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A Comparison of Women in Shakespeare's Othello, The Merchant of Venice, and A Midsummer Night's Dream

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Introduction

Teresa Locascio A Comparison of Women in Shakespeare's Othello, The Merchant of Venice, and A Midsummer Night's Dream 3,398 Words Valley High School Las Vegas, NV #D140-061 May 2003 Table of Contents 1. Abstract 3 2. Extended Essay 4 3. Works Cited 17 Abstract Women have permeated stories since time began. How to portray women, however, has always been a difficulty. Though writing in the 1600s, William Shakespeare always looked beyond petty predisposition to create the ideal woman to accent his works. The Bard never used the same woman twice and although Othello, The Merchant of Venice, and A Midsummer Night's Dream were all penned by the same awe-inspiring man, they all present notably diverse females. Although every female that Shakespeare penned was unique, they did share some similarities. However, what is astonishing about Shakespeare's woman is that two girls could share one quality yet be complete opposites in other respects. This is one of the reasons why Shakespeare is considered today to be one of the most incredible writers of all time. Extended Essay Women have permeated stories since time began. How to portray women, however, has always been a difficulty. Should a writer stick to the basic preconception of a woman - a beautiful, yet na�ve, young girl - or should he reach beyond the boundaries of the stereotype to form something more daring - perhaps a sensible, intelligent woman? Though writing in the 1600s, William Shakespeare always looked beyond petty predisposition to create the ideal woman to accent his works. The Bard never used the same woman twice and although Othello, The Merchant of Venice, and A Midsummer Night's Dream were all penned by the same awe-inspiring man, they all present notably diverse females. In Othello, Shakespeare entertains the reader with three interesting women: Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca. Desdemona, the daughter of Brabantio, a Venetian senator, fills the basic requirements for the young, na�ve girl. ...read more.

Middle

When problems for Bassanio rise back in Venice, Portia quickly takes over and directs Bassanio to marry her and then quickly return to Venice. In the remaining scenes of the play, Portia proves herself time and again, but it can be argued that all of her actions are made strictly for her new husband's benefit. There are three key elements to the plot the play: the wooing and winning of Portia, the downfall of Shylock in court, and the reveation to their husbands that Portia and Nerissa were the lawyer and clerk instrumental in Shylock's ruin. Portia is the linchpin of each of these three episodes, and is a rare character to find in a Shakespeare play, as she is a dominant character in the play and constantly vital to the plot. In court, she is as, if not more, forceful as always, and extremely well spoken. She is easily able to come to a plausible defense for Antonio: Tarry a little. There is something else. This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood. The words expressly are "a pound of flesh." Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh. But in the cutting it, if thou dost shed One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods Are by the laws of Venice confiscate Unto the state of Venice. (IV.i.318-25). While she is in need of dressing as a man for the court scene, it is only because a woman would never be allowed in court. She feels no need to hide her identity otherwise, which is an amazing aspect of Portia. Also, the fact that she does not do as many other women in Shakespeare's plays do in running away during the last scene in the play, when everything is said and done, adds greatly to Portia's character. She knows her place in life and always stands her ground. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is simply uncanny. Last but not least, there is Titania, the elegant Queen of the Fairies, and wife to Oberon. When the reader first encounters Titania, she and Oberon are continuing a pre-existing spat over a servant boy that Titania refuses to give to her husband. Right off the bat, Titania shows the audience that she is quick-witted and sharp-tongued. It is implied that she sleeps around with other men, but never confirmed. Shakespeare makes it clear that nothing Titania can claim or do will justify the fundamental wrong she has committed: she has failed to submit to her husband's desires. Because of this, Titania, the only decent female in the play, is made a mockery of by Oberon. It is a travesty but, as the reader, there is nothing to be done about it. Many comparisons can be made inside and outside of the plays. Desdemona can easily compare to Helena and Hermia's na�vet�. She can also compare to Hermia and Jessica in that she does marry without her father's permission, upsetting him greatly. Emilia can compare with Portia's intelligence and Nerissa's role as the mistress's confidant. They are also both essential to their respective plays. One can't help but admire that. Bianca, Jessica, and Hippolyta can compare in that they all could be easily removed from their stories. Every female, at one point or another, ends up bowing down to a male character, which makes sense for the period in which they were established in. However, each female is an individual. Shakespeare wrote at least three women into each one of his masterpieces. Be they large or small parts, from comedies or tragedies, meant to make a point or not, they were all created uniquely. Though women may show many of the same traits, each one is her own person, a different face amoung the crowd. Be they a shining gem, such as Portia or Emilia, or another average rock, like Hippolyta or Hermia, each woman is special in her own way and will remain on her own pedestal for the rest of time. ...read more.

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