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Literature - Research Paper Example

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As Virginia Woolf points out in A Room of Ones Own, many of the important relationships between female characters in literature have been defined only on secondary terms. Instead, women in literature are almost always defined in "their relation to men" (Woolf 81). Despite its…
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Download file to see previous pages... In the end, marriage and love undermine Helena and Hermias friendship, destroying their chance to have the kind of relationship Woolf and other feminists dream of. The desire of Helena and Hermia to get married, and the relationship Oberon has with his wife Titania, show that "A Midsummer Nights Dream" ultimately reinforces the cultural subordination of women by their husbands and lovers.
As Roberts points out about Elizabethan drama in general, "unless we are very careful, these plays reinforce for women their inherited and culturally sustained sense of their own insignificance" (367). The same is certainly true of A Midsummer Nights Dream in specific; the play reinforces traditional gender roles which require women to get married and nothing else. This can be seen in the fact that all of the main female characters only want to get married. Even the dramatis personae describes the women characters as "in love with" their lover, or as "betrothed" to them. As Woolf suggests, the women are only described based on the men they associate with (82). Additionally, "A Midsummer Nights Dream has 13 men to 4 women" (Roberts 367). This shows that the play is more interested in men than women, even if the women characters do play such an important role, relatively speaking, to those of the male characters.
Of course, the main female characters are Hermia and Helena. Their goals are both marriage, and both of them seem at first to be good Feminist role models. After all, they have both fled with their preferred lover, denying their fathers wishes by refusing to marry the men their fathers prefer. In the first act, Theseus warns them of the consequences of their disobedience. If Hermia does not marry Demetrius instead of Lysander, she will have either "to die the death, or to abjure / For ever the society of men" (I.i.65-66). Even when threatened with execution or being sent to a nunnery, though, Hermia is unrepetant:
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