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Consider the Attitudes To Women Demonstrated In the Vienna of Measure For Measure.

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Consider the attitudes to women demonstrated in the Vienna of Measure for Measure. I think most men have fooled themselves into thinking that they are the seat of power---because women have allowed them that dream. Women's subtle power is to make men think that the man is in charge. Eli Khamarov in America Explained! Throughout the course of Measure for Measure, Shakespeare highlights subordination of the female characters by the males. In the Vienna represented in the play women have to suffer exploitation and derogation as their individualism and independence are undermined. Shakespeare uses this treatment of women to exemplify the corruption in the city of Vienna. The two main female roles in Measure for Measure are Mariana and Isabella. Both these women are victims of the corrupt motives of the men who so strongly influence their lives. Isabella, the protagonist, is a nun. Her name means "consecrated to God". Looking at the roles the other women in the play have adopted, as will be discussed in more depth during the course of this essay, it seems she is almost forced into the role by the bigoted society in Vienna. It appears that the only fate for women, unless they wish to join a convent, be a prostitute or alone, is to become a housewife. As a nun Isabella benefits from the education and relative independence (although whether this particular privilege can belong to a woman, in the Vienna Shakespeare writes about, is doubtful) ...read more.


The truth of this is slowly revealed throughout the play, though remains disguised until the final scene, especially in this scene. The accuracy of McLuskie's statement resonates through this scene the significance of its fact is seen in Mariana's daily life. The Duke's second statement describes Angelo's lack of interest in Mariana besides as a source of riches and probably business relations of some sort. Since the Duke describes Angelo as a model person, this appears to be accepted as some sort of norm amongst the aristocracy in Vienna. Through Mariana is shown the effect this self-interest has on the women in the society. Mariana is now confined to a moated grange where she has little company and even less to occupy her time. Shakespeare uses Mariana's character later in the play to exaggerate the forgiving nature of women, one of the few positive attributes he bestows upon the female characters in Measure for Measure. Mariana: Oh, my dear lord, I crave no other, nor better man. Although the women in Vienna are stripped of their freedom and seem to have their sense of responsibility undermined, they retain their principles and live up to the roles they hope to be given. They remain steadfastly loyal: Isabella to the doctrines of the church and Mariana to Angelo, regardless of the price they have to pay. Their devotion is often presented as submission: Isabella: (to Duke) ...read more.


The images he conjures up of dirty streets and lavish mansions are also historically accurate representations of life in London powerfully supporting the supposition that the city was the subject of Shakespeare's criticism. Perhaps Shakespeare is offering a theory behind the state of London and what can be done to change it. He also makes reference to what he feels women's role is in society through the characters of Isabella, Mariana and Mistress Overdone in particular. These are three women who do not fit into the role of wife and each have different ways of life, yet still find their destinies have been handed over to men. It is possible that in this play Shakespeare is criticising the misogyny of 17th Century London and maybe even King James I (although the latter is highly unlikely he would get away with it). A counter-argument is offered by Linda Bambur's Comic Women, Tragic Men: a Study of Gender and Genre in Shakespeare, that "the writer fails to attribute the opposite sex characters the privileges of the other" hints at Shakespeare's own sexist attitude. She hints that the treatment of women in Measure for Measure is a parody for Shakespeare's own attitude towards them. Truth be told, his subliminal messages in Measure for Measure may never be known, but one fact remains. Whether as a result of playwrights like Shakespeare, or simply because of a gradual change in attitudes, two centuries after this play and its highlighting of deep-rooted patriarchy, the first feminist movement sprang up. London has never been the same. ...read more.

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