; let him possess your body. When he comes neat uncover yourself and lie with him; teach him, the savage man, your woman’s art, for when he murmurs love to you the wild beasts that shared his life in the hills will reject him” (50) Gilgamesh

The temple harlot is used as a tool for bringing Enkidu into civilized society With her sexuality and her advice on how to act in society. Enkidu never talks about her or shows affection for her again, she was used only for the purpose of sex.

In the Iliad, Helen, is the cause of the ten years of war in Troy, she left her husband in...
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