Gender Bias Of The 16th Century In The Merchant Of Venice

In the play “Merchant of Venice” constructed by playwright William Shakespeare, the dominant prejudice of gender diversity is evident in the 16th-century context. There are three main forms of prejudice in this play, race, religion, and gender, I will be focusing on gender and how it affected the beliefs and culture of the 16th century. Each prejudice affects the characters in different ways, depending on the way the specific character is portrayed.

In the merchant of Venice gender is portrayed as one of the main forms of prejudice. Many characters help to influence this belief by their actions and dialogue. Portia is a key example of this as she has a major role in portraying the prejudice of gender inequality. “Is an unlesson’d girl, unschool’d, unpractic’d” Portia. Portia is portrayed as a “very strong and confident personality who has found a suitor of her liking, Bassanio”. In the quote, Portia is explaining that girls are looked down upon as they do not have the privileges nor rights that the males do. Stating that the female gender has little or no access to schools, or even the same practices of the ‘superior sex’. It is evident that even with Portias higher status, she is still considered as inferior to any other female. By reading the quote the reader can see that in the 16th-century gender bias was very common and not always fair.

In the 16th century, the female sex was held to a lower standard than that of wealthier or higher status men. “That they shall think we are accomplished with that we lack. I'll hold thee any wager when we are both accoutered like young men.” Portia. This quote is visibly a representation of just that. Portia is explaining that once again males are typically more “skilled and successful” than women. Portia is saying that even though they are looked down upon as the “weaker” gender, that they should not be judged on their hair length nor chest size. They will continue to think that they are as useful as that of a young boy of the mere early stages of life. The audience can think that at the time, that was the normal stereotype and bias, which it was in the 16th century, a sizeable contrast to the society today.

In the 16th century the beliefs that females were not as worthy as that of their male counterparts. The bias affected everyone's way of life, and the way people commonly treated each other. Whether it be in disgust or admiration. In the play text, it can be concluded the prejudice of gender inequality was clearly portrayed and enacted. Whilst we live in the 21st-century the bias towards genders had dramatically declined, it was a large problem in that time period. In William Shakespeare's play “Merchant of Venice” , the dominant prejudice of gender bias continues to remain evident in the 16th-century context.   

16 August 2021
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