GENDER ROLES IN ELIZABETHAN SOCIETY Bharathi Ram Kiely Pham Scott Sok Samir Hamsafar Pauli Wilhemsen ELIT 17 PESANO Gender Roles in Shakespeare • Gender roles in Shakespeare’s work is a critical point in understanding the characters involved. • Overall, Shakespeare sees women as extremely powerful beings, even if they are not viewed as such by society. However, Shakespeare still acknowledges in this work that women are often, unfairly or not, the scapegoats or the tools of men. – Possibly a tribute to Queen Elizabeth. Power factor in Gender Roles Shakespeare often plays with gender roles in his writing, sometimes making women more or less powerful in actuality than they originally appear. – In Macbeth for example, Shakespeare explores the relationship between gender and power, portraying male characters as strong willed and courageous, but at the same time giving a female character—Lady Macbeth a ruthless, powerhungry personality which is typically more associated with masculinity. – The main source of Macbeth’s power stems from his wife, Lady Macbeth who is the brains behind the plot to murder King Duncan and seize the throne of Scotland. The type of power that Lady Macbeth wields over her husband is unusual in literature of this time, and certainly would have been atypical for a husband and wife during the time in which Macbeth is set. Contrasting Views • Shakespeare often contrasts men’s view of women with women’s view of men. • For example, in Othello, Iago warns Othello: "Look to your wife; observe her well with Cassio; Wear your eyes thus, not jealous nor secure... They [women] dare not show their husbands; their best conscience/ Is not to leave't undone, but keep it unknown.” – Iago describes women as deceptive and secretive people, who have the somewhat surprising ability (surprising in the sense that men during this time period controlled their women, or at least believed they could control them in whatever way they wished) to manipulate and deceive their husbands. Contrasting Views (cont.) • Another example is given by Iago's wife, Emilia, when she co mplains about how women seem to serve as men's scapegoat for everything. She says "A man... They are all but stomachs, and we are all but food; They eat us hungerly, and when the y are full, They belch us.” – Emilia touches on exactly what Iago is doing to Desdemona: using her as a scapegoat for his own villainous actions. Emilia complains that men only use women, using the metaphor of a hungry person eating until they are full and then moving on. Although Iago uses Desdemona for furthering his evil plan, he doesn't actually belittle her. In a weird and twisted way, Iago has praised women for having the keen ability to outsmart their husbands, although he warns Othello against this. The protestant leader John Knox wrote: "Women in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man.“ •Even though there was an unmarried woman on the throne in Elizabethan England, the roles of women in society were very limited. •Most women were given education only if they were members of the nobility. Otherwise, they had to stay home and learn to run the household and become the housewife. •Many women in this period were highly educated, like the Queen herself, who was tutored by the famous Elizabethan scholar Roger Ascham. •Education included knowledge of several languages, including Latin, Greek, Italian, and French. However, even noblewomen were not allowed to go to university and were only taught by tutors who visited them in their home. •Women were not allowed to enter the professions i.e law, medicine, politics, but they could work in domestic service as cooks, maids etc, and a female painter. •Women were also allowed to write works of literature, providing the subject was suitable for women: mainly translations or religious works. Women were not allowed to act on the public stage or write for the public stage. •They were strictly forbidden from the Army and Navy. •From birth, Elizabethan era women were taught how to govern a household and perform domestic duties so that when they married, their husbands would be proud. •Childbearing was considered a great honor to women, as children were seen as blessings from God, and they took great pride in being mothers. W O M E N •Women were regarded as "the weaker sex", not just in terms of physical strength, but emotionally too. All throughout their life, the women of the Elizabethan times were made to become dependent on a male relative - father, brother, uncle, husband, or other. •Disobedience was seen as a crime against their religion and the Church continuously quoted the Bible in order to ensure adherence to this principle. •Women, regardless of social position, were not allowed to vote. Neither could women inherit their father's titles. All titles would pass from father to son or brother to brother. They were strictly forbidden from the Army and Navy. •The only exception was, of course, the crown. The crown could pass to a daughter, and that daughter would be invested with all the power and Majesty of any king. •In a way, despite the limitations, women had more freedom in the Elizabethan period than they had had previously. The Renaissance brought with it a new way of thinking. It was thought men and women could do anything and be anything they wanted to be, that their capacity for knowledge was limitless. Thus, noble women were given an impressive education in the classics, mathematics, and all other academic subjects of the day. HOMOSEXUALITY • The term “homosexual” was not used in during the Renaissance; instead the term “sodomy” was used to label same sex relations. • Elizabethans acknowledged the existence of same-sex desire through all levels of society, but religious teaching and the law strictly prohibited sodomy. • Such acts could be presented as evidence of witchcraft or wizardry, and those caught in the act (or in some cases accused) could be put to death. Shakespeare and Homosexuality – Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece dedicated to the Earl of Southampton. – Shakespeare’s Sonnets are clearly addressed to a young man. Was Shakespeare gay? What is Queer Theory? CROSSDRESSING – Sumptuary Laws called the 'Statutes of Apparel' attempted to limit the expenditure of people on clothes and to maintain the social structure of the class system. – So crossdressing threatened the carefully constructed hierarchal social order, and regulation of dress was necessary to mark and secure social difference. – These statues were impossible to enforce and were essentially a lost cause. Shakespeare, Crossdressing, and the Theatre – Actors were exempted from the Sumptuary Laws on stage, but outside of the theatre they could not legally wear their costumes. – Women were forbidden to act on the public stage, so female roles were played by prepubescent boys. – In certain comedies, women crossdressed as a strategy to achieve their goals. MEN IN ELIZABETHAN ERA • Woman in this era’s, lives are more analyzed and documented because of their limitations. • Men lived life as the superior gender, thus life was just considered normal. • Both gender and the patriarchal dominance were assumed to have been set in place by God and nature Men virtually ran all aspects of society. •They were the only ones allowed to go to war. •To be lords and accepted artisans •Any position of power besides the queen. MEN IN THE FAMILY • The Elizabethan family life for men was one of power. The men made the decisions and the women were expected to obey them. • The men were expected to support the family from a whole variety of occupations. • Expected to improve the positions of all members of the family through influence and patronage from wealthier people and families than their own. QUIZ TIME! • How was it possible for a woman at the time to receive an education? • Name two characters from our past comedies that showed abnormal (for the time) strength as a woman? • What is the other term used for “homosexuality” • Who are Shakespeares sonnets directed to? • Who played women on stage?