A Midsummer Night’s Dream, written by William Shakespeare, shows the strong presence of male dominance in the treatment of women; mirroring the social standards of the time during the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Women were raised to obtain an obedient and inferior position to men. Men, conversely, were seen as superior and expected to be treated as such. Louis Montrose explains in his article the “representations of gender and power in a stratified society in which authority is everywhere invested in men…” (Montrose 244). By utilizing the characters during their role reversals and exchanged dialogue, Shakespeare makes it this standard stronger as the play proceeds. He provides certain cases that create concrete demonstrations.
During the Renaissance age, fathers had the ability to choose their daughter’s grooms. Shakespeare depicts this example of the male dominant role in the beginning of Act I. Theseus is interrupted by Egeus’ complaint against Hermia, his daughter. By refusing to marry Demetrius, the man her father has chosen, she dares to challenge that idea by claiming she has a say in who she marries, defying her father’s wishes. Egeus states that Lysander has “turned her obedience (which is due to me)/ To stubborn harshness…” (Shakespeare 1. 1. 38-9). Men are seen to treat women as a piece of land in which is decided who obtains it. Montrose presents the idea that Hermia’s “own words suggest that the female body is a supreme form of property and a locus for contestation of authority” (247). Hermia stands up to her various male authority figures by realizing she has a choice in who she marries. She comes to terms with the understanding that her father does not care who she favors, rather, who he favors. Whoever wins the favor of Egeus’ heart will be her groom... This shows how male dominance also controlled their emotional freedom. However, she brings upon herself the chaos of upsetting the “domestic hierarchy” (244) that had been established, not only in marriages but also in their society.
Montrose questions the hypocrisy of Hippolyta and Thesus’ marriage during the beginning of the play when Egeus enters with Hermia. Theseus becomes “preoccupied with the fulfillment of his own desires in the possession…of a wife” (246). When Egeus interrupts a conversation between Thesus and Hippolyta, Hippolyta stays to listen to his compliant. Egeus is upset with Hermia because she will not obey him, her male authority figure. She becomes angry and frustrated when Thesus sides with Egeus on Hermia’s fate. Hippolyta strongly disagrees with this ruling. Hippolyta has only agreed to marry Thesus because (before the play started) he had conquered her people, therefore winning her “by the sword”. Resisting his love at first, they grow to actually love one another. Thesus exerted his power as the male dominant figure and forced her to marry him after conquering her people.
Montrose believes that in order for a patriarchal relationship with a...