Sexism And Male-Dominance In Play 'Midsummer’s Night Dream'

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Feminist Criticism of Midsummer’s Night Dream Women often stereotyped into gender roles determined by a patriarchal or male-dominated society. Women are often viewed as submissive, housewives, homemakers, and nurturers, emotional, and Irrational. All these terms were how Men view women and sometimes how women view themselves. The feminist theory tries to answer whether or not a character fits the female stereotypes. it supports male dominance by denying women access to a voice and they have control over a woman’s body or sexuality. Feminist Critics are interested in the representations of women, and in bringing attention to the mistreatment of women that have been overlooked for decades. According to Feminist Critics, it has been proven that women are dominated by men, and Feminist critics seek to bring awareness to this patriarchal mindset. women have been marginalized, therefore Feminist Critics seek to address the Inequality men and women. The feminist critique of literature seeks to raise awareness about the importance of women in literature, women have always been considered inferior to men many books women have to play a certain role, gender roles have been used to justify the inequities of men and women such as decision-making. In literature, males are viewed as Dominate, masculine, and self-assured meanwhile women are viewed as weak, submissive, objects, inferior, innocent and to be completely dependent on men. In many books, we often see females are oppressed and demeaned by the male gender. However, When a female character does something unexpected or acts differently, it carries heavy significance. In many of Shakespeare’s writing, their is a representation of how women are supposed to act, and it serves as an example to show the female gender assumptions in his era. Shakespeare’s works have influenced the world for years.

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Shakespeare’s usage of the idea of Love and Romance and a Happy ending opens of the topic of debate on feminism. Feminist Criticism derives from a critique of a history of oppression, in this case the history of women’s inequality Feminist Literary Criticism recognizes that literature stereotypes how women are supposed to act and/or who they are going to marry. In Shakespeare’s play, A Midsummers Night’s Dream the play is filled with examples of sexism and male dominance. The women in Shakespeare’s writings are considered “property” and are forced to do what men say, they are expected to behave and not talk back. Throughout A Midsummers Nights, Dream women are expected to do what a man says to do. In The first Act of A Midsummer Night’s Dream the first relationship that gives an example of how men disparage women would be Theseus The Duke of Athens and Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons are getting married in four days. According to Greek Mythology, it is believed that Theseus sailed to the amazons and chose Hippolyta as his prize to marry him. Some say Hippolyta refused the wedding proposal and as a result Theseus kidnapped her. On the other hand, In the play Theseus states he won her over with his sword, I wooed thee with my sword and won thy love doing thee in another key, with pomp, with triumph, and with reveling. That quote already gives an idea of how men treat women. Theseus is claiming that he won Hippolyta and he is viewing Hippolyta as a prize that he has won over. This is an example of how women are viewed as the submissive and weaker gender. 

Another example of how men disparage women would be the relationship between Hermia and her father Egeus. Egues has made the decision that he wants Hermia to marry Demetrius. Hermia does not have a choice on who she can marry Egues a clear statement proving that women are viewed as property. Consent to marry with Demetrius I beg the ancient privilege of Athens as she is mine, I may dispose of her, which shall either be to this gentleman or her death, according to our law Immediately provided in that case. Theseus explains it is Athens law either she marries who he chooses or she can either be put to death. Hermia is told to “Either to die the death or to abjure for ever the society of men”. This proves women are expected to play along and follow to a certain role. Women have no rights and that they should look up to men. Theseus explains to Hermia that to your Father should be as a god, one that composed your beauties yea and one to whom you are but the wax form. This proves that Hermia is seen as her father’s possession as opposed to being an individual. Even In the fairy realm women are expected to listen to men, If a woman defies the authority of men then they are dealing with harsh consequences, In the fairy Realm, there is a conflict between Oberon who is the king and Queen Titania. The conflict begins when Oberon thinks that Titania is challenging his authority by not giving him the boy, Oberon tells her that the boy is his and he wants the baby to be his henchman. In response, Titania makes an argument that as the child was her friends who died while giving birth and for that reason, Titania wants to raise the boy. Oberon does not like this response and as a result, Oberon vowed to “torment thee for this injury”. All because Titania said no, this is an example of patriarchy. Oberon leaves Titania the option of either giving up the boy or facing punishment for being defiant. Oberon is similar to Eguses, it shows the treatment women suffer while living under the patriarchy of a man. 

In a Midsummer Night’s Dream are women expected to listen to the male authority. Helena for example fulfills the role of an obedient woman she thinks does not have her own free will and embarrasses herself just for male attention. She demeans herself by chasing after a man who doesn’t want her. Demetrius does not love Helena and he treats her rather harshly and yet she states Women should be wooed and were not made to woo but yet Helena wants to be with Demetrius, she still wants him to love her back. In the play, Demetrius continues to tell Helena that he doesn’t love her and he doesn’t want to be with her but she doesn’t care she is ready to follow Demetrius wherever he goes. “And even for that, Do I love you the more I am your Spaniel. And, Demetrius, The more you beat me I will fawn on you. Use me but as your spaniel spurn me, strike me, neglect me, lose me only give me leave what worse place can I beg in your love and yet high respect with me Than to be used as your dog. Throughout the play the females start defying the mistreatment of women. In Act 1 Scene 1, Hermia defies her father’s wishes for her to marry Demetrius she does not want to marry Demetrius. when Theseus tries to convince Hermia to marry Demetrius by saying that “Demetrius is a worthy gentleman Hermia replied, “So is Lysander”. Hermia defies Egeus despite knowing that her only other options are death or to stay a virgin forever and become a nun. Therefore, with the help of her lover Lysander and they come up with a plan to leave Athens and stay at Lysander’s aunt’s house, that way Hermia is not in Athens and she will not have to follow the Athenian law. Hermia’s defiance shows she has rights and freedom as a woman and she is the only person who gets the choice of who she will or will not marry. This is similar to Tatiana because she does give the boy up when Oberon asks her too. Tatiana stands up for what she wants she does not give up the boy when Oberon tells her too she tells Oberon “for her sake do I rear up her boy, and for her sake, I will not part with him”. Tatiana’s actions is not typically how what a woman would say or do. Females in this era did not have the right to say no and yet we see in the female characters in this play break that stereotype. 

Though Shakespeare’s play shows the constant mistreatment of women throughout it, women suffer. Women must stand up for their rights and not allow their male-dominated society to define what it means to be a woman. Women must take the lead and articulate who they are and what role they will play in society. Women must reject the patriarchal assumption that women are inferior to men. She believed women should have a voice in the public arena alongside men. This play shows both the inequality between men and women but it also shows the empowerment of women it showed that women aren’t going to listen to men. Still even today women are still fighting against oppression, stereotypes, and patriarchy.

29 April 2022

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