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Men And Women In British Literature

1542 words - 7 pages

The portrayal of men and women has varied in different stories throughout history. Many portray women as beautiful, deceptive, manipulative, and smart, while men are portrayed as being strong, masculine, and easily tricked. In many of the works covered in the course “Major British Writers to 1800,” men are advised to refrain from acting lustful, believed that it would harm their overall ability to succeed in whatever the characters aimed to do. An example of this is seen in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” when Gawain is deceived by Lady Bertilak in an effort to prove that Sir Gawain is imperfect. The depictions of men and women are very similar in Fantomina by Eliza Haywood, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Phyllis and Aristotle. . While each of these stories maintain a similar image on men and women, the means in which the deception is very different. Unlike these three stories however, Paradise Lost by John Milton does not depict women as being deceptive or manipulative, nor men as being easily tricked or deceived. John Milton’s depiction of men and women is portrayed very differently in comparison to Fantomina, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Phyllis and Aristotle.
In Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina women are depicted as being deceptive and manipulative through the actions of the main character, known by many names although her true identity is unknown, throughout the entire story. The main character, which often is referred to as Fantomina, manipulates Beauplaisir through the use of sex and different costumes. Fantomina uses these disguises to test the will power of Beauplaisir, even writing letters as two different people to see which woman he would choose. Fantomina is a very different female character as seen in the other works mentioned. Many of the other female characters that used deception were particular and detailed in the planning of their deception, whereas Fantomina was driven by passion and lost control of her overall plan as the story progressed. Fantomina was different from the other deceptive women in the literature because, unlike many others, her overall goal would not result in the death of the man she tricked. While Sir Gawain was nearly beheaded as was Aristotle in their stories, the result of the deception by Fantomina was an unplanned pregnancy. I feel that Haywood shows morality in this result because, unlike other works, the man is not punished for being deceived, with the only real trouble of Beauplaisir being that he knows of the existence of his child, which is an internal punishment for his actions. Beauplaisir being unpunished and having his name remain untarnished while Fantomina was sent to a monastery with her child is an example of how Haywood remained consistent with the portrayal of other works in regards to male and female portrayal while also distinguishing herself and her work from other works.
The portrayal of women in Milton’s Paradise Lost is very different from the other works. While women...

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