Comparison Of Men And Women In King Lear And Othello

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The men and women presented in Shakespeare’s plays King Lear and Othello both differ and are similar in various ways. Shakespeare adheres to many contemporary stereotypes of how men and women should or should not have acted in the Jacobean era. Gender is of great significance in his plays as the society of the Jacobean era was patriarchal, therefore it comes as no surprise that men and women are presented differently. Women have often been associated with weakness or inferior intelligence. According to Gibson women in the Jacobean era were “a different species from men, far inferior in rational thought”. This supports the idea that women are dissimilar from men as women have always been portrayed as weak and “inferior”, in contrast to men who have been portrayed as powerful and “firmly in control” . However, Shakespeare’s work also carries stronger underlying connotations that women do share similar traits as men which contrast greatly with the typical view of men and women at the time. In King Lear, Cordelia returns with an army, act 4.4; this puts her in a place of power as she is in control of her soldiers. Shakespeare’s portrayal of women is revolutionary to the Jacobean era and would have been very controversial to the audience at the time. The women in Shakespeare’s plays are portrayed in a stereotypical manner which parallels the views of women in the Jacobean era. During this period, according to Leach , “gender inequality must be viewed in the Elizabethan and Jacobean context.” This shows that a woman’s social priority in that period was “to be feminine, delicate and caring so that they could take care of a family and bear children”, stated by Bigter , whilst men were meant to be “strong, powerful and ambitious”. Desdem... ... middle of paper ... ...ommand” . Due to this, women would have been seen as weaker than men and Shakespeare’s underlying hints of women being stronger than men would be lost in the comedic presentation of women. In Conclusion, Shakespeare is somewhat revolutionary in the way that he portrays women as he does not adhere to the usual expectations of Jacobean women. It is clear that men and women had similarly unequal roles in society, shown through their representation in Shakespeare’s plays. Through the characters of Cordelia and Desdemona we can see that women have been represented as weak and “powerless” and that they rely on men. The characters of Othello and Lear show positions of power and heroism in contrast to the views of women. However in both characters, Lear especially, we do see another side of men showing that they can be helpless and that too much power can be their downfall.

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