The Play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” William Shakespeare Essay
Updated: Jul 3rd, 2020
A patriarchy refers to a system in which men dominate all the influential and powerful positions in the society. Masculine positions range from family heads to leadership in governments, social entities, and key state agencies or institutions. According to Donahue, the term patriarchy has also been used widely in feminist literature to denote the systematic bias against women in a society (48). In essence, men direct all the economic, political, social, and cultural aspects of life in the patriarchal societies. Women are downgraded, and their fundamental rights trampled upon in these patriarchal societies. The ancient Athenian society depicted in the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an example of a patriarchal society. In the society, women are portrayed as sub-humans whose decisions in life depend upon the directions and approval of men.
Women Rights in a Midsummer Night’s Dream
As pointed out by Walters, among the most common ways in which women’s rights are downgraded in patriarchal societies is that men plan their marriages and women are expected to oblige without questions (158). In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hermia is forced by her father to marry Demetrius despite that she is in love with Lysander. Her rebellion is considered a serious crime in that society to the extent that she can even be executed or sent to a convent. As per the societal norms, she does not have the right to reject any decision made by her father. In a Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus tells Hermia that her father should be as a god to her (1.1.50).
In addition, Theseus conquers Hippolyta compelling her to marry him. These cases explicate the fact that the institution of marriage is one of the contexts in which the rights of women are gravely abused in patriarchal societies.
According to Donahue, women in patriarchal societies are reduced to mere objects that can be manipulated by men to conform to their desires (49). Since men control the power channels in these societies, they are capable of taking this advantage to exert involuntary control over the women in the society. For instance, In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, King Oberon is not pleased with the fact that his wife Titania does not approve of his decision to knight the young Indian prince. He goes ahead to instruct one of his servants to acquire a magical potion that he intends to use in revenge against Titania and to sway her into approving his decision. The use of the love potion denotes the numerous unscrupulous ways in which men seek to manipulate women in patriarchal societies.
Women in patriarchal societies are also deprived of the right to make decisions regarding their bodies. As claimed by Walters, the rights include the liberty to exercise control over their reproduction (160). In the play, men have the capability of denying a woman the ability to decide whether to have children or not. Hermia is threatened of being taken to a monastery after Theseus teases her with the threat of austerity and single life (1.1.68).
Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream presents some of the ways in which the rights of women are abused by men in patriarchal systems. The Athenian city and the forest surrounding it are depicted as patriarchal societies where women lives are utterly controlled and shaped by the decisions of men. The forced choice of marriage partners, manipulation of women by men through unfair means, and the control of women’s reproduction by men are some of the women right abuses presented in the text.
Donahue, Melissa. “ Transitioning from Patriarchal Society: Women’s rights and Gender Equality.” ESSAI, 5.18 (2007), 41-53. Print.
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. New York: Penguin Limited. 1994. Print.
Walters, Lisa. “Oberon and Masculinity in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes, and Reviews, 26.3 (2013), 157-160. Print.
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