Shakespeare's Interpretation of Women in "Measure for Measure" Essay

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Shakespeare's interpretation of women in Measure for Measure very much reflects society's opinion of women at the time, which was that men have more freedom and should be given more respect that women. The society of the time was a patriarchal one, where a male God was the ultimate leader, and below him came the king, then the nobles. However, although the society gave men more rights than women, Measure for Measure demonstrates that they also had more responsibilities. This is shown through the situation with Claudio and Juliet, as although they are both equally to blame for Juliet's pregnancy, it is Claudio facing the death penalty.

Shakespeare shows the Duke's opinion of women in act 5, scene 1, when the Duke talks to Mariana and says "Why, you are nothing then: neither maid, widow nor wife." This shows that a women is only something if she has either a husband or her purity, and without both of these she is worthless. This opinion of women is confirmed by Isabella's determination to hold on to her virginity and its importance to her, as if she loses her virginity before marriage, she will be regarded as nothing in society.

Isabella is used in the play as an example of a perfect woman to the Jacobean society, as she is the epitome of purity and chastity within the play, and the fact that she wants to become a nun shows her to be a very religious person, which is what would have been important to Shakespeare's audience. At the same time, Isabella shows herself to be someone who is very easily controlled, especially by the men in the play, such as agreeing with the plan when the Duke disguised as the friar suggests using Mariana to sleep with Angelo instead. Although this is still wrong according to Isabella's belief...

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...ortant than men, which is shown just through their lack of appearances within the play. They are also shown as easy to control, as even when Isabella manages to get out of giving Angelo what he wants, she is still going along with a plan that the Duke has come up with, even though someone will still be committing what she thinks is a sin. Shakespeare could have changed this view of women that we have been given so far when the Duke proposes to Isabella, as she could have given her opinion about this and said that she did not want to marry as she wanted to become a nun, which was what she was thinking earlier in the play. However, as she says nothing she can be seen as unopinionated, which is how men wanted women to be in Jacobean England. By showing women to be like this, Shakespeare would have been increasing the popularity of the play with the male audience.

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