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There has been a double standard for men and women reflected in English Renaissance Drama and may be said to mirror the social life of the age. Further, the growing importance of women in commercial and social spheres was examined in the drama, and Louis B. Wright concludes that
This activity and boldness of women, especially women of the middle class, aroused the ire of conservatives who vented their displeasure in pulpit, and were answered by staunch defenders of the virtues of the criticized sex. Even stage plays took up the cudgels.
This divergence of opinion on the subject of women can be seen by cataloguing some of the satirists and defenders of the sex. the most famous detractors are the author of Schole house of women (about 1542) and attributed to Edward Gosenhill; John Knox, The Monstrous Regiment of Women ( 1558); Philip Stubbes, The Anatomie of Abuses ( 1583); Stephen Gosson, Quippes for Upstart Newfangled Gentlewomen ( 1595); and Joseph Swetnam , The Araignment of Lewd, idle, froward and unconstant women ( 1615), as well as the anonymous author of Hic Mulier or the Man-Woman ( 1620).
The attacks did not go unanswered. Indeed in the case of Sir Thomas Elyot Defence of Good Women ( 1540), praise preceded attack. Other notable defenders of women were Edward More in The Defence of Women and Especially of Englyshe Women ( 1560); Nicholas Breton The Praise of Virtuous Ladies ( 1599); and Daniel Tuvil Asylum Veneris ( 1616).
Finally women writers began to appear.
Indeed in the case of Sir Thomas Elyot Defence of Good Women ( 1540), praise preceded attack. Other notable defenders of women were Edward More in The Defence of Women and Especially of Englyshe Women ( 1560); Nicholas Breton The Praise of Virtuous Ladies ( 1599); and Daniel Tuvil Asylum Veneris ( 1616).
Finally women writers began to appear. The first is Rachel Speght, who in 1617, wrote A Mouzell for Melastomus, The Cynical Bayter of, and foule mouthed Barker against Evahs Sex, which was an attempt to silence the notorious Swetnam, as well as the weighty biblical anti-feminism which, largely by interpretation, held that woman was inferior to man. In a systematic effort to refute old arguments against women, Rachel Speght writes:
Secondly, the materiall cause, or matter whereof woman was made, was of a refined mould, if I may so speake: for man was created of the dust of the earth, but woman was made of a part of man, after that he was a living soule; yet was shee not produced from Adams foote, to be his low inferiour; nor from his head to be his superiour, but from his side, neare his heart, to be his equall; that where he is Lord, she may be Lady: and therefore saith God concerning man and woman jointly, 'Let them rule over the fish of the sea, & over the fowles of the Heaven, & over every beast that moueth upon the earth:' by which words, he makes their authority equall, & all creatures to be in subjection unto them both. This being rightly considered, doth teach men to make such account of their wives, as Adam did of Eve, 'This is bone of my bone, & flesh of my flesh:' As also, that they neither doe or with any more hurt unto them, then unto their owne bodies: for men oughte to love their wives as themselves, because hee that loves
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