women in "the Merchant of Venice"

Topics: The Merchant of Venice, Feminism, Gender role Pages: 11 (4560 words) Published: October 19, 2014
Women in "Merchant of Venice"
In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, there are many controversies over religion and friendship, but the idea of the play that interested me the most was the role of women. The two women that are in this play take on the role of the saviors of the men who seem helpless and hopeless compared to them. Influences of the Radical Feminist Perspective in The Merchant of Venice Angela Caravella 2006

The role that women play within many Shakespearian plays often highlights their perseverance, strength, and intelligence. This perhaps indicates the playwright's understanding that women should be on equal ground with men. However, the conclusion of his works lead to the powerful, independent woman settling back into society with her husband. Within the play The Merchant of Venice, the female characters achieve amazing deeds to "clean up" the messes that their husbands had made and achieve their own goals, only to return to their subordinate positions as wives. Portia, Nerissa and Jessica's assumption of the male form to move unnoticed between Belmont and Venice allowed them a glimpse into the world of feministic ideals. In later scenes, when Portia and Nerissa push the boundaries of their disguise, they specifically emphasize the nature of radical feminism. The altering of Portia, Nerissa, and Jessica's gender to suit the society of Venice is a direct spat in the face of the patriarchy within the environment of The Merchant of Venice. Unfortunately, the overarching ideals of the world at this time are able to recapture their stranglehold on Jessica, Portia, and Nerissa. The construct of feminism is based upon the woman's struggle in society for social, political, and economic equality with men. Feminism seeks to eliminate the notion of sexism, which is the degradation, oppression, and subordination of women (http://www.feministissues.com/radical_feminism.html). Feminism possesses many subcategories that focus on specific areas within the sphere of women's inequality tin conjunction to men. One sub category, radical feminism, concerns itself with the idea that society is influenced by a male dominated or patriarchal hierarchy. Under this school of thought, the patriarchy can be described as "the division of rights, privileges and power primarily by gender, as a result of oppressing women and privileging men (http://www.womenhistory.about.com/od/feminism/g/radicalfeminism.htm). A radical feminist essentially believes that they are oppressed on the single ideal that the gender of a woman is inferior and it can be considered that to alter one's gender would be a radical feminist activity. The method in which the patriarchy is exercised upon women exists in physical and psychological forms through the physical action of deeds invariably leads to the psychological acceptance of the female's role as subordinate. Women must adhere to several physical standards that obey the guidelines that determine the feminine form. They must be of the desirable body type, with small and graceful movements confined within an invisible enclosed space that is modestly dressed and eyes cast downward (Bartky, 67-69). Conversely, men with regards to space, take up as much of an area as possible that he influences unlike a woman who tends to be a victim of her environment. A woman who does not conform to such stringent standards is often termed by society as a "loose" woman or bad influence. This type of woman has already been accounted for under the patriarchal system. She is of less stature than women who adhere to the proper code of conduct and society has marker her for disgrace: "Her looseness is manifest not only in her morals, but in her manner of speech, and literally in the free and easy way she moves" (68). Eye contact is another physical action in which the proper woman makes little of so as to not challenge the man to whom she converses with. The loose woman again is seen as a threat to social norms because she...
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