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Women Characters in Shakespeare

  • Date Submitted: 03/14/2014 09:38 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 62.4 
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PS Comedy: Variations of a Genre Prof. Dr. Michael Steppat Feminine Identities in A Midsummer Night’s Dream 1. Introduction “Woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man.” This statement by the Scottish protestant leader John Knox in The First Blast of the Trumpet shows the role that Elizabethan women were expected to fulfil. Women in the Elizabethan era and therefore in the time when Shakespeare wrote his plays were subservient to men and had no will and choice of their own. As they were not allowed to go to school and enter university, they remained completely dependent on their male relatives, believing that they were inferior to them and thus following their will. This included that marriages were usually arranged by a powerful male relative instead of giving the woman the opportunity of choosing a husband that she loved. It is therefore no wonder that Shakespeare depicted women in a role that was completely normal and familiar to him, i.e. subservient to and completely dependent on men, and in this essay I will try to show that that is the case in A Midsummer Night's Dream. I will focus on two major female characters, Hermia and Helena, in order to gain knowledge about their relationship to men and their own identities, personalities and relationship.

2. Hermia Hermia is the daughter of Egeus, an Athenian nobleman and is promised to marry a man named Demetrius. Unfortunately, she is not in love with Demetrius but with another man called Lysander and is thus not willing to marry the former. When having a closer look at the first act, it becomes already quite clear what role women are expected to fulfil in the play:
Theseus: What say you, Hermia? be advised, fair maid: To you your father should be as a God; One that composed your beauties, yea and one To whom you are but as a form in wax By him imprinted but within his power To leave the figure or disfigure it. (1.1.46-51)

This statement by Theseus shows that women have no rights at all in...


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