The Feminist Subtext of A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare's works have persistently influenced humanity for the past four hundred years. Quotations from his plays are used in many other works of literature and some common phrases have even become integrated into the English language. Most high schoolers have been unsuccessful in avoidance of him and college students are rarely afforded the luxury of choice when it comes to studying the bard. Many aspects of Shakespeare's works have been researched but one of the most popular topics since the 1960s has been the portrayal of women in Shakespeare's tragedies, comedies, histories and sonnets.
In order to accurately describe the role of women in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, one must first explore the female characters in the text. Shakespeare's works had few females because women were not allowed to act in London in the late 1500s and early 1600s. Disregarding the standards imposed on women of his time, Shakespeare created many female characters that were strong-willed, intelligent, and daring. Hermia of A Midsummer Night's Dream is one such character. She disobeys her father, her king, and the Athenian law so that she might marry the love of her life. She discards all the luxuries of her familiar and comfortable existence for the uncertainties of a distant land in exchange for the freedom to love Lysander. The only complaint against Hermia by feminist critics stems from her willingness to defy one set of confinements derived and maintained by men-her father, the king, and the male authors of Athenian law-to become the subordinate of yet another man. However, even though she rebels away from the limitations she ultimately runs towards, she is much more indep...
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...ir beloved monarch who was one of the few highly competent English rulers in spite of her gender and the sexism of the time in which she lived. Regardless of his reasoning for scripting women the way he did, Shakespeare was most certainly an advocate for feminism when he wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream. From the feminist perspective, liberal thinking and open-mindedness like William Shakespeare's are welcome to invade our modern literature and lives for the next four hundred years.
Greene, Lenz, Neely, eds. The Woman's Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1980.
Kolin, Philip C. Shakespeare and Feminist Criticism. NY: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1991.
Shakespeare, William. Four Comedies: A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, The Tempest, Twelfth Night. NY: Washington Square Press, Inc., 1962.