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representation of women in much ado about nothing

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(Essay intro) In the modern day, women have the luxury of belonging to themselves but unfortunately this was not always the case. During his life, William Shakespeare created many positive female characters who defied the traditional gender roles and brought attention to the misogynistic patriarchy of Elizabethan England. One of these true feminist icons is ‘Much Ado about Nothing’s. Beatrice. The women in ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ defy traditional gender roles. Beatrice represents a brave and outspoken woman who defies the oppressive, traditional gender roles for the female sex. Her cousin Hero, however, represents those women who were successfully oppressed by the patriarchy and accepted the traditional gender roles without much complaint.

The Elizabethan society in which Shakespeare lived during his life held a misogynistic ideology in high esteem. ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ was written in 1598-9, during a time when women were second class citizens compared to males and were considered to be inferior to males in every way. As soon as she was born, a female was her father's property until she was married off by her family when she then became her husband's property. A woman was expected to be seen and not heard, she was to be chaste and submissive. Women were uneducated and undervalued, they were not their own person.

This misogynistic attitude is present in ‘Much Ado about Nothing’. In the play, Messina is presented as being a positive and cheerful community and the woman appear to have freedom, however those misogynistic attitudes of the time period are still demonstrated. When Leonato tells his daughter, Hero, “daughter, remember what I told you: if the prince do solicit you in that kind, you know your answer.” Don Pedro is b...

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... of defiance are different but they do both show some forms of defiance of the traditional gender roles.

Shakespeare was clearly ahead of his time with his view of women. He likely drew inspiration for his female characters from Elizabeth I, the English monarch at the time. Like Beatrice, Elizabeth I was a strong and very independent woman, she was the sole ruler of England during her reign as she never married. Elizabeth I was a strong ruler, defying the traditional gender roles for women, which Shakespeare would have drawn from for his characters.

Shakespeare's works were fictional so even though he portrayed women in a positive way, society wished to oppress women and portray the kind of independence that Beatrice shows as being a negative thing. Shakespeare used his characters as a subtle way of empowering women by casting strong women in a positive light.
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