The Slipping Slope of Sovereignty
Before the Middle Ages, women were societally submissive to male supremacy. As the Middle Ages progressed, one develops a sense that women sought a change in societal order. Upset that they are not able to share their beliefs due to their position, women began to become more vocal. In comparing two great poets Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare, one sees a connection in their most well known works. Chaucer's view on women, demonstrated by the “Wife of Bath’s Tale” and the Wife’s belief that all women desire sovereignty, is welcomed by William Shakespeare but not achievable by Hamlet’s female protagonists, Gertrude and Ophelia.
Chaucer’s view aren’t clearly stated but it can be interpreted that he respected the male social hierarchy. However, he liked women to show their beliefs and be able to gain their respect in society. In, Women in Geoffery Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales: Women as a Narrator, Women in the Narrative, written by Vladislava Vaněčková, Chaucer classifies women into their distinct social levels and claims to give them a chance to express their somewhat selfish beliefs so they can achieve happiness (4-5). Some women seek to mainly better themselves, while other women seek to better all women; demonstrating hardly known traits of a feminist (Vaněčková 5-6). For example, the Wife in the “Wife of Bath’s Tale”, represents a ignorant feminist because she has a view for all women but has no moral that completes her idea.
Additionally, Wife of Bath’s idea and desire is for all women to achieve sovereignty which doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t favor men. As you can see, the Wife acts as a feminist here. Although, Alison wants to have the power in the relationship, she basically just wants respect and to be loved by her husband (Vaněčková 34-37). This favors men because they gain a wife that will be obedient, truthful, faithful, and willing to do anything to please her man, making it easy to also justify she lacks the qualities of a feminist because a feminist doesn’t really rely on the male (Vaněčková 34-37). Thus, this explains why her theory has no real moral.
In contrast to Chaucer, Shakespeare’s point of view of women is hard to depict just like Chaucer’s point of view of women, but we get a sense that Shakespeare wants women to know they can express their opinions and possibly be seen as an equal to the males. For instance, in “Gender and Sexuality” by John Andrews, one will see that women playing men role in Shakespearean plays is normal, stating that men and women are equal because they can do the same thing as men, thus they deserve equal rights (145). We some feminism played out here because women are wanting to been seen as an equal showing that they don’t rely on men because they can possess the same traits of a male actor.
Furthermore, we will look into one of Shakespeare best and hard to interpret play, Hamlet. to see how he appears to portray women and how his image...