Stronger Yet Weaker Sex Essay, Research Paper
email: firstname.lastname@example.org: The stronger yet weaker sexThroughout many of William Shakespeares best known works, there is a common element that is frequently overlooked. It isn’t the continual use of water terms, or the presence of clowns, or even references to the devil, but rather the domination of the almighty woman. This mighty, strong, independent woman, who can hold her own in a society ran by males is an essential part of nearly every great Shakespearean play. It seems almost implausible that there would have been so many of these wonderwomen when the culture of the 1500’s considered woman the inferior and weaker sex. But Shakespeare defied the common beliefs and tradition and instead gave his women characters the respect and intelligence they deserved. Beatrice, for example, in Much Ado About Nothing, is known for “having [a] swift and excellent wit,” (3.1.89). At nearly every turn, she is impressing everyone with both her charm and her sense of humor. For instance, when speaking of a husband, she declares, “He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man; and he that is more that a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a man, I am not for him.”(2.1.31-33). Her quick reactions to everything that is said to her make her very amusing to be with. Where Beatrice treads, entertainment is sure to follow. Her wit is so astute, in fact, that she seems to dominate nearly every conversation because it practically frightens her companions into reverence. In 1.1.75-87, she asks a messenger of Benedick:Beatrice: I pray you, who is his companion? Is there no young squarer now that will make a voyage with him to the devil?Messenger: He is most in the company of the right noble Claudio. Beatrice: O Lord, he will hang upon him like a disease! He is sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker runs presently mad. God help the noble Claudio! If he have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a thousand pound ere ‘a be cured. Messenger: I will hold friends with you, lady. Clearly, Beatrice is the one who rules Messina in brain-power, although perhaps not in government. Finally, when her dear cousin is slandered, Beatrice cries, ” O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart out in the marketplace!” (4.1.305). What kind of woman is this, who wishes to revenge her kinswoman and kill a man? A strong woman indeed. Then there is Maria, in Twelfth Night, who’s antics and plots create havoc in the household of her mistress, Olivia. So much against Olivia’s steward, Malvolio, Maria, hatches a plot to make him appear a fool. She pronounces, “The devil a puritan that he is, or anything constantly, but a time-pleaser; an affectioned ass, that cons state without book and utters it by great swaths; the best persuaded of himself, so crammed, as he thinks, with excellencies, that it is his grounds of faith that all that look on him love him; and on that vice in him will my revenge find notable cause to work,” (2.3.146-151). Maria’s plan works better than even she anticipated, and Malvolio becomes the idiot according to her design. Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Fabian are all greatly impressed with her genius and follow her with admiration. When she asks them to come with her to see her trick, Sir Toby states, “To the gates of Tartar, thou most excellent wit!” (2.5.201). By the end of the play, it is obvious that the stalwart Maria has more gumption than the rich and powerful Olivia.
Finally, there is Emilia, the wife of Iago in Othello. She may be, perhaps, one of Shakespeare’s strongest females. Being married to the ruthless Iago is a feat in itself, one that the poor woman should indeed be commended for. But more than that, she was outspoken against the injustices that surrounded her. When she hears how Desdemona was belied, she rashly declares, ” I will be hanged if some eternal villain, some busy and insinuating rogue, some cogging, cozening slave, to get some office, have not devised this slander. I will be hanged else.” (4.2.137-140). Little does she know how right she is, and that the villain is her very own husband. Later, when Othello kills Desdemona, and Emilia discovers it was him, screams, “O, the more angel she, and you the blacker devil!” (5.2.134). She continues, “Thou hast not half that power to do me harm as I have to be hurt. O gull! O dolt! As ignorant as dirt! Thou hast done a deed- I care not for thy sword; I’ll make thee known, though I lost twenty lives…” (5.2.169-173). This bold outburst cost her her life, but were the very words that drove the Moor to a guilt filled suicide. Her love for truth and courage to speak out made her the most memorable character in the play. These three woman, although only fictional characters, are models for what every woman should strive to be. Courage, pride, wisdom, and spontaneity are what made these women more successful than their male counterparts. Although quite unknown to him, Shakespeare may have given the strength they need to move towards a more equal place in society. This change would not come until hundreds of years later, but it could have been the first step to a society free from sexual prejudices.