A Midsummer Night's Dream: Women In Elizabethian England
I think something very interesting in this play is the way in which woman were seen in Elizabethan England during Shakespeare's day. The play gives numerous examples of the way woman are treated as second class citizens; for instance, the laws concerning marriage and the position of men in society.
When Hermia states that she does not want to marry Demetrius, the man of her fathers choice, and would rather marry Lysander, she is placed in a difficult position. Her father seeks out the aid of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, who states the law and what she can do in such a situation: marry who her father says, become a nun, or die. All three of these "choices" involved sterility either emotional, sexual, or absolute, respectively. These don't really sound like choices to me, nor do they sound like choices to Hermia. Woman, especially daughters, were to do what men commanded.
Another example of how woman were seen as second class citizens is how they were supposed to treat men. Theseus proclaims to Hermia that she should see her father as a God for he alone is responsible for her being. No mention is made of Hermia's mother. It seemed to be the view at this time that men were wholly responsible for the creation of children and woman were just a vessel for the birthing. Which is curious because one would expect woman to hold a higher place for giving birth to children, the lifeline to the future.
During the Shakespearean era woman were seen as second class citizens. Although the start of marriage for love was just beginning, woman were still expected to do what males told them. In addition, they were seen as a mere vessel for birth and did not play an integral role in the creation of a child.
Men were to be treated with respect and reverence.
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