Comparing Women As Propriety In The Merchant Of Venice And The Taming Of The Shrew

3079 words - 12 pages

Women As Propriety In Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice and The Taming Of the Shrew

"We may say that the dominant ideas in most societies are the ideas of the dominant sex, associated and mingled with those of dominant class." (Chedgzoy, pg.50) During the Elizabethan time men dominated society. Historically speaking males have always held more power then females in most cultures. Although a few cultures were Matriarchal societies. Yet even in these cultures women were not the superior power but were valued as equal to men. Most of the matriarchal societies viewed women as the embodiment of the goddess. Women have never been the sole dominant sex in a society. The fall of the Matriarchal societies occurred mostly from the organization of Christianity. The Christian ideals taught that women were not intended to have influential roles in society. In the Elizabethan era women were in a weak social position. In addition when Shakespeare writes about women he encompasses the complex issues that socially surround females. Shakespeare allows the audience to observe issues that effect their own factual society acted out on stage. At this time the society was definitely patriarchal, where women were viewed as inferior. In addition women had little to no power over there own lives. Fathers viewed their daughters as their propriety. Which left daughters in a powerless position. The power that women did have was their personal sexuality, virginity was prized and seen as a jewel. Once daughters were married their husbands also valued them as propriety. "Marriages were still arranged, as they had been in the Middle Ages, to further the interests of land-owning families. On marriage all the girl's legal rights ceased and she became as much property of her husbands as his horse or barn. Concern about this contractual, propriety-owning side of marriage, particularly as it effects the girl's father and the prospective suitors, occurs in some Shakespeare's plays.."(Pitt, pg.14) The two plays that most notably deal with the issues of marriage and propriety are The Merchant Of Venice, and The Taming Of the Shrew.

I chose to focus on women issues in Shakespeare plays because I found this area to be the most interesting. Throughout this web page one can find information on Elizabethan marriage and women during this time. The two plays that are written about contain significant evidence on how women were in inferior positions.

"The household was the microcosm of the state, and women's subjection a happy paradigm of civil order." (Dusinberre, pg.78) The household was a mirror of society and this made it extremely difficult for women to gain power of their own lives. Females were dependent on their fathers during childhood and were obliged to obey their fathers. Once females grew up and got married they were obliged to obey their husbands. During this time men and women were not viewed as an adult until they were...

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