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Feminism is a women's movement that is associated with particular issues of the past when a federation of women managed to bring issues concerning gender impartiality, sex discrimination, and sex oppression into the limelight. Simply put, feminism is perpetually engaged in resistance to existing perceptions on the nature of women in society. In the contemporary world, the revolt of women against sexual servitude is recognized as the most influential social development. This essay will examine feminism issues as have been exhibited in Shakespeare’s play 'A Midsummer Night’s Dreams.
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dreams' clearly describes the story of four young Athenian lovers, a drama group actors, and their association with the Athen Duke, Theseus, Amazons Queen, the inhabitants of the moonlight forest together with Hippolyta. This play describes a society that is ruled and controlled by men. In this connection, the idea of feminism is clearly brought out. The first, encounter of feminism in this play is in the first scene where Hermia is told by her father to marry Demetrius whom her father thought suits her most. This accurately shows how women in this society were treated like objects or resources that belonged to men.
However, women and girls did not have any right to decide anything on their own; even a man to marry was chosen father of the daughter regardless of her wishes. This is why Egeus chooses Demetrius for Hermia instead of allowing her to marry the love of her life Lysander. To show how serious this issue is, the Athenian law in this society stated that a daughter must marry the suitor chosen by her father, and failure to adhere to this would bring death as her punishment. Looking at the play, when Hermia refuses her father’s offer to marry Demetrius her father goes to Duke Theseus of Athens and asks for permission to curse her to death because of her disobedience. This shows how men regarded women as useless creatures and their death was not a loss to the community.
The only other option a girl had according to this play if she refused her father’s decision was to live a chaste life of continued worshiping of goddess Diana as a nun. Illustration of this is seen in the play when the judge in the court of Athen tells Hermia that she should comply with her father’s will or she will be sent to a convent or even executed. This clearly indicates that in this community it was the men who decided whether women should have sex or not. It, therefore, follows that women never decided whether to have children or not nor did they have a chance to even determine the number of children they should have. In essence, women were denied the rights of their bodily honor, sovereignty, and reproductive rights hence exposing them to sexual harassment.
Men's chauvinism is well documented in this play. The play brings about a scenario where women were forever under the rule of men. So to speak, when a girl was born she remained under the custody of her father until she got married (pg 7, act 1, scene 1, line 5). After the dowry had been paid the father’s leadership over his daughter was transferred to her husband. At the look of things, it comes out clearly that women in this society tended to live a life of slavery throughout as they always lived under the command of their leaders without ever deciding anything on their own.
Notably, women could also be punished by their husbands when they disobeyed their will. In the play, it is seen when Oberon, King of the fairies decided to punish Titania his Queen when she refused to give him her Indian prince, who was so beautiful according to Oberon to be used as a knight. A magical juice from a flower was to be applied to the queen’s eyes while asleep as a form of punishment. This juice was to make her fall in love with the first thing she sees when she woke up which as Oberon thought would a wild animal.
Oberon’s thought of punishing Titania by making her fall in love with an animal shows how he despised women to an extent that it was not an issue to him if a woman fell in love with an animal. Titania’s act of falling in love with a wild animal indicates that women had been brought up with low self-esteem and were just there to do what men directed them to do. To be specific, women in this play were the same thing as animals since their value was so much insignificant in society. In connection with this, women had no right to property ownership in society. For this reason, Oberon had the audacity to punish Titania when she refused to give him her Indian prince to be used as a knight. The absence of this right to property for women made Titania’s action punishable before the law.
In the leadership sector, men were the only ones mentioned as leaders, for example, the Duke of Athen Theseus, a noble man Egeus the father to Hermia, and the King of fairies Oberon. This indicates a society dominated by men who continually gained recognition while the women's greatest accomplishment was marriage even though they could not be in control of anything in their family. This is because they were actually part and parcel of their husbands’ properties. Actually, women were not allowed to own their children or even defend them from their father’s cruelty. The whole duty of a wife was to give birth and raise children. In this play women were not involved in issues like the marriage of their daughters and the husbands never consulted them for any ideas about marriage issues. This shows that women’s opinions were not important by any chance even if they were making sense.
For example, during the marriage proposal of Egeus to his daughter to marry Demetris the mother to Hermia is not mentioned anywhere. For this reason, it can be said that she was made to understand that whatever her husband does was always correct no matter how evil it may have been. Therefore, the play brings out a scenario where obedient daughters, rowdy and overprotective wives are brought under the custody of their fathers and husbands respectively. This, therefore, shows that the qualities required for economic or political success are based on the biological ideas concerning masculinity and feminity. In this regard, men’s bodies and intellectual capacity were meant to possess power while those of women were naturally fit for subordination.
In conclusion, Shakespeare’s play exemplifies different aspects concerning feminism. These aspects include fathers, choosing spouses for their daughters whereby the daughter's objection to marrying her father’s choice was punishable by either execution or lifetime celibacy. It, therefore, describes a society where women had been robbed of their pride and honor and men continually dominated. In other words, it shows that women had no right to anything in society, be it property, bodily integrity, and sovereignty, or reproduction.