Power Of Men In William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale

3908 words - 16 pages

Power of Men in William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale

It has been said that in "The Winter's Tale" Shakespeare dramatises the contemporary struggle between masculine and feminine power. In light of this comment, examine the presentation of the relationships between men and women.

Despite their many differences, contemporary society is now only beginning to realise their equal and respective roles in society. Since the beginning of time a contemporary struggle for equality has been present between masculine and feminine powers. The biblical stories of creation have often been used as an excuse to mistreat women. The mythical story of "The Garden of Eden" has been used to display women being easily seduced into wrong doing "The woman saw how beautiful the tree was and how good the fruit would be to eat... so then she took some of the fruit and ate it", how women corrupt men into wrong doing "Then she gave some (the fruit) to her husband, and he also ate it," illustrating women being dependant on men and men as dominant leaders going out to hunt for food "made him cultivate the soil from which he had been formed". Also because the male was created first "God took some soil from the ground and formed man out of it" he is often thought as being the perfection of creation, where as the female is a helper "he formed woman out of the rob (Adam's.)"  Even after the Women's Social and Political Movement (WSPU), the work that the women assured responibility for during the World Wars and the feminist movement of the 1960's for women to be equal to men politically, economically and socially, inequality still exists today. The search for equality between sexes began in the early twentieth century with the WSPU and continues to the twenty-first century.

During the Jacobean era,  society was male-dominated. Husbands and fathers had the right to rule over their wives and daughters at home; this was believed to reflect the same God given order in human relations which, gave the monarch the right to rule over the country. Unlike the other male writers of his time, Shakespeare had proven very hard to catergorise and this is reflected by the humanity of his female character. Critic Irene Dash states "Shakespeare's women characters testify to his genius... they learn from the meaning of self-sovernity for a woman in a patriarchal society." The female characters of "The Winter's Tale" prove Dash's comment, as Shakespeare shows of the goodness women through: the fierce honesty of Hermione, the youthful constancy of her daughter Perdita and the consummate righteousness of Paulina, Hermione's lady-in-waiting, who stands up to King Leontes when no one else will. Shakespeare provides the audience with three females namely Hermione, Perdita and Paulina who are constanly right yet have no power whereas men such as Leontes who have all of the power and yet are constantly wrong. Through the presentation of his characters Shakespeare is illustrating the inequality...

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