Imagine being a woman in sixteenth century Europe. Females were raised to believe that they were subservient and that men knew better on any subject. Basically, women had no rights. They were considered property, first “owned” by their fathers and then control was “transferred” to the husband chosen for them. Marriage was not about love, but in most cases, it was a business deal that was mutually beneficial to both families – an interesting fact is that like young women, most young men had no choice in the selection of their future betrothed. These traditions and the gender roles assumed by men and women at that time had an impact on Shakespeare’s writing and performances and a great example of this is evident in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Similar to other works by Shakespeare, such as The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream embellishes the pressures that arise between genders dealing with complicated family and romantic situations. The plot includes a duke who is going to marry a woman he conquered in battle, the king and queen of the fairies embroiled in a fight so fierce that it unbalances the natural world, and a daughter fighting with her father for her right to marry the man she chooses. The girl’s father selects Demetrius to marry his daughter, but she is in love with another man, Lysander, who loves her in return, and her friend Helena is in love Demetrius, but he wants nothing to do with her. Considering the fact that males were dominant during that era, whereas, men chased women, and women remained submissive, Shakespeare dallies with those traditional roles and there are several possible reasons why. Perhaps he made women a stronger force in his plays because he wanted to give his audience a break from everyday life in which men were the authority figures. Or perhaps he simply wanted to please the Queen who obviously was a female in a position of power.
Throughout the play, the men strive to understand the temperament of the women characters. Shakespeare captures the true complexity of romantic love and takes us on a roller coaster ride. Once again, considering the fact that men were supposed to be the dominant force, it seems that the women in this story were the “winners” in the battle of the sexes. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream we see Titania, Hermia and Helena aggressively pursue their lovers and win their hearts.
Gender also had an effect on the performance of the play since women were banned from being on the...