Over the course of time, the roles of men and women have changed dramatically. As women have increasingly gained more social recognition, they have also earned more significant roles in society. This change is clearly reflected in many works of literature, one of the most representative of which is Plautus's 191 B.C. drama Pseudolus, in which we meet the prostitute Phoenicium. Although the motivation behind nearly every action in the play, she is glimpsed only briefly, never speaks directly, and earns little respect from the male characters surrounding her, a situation that roughly parallels a woman's role in Roman society of that period. Women of the time, in other words, were to be seen and not heard. Their sole purpose was to please or to benefit men. As time passed, though, women earned more responsibility, allowing them to become stronger and hold more influence. The women who inspired Lope de Vega's early seventeenth-century drama Fuente Ovejuna, for instance, rose up against not only the male officials of their tiny village, but the cruel (male) dictator busy oppressing so much of Spain as a whole. The roles women play in literature have evolved correspondingly, and, by comparing The Epic of Gilgamesh, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and The Wife of Bath's Prologue, we can see that fictional women have just as increasingly as their real-word counterparts used gender differences as weapons against men.
The epic poem Gilgamesh is the first heroic epic of world literature. The role of the primary mortal woman mentioned in it is only to benefit and please men, and with little or no consideration as to how she feels...
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