Differences Between the Women of the Early 17th Century to the Women of the Late 17th Century

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Between the late 16th century and the mid 17th century, Europe had undergone transitional changes. From the beginning of criticisms of the Catholic Church to the rise of the Enlightenment, Europe was rejecting hierarchical systems. Men and women were fed up with the hypocrisy of the church, which was using religion as a tool to control society. Women played an important role in society as their duties were primarily in the household. Men believed that women were unfit for leadership, however women were often labeled temptresses because of manipulative techniques that caused men to sin. Thus, women were only educated in household-work, which made them ignorant and submissive. As Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1611) was performed, women were firstly taking their first steps toward equality; fifty years later, Moliere’s Tartuffe (1664-1669) acted out as strength to the women’s movement. The perceptions about women changed within those years; in The Tempest the female character (Miranda) is portrayed as innocent and obedient, but in Tartuffe, the female characters (Dorine, Mariane, and Elmire) are depicted as shrewd and vocal.

Since Shakespeare’s play was written in the early 17th century, before woman took complete creditability, the character Miranda is presented as a woman who is ignorant of the cruelty in the world, a traditional 17th century woman. In other words, ignorance is bliss for her as she needs her father (Prospero), a man, to protect her from when Caliban, a slave, tries to forcefully possess her; “thou didst seek to violate/ The honor of my child” (626). As men consider women to be temptresses, the character Miranda has not even had sexual relations with her lover, Ferdinand; “thou dost break her virgin-knot before all ...

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... that refusal made you smart, / It’s little that you know of [a] woman’s heart, / Or what that heart is trying to convey / When it resists in such a feeble way” says Elmire (239). The only way for Elmire to prove Tartuffe's hypocrisy is through sex, unlike in the Tempest where Caliban tries to forcefully seduce Miranda.

Lastly, the women of the early 17th century to late 17th century differ greatly as it is seen in Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, and Moliere’s Tartuffe; Miranda is characterized as an individual who is dutiful to her father, yet has the strength to revolt against him at any time, meanwhile, Dorine, Mariane, and Elmire are presented as intelligent and blunt as to any other man in the late 17th century.

Works Cited

Damrosch, David, and David L. Pike, eds. The Longman Anthology of World Literature.


Education, 2009. Print

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