Shakespeare and Women
Shakespeare wrote over thirty plays, most, if not all, had at least one female character. The way they acted, felt, and thought varied from play to play; sometimes they were a Rosalind, but more often they were the meek, easily led, property that they were considered in Shakespeare’s world. This raises several questions, Was Shakespeare a feminist? How many of his female characters were really independent? Shakespeare’s female characters are very diverse; some conform to the passive norm of the time, but others go against the “weak” stereotype that was prevalent in the Elizabethan times. Women at the time were not held in high regard, most men believed them to be “inferior.” However, the Renaissance brought new thinking to England, and so some members of the Nobility were given privileges that were previously unheard of. Education was one of these privileges, while limited, educating ladies was a huge step for Women’s rights in the 1600’s. The girls of Noble birth were taught by tutors at home from the age of five, or even younger. Various languages were taught including Latin, Italian, Greek and French. Music and dancing skills were essential for Elizabethan women. However, they were not allowed to go to university. Meanwhile, the noble ladies’ counterparts, the commoners would not have attended school or received any formal type of education. The only education they received was domestic duties such as how to govern a household. Their education would have been purely of this domestic nature in preparation for the only real career option for a girl - marriage! All Elizabethan women would be expected to marry, and would be dependent on her male relatives throughout her life. Single Elizabethan women were sometimes looked upon with suspicion; it was often the single women who were thought to be witches by their neighbors. Elizabethan women were expected to bring a dowry to the marriage; a dowry was an amount of money, goods, and...
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