Midsummer Night's Dream- William Shakespeare

One of the many theories of literacy that emphasizes gender as a key component of a society's social, political, and economic structure and works to expose prejudice against women is the feminist theory. The theory's central tenet is that men and women should be accorded the same respect, rights, and chances. Ferguson claims on page 270 that the feminist argument originated from research and literacy that criticized and supported social norms that encouraged gender inequality. A look at Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's dream play through the postulates of the feminist theory highlights some of the stereotypical perspectives on gender roles, rights and freedoms, some of which still exist in today's societies. This paper is concerned with how the Midsummer Night's Dream play weakens or strengthens the social, psychological, political and economic oppression of women. While the theme of the play is love, it seems to be a temporary illusion

The most profound feminist issue in the entire play is male dominance. Women exist in cycles controlled by men, from their fathers to their husbands. Women are considered as possessions with which their owners are free to treat as they please. Hermia father, Egeus says "...I beg the ancient privilege of Athens. As she is mine, I may dispose her..." (…). The laws of the Athens empower men to make decisions and women are expected to obey or bear the repercussions. The social and political setting of the play denies women control over their emotional and sexual desires. A father refuses marriage between her daughter and the man she loves, and his decision is supported by law. According to Quisser (pg. 88) traditional roles and stereotypes obstruct progress in achieving gender equality and parity.

Shakespeare's Night's Dream is a play which exemplifies a good state of a woman's lack of freedom. It is an account of typical couples who are designed to represent the ideal world, lead and stirred by Oberon, a fairy king. Oberon is often driven by the thought and zeal to prove his independence and rule over Titania who is the queen of the fairies. Oberon and Titania are often arguing about a number of issues, for instance over who should take the Indian boy. Tatania seems not ready to giving in as she believes that the boy's mother and Lysander were good friends and Oberon does not bear any traces of friendship neither is he a friend of the boy nor a family member instead he just wants the boy to be his houseboy. Nonetheless, Oberon carries the day, and this exposes Tatania's weakness.

Sometimes reality is often like achieved a dream in our lives, in this play, most characters are living their dreams. The most interesting part of the play is the depiction Shakespeare is giving Puck which is a charlatan as a confused character who keeps on confusing the individuals he is dispensed to put the juice on. Despite placing juice on the right people surprisingly those same people keep on falling for the wrong people in turn. Thus, the play alludes that in the ideal world it is possible for a dream to become a reality but wrongfully reality is often evaded as a dream. Act 1 of the play presents to the audience the first instance of gender battle. Eugenius, Tatania's father, proposes Hermia to Demetrius despite the fact that the latter is in love with Lysander. Eugenus thinks that since he is a man he has the power to find a man for any lady, in this case, Tatania. On the same note in Act, I, scene (i), Eugeus is befallen by anger that Tatania, his blood, and a daughter can never respect his choice and decision. Thus, he takes the issue to the king of Athens. As stipulated in the Athenian laws, anyone who disobeys his or her father's wishes should face a death sentence. "By the coming moon, she should have decided on whether to have death or a life with Demetrius (Act I, scene i)." Both Hermia and Lysander are so much upset by that take, hence they are planning to escape and go far away and get spouses from a strange place: "I have a widow aunt.... from Athens is her house remote seven leagues there, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee, and to that place the sharp Athenian law cannot pursue us (Act I, scene i)."

The consequence of disobedience as stipulated by the law is execution for both men and women or seclusion for women. Women are treated as objects with their entire lives tied to serving their husbands and bearing children. "…happy is the rose distilled than that which withers on a virgin thorn… (…)" says Theseus the Duke of Athens, while asking Hermia to listen to his father unless she is willing to live the rest of her life without a husband and children. Masculinity has been given predominance over mutual consent. Theseus plans to marry his betrothed whom he wooed with violence and whose love he won by injuring her, "…I wooed thee with my sword…won they love doing thee injuries (…)". The egoist nature of the men in this play is satisfied through forcefully conquering the will of their women.

Another instance of male dominance is illustrated in the first scene of the second act where the king of the fairies, Oberon expects Titania, his wife to obey him. "Am not I thy lord?" (…). Oberon wants to use his authority as husband and king to make Titania give him the Indian boy. Men place great emphasis on winning over women, that is why Oberon resorts to using magic in an attempt to get his way and satisfy his ego.In the play, Shakespeare portrays men as insensitive people who play with the feelings of women and still find a way to blame their actions on external influences. Demetrius who seeks Hermia's hand in marriage had previously courted Helena. Despite his hatred for Helena, he later professes his love for her. Lysander also claims to love Hermia but changes his mind and pursues Helena. Although Shakespeare wants us to believe that their change in feelings was a result of a love potion and the workings of fairies, this is symbolic. It is one of the many excuses that men give to justify their unfaithful nature.

Oppressive cultural and political practices have treated women as the weaker sex making them lose confidence in themselves. Women become slaves to their feelings and the desires of men. Hippolyta consents to marry the man who took her by the sword and claims to have won her love. The former worrier seems to have accepted defeat and only speaks in agreement with Theseus, as though she looks forward to their union. Helena makes a fool of herself pursuing the attention of the man who ignited love in her. Helena has accepted that she is a slave of her affection for Demetrius, "you draw me…leave your power to draw, and I shall have no power to follow you" (…).

The women in Shakespeare play, blame themselves even for matters beyond their control. Helena feels she was not beautiful enough to capture the attention of any man. She does not believe she is good enough, that is why when both Lysander and Demetrius confess their love for her, she mistakes it for a game. Women view beauty as physical appearance "...oh were favor so, yours would I catch fair Hermia" (…). This crocked perception that a woman's power lies in her beauty is probably one of the contributing factors to objectifying the female gender, as women feel they can only win the affection of men through tricks.

Despite the many feminist movements steer forth the fight for social and political equality, one barrier stands in the way of these efforts, the woman. Women have been known to turn against each other and let other factors get in the way of their friendship. Helena describes her relationship with Hermia as that of two bodies with one heart, "…with two seeming bodies but one heart…" (…), she, however, betrays her friend Hermia, whom she considers a rival for Demetrius's affection by informing Demetrius of her plan to escape with Lysander. Hermia, on the other hand, accuses Helena of stealing her man. Instead of recognizing that the men are the cause of their conflict, they turn against each other. Helena is angry at Hermia instead of the men who pursue her confessing their affection. Hermia should be angry at Lysander for betraying her trust and for teasing her childhood friend Helena, whom they share a strong bond.Titania makes a promise to raise the Indian boy whose mother died bearing him; however, her husband, Oberon manipulates her into giving in to his demands.

One more gender issue is depicted in the manner that Lysander behaves with Helena. Conceivably, this could be the reason why Egeus wants his daughter to get married to the man he chose since he believes that he is a young man and due to that Egues developed a family spirit. The play illustrates how men care nothing about women's feelings. For instance, Lysander is not having the chance of loving Hermia given that the latter is involved in a relationship with another lady, Helena. However, he leaves Helena to marry Hermia who in turn is in love with Demetrius. For that reason, Helena is shown disrespect as well as disregard by Lysander by behaving in such a manner. However, Helena does not leave her anger, hence when the Athenian men, fall for her as a result of the magic potion poured on them, she becomes unattainable being driven with the thought that those men take her for a ride.

This play just like many other comedies written by Shakespeare is dramatizing gender tensions which are coming about as a result of complications due to familian and love relationships. At the beginning of the play, the audiences are presented with a young lady who is having a conflict with his father over freedom to select her spouse, a guy who is currently set to marry a lady that she met through battle. On the other hand, in the royal house, both the king and the queen are at war with one another, acting out a war of gender which is so deep that it makes the real world inhabitable. Throughout the play, Shakespeare presents questions of stereotype regarding conventional gender roles in the context of love. For instance, in Shakespeare's world which indeed represents an ideal world where men are encouraged to be aggressive while women are urged and expected to be passive, docile and submissive. Of course, the play instills in us the fact that this is not often the situation when an individual eventually comes to meet love. The audiences think that it is interesting A Midsummer Night's Dream never hid fun at the irrationality of gender roles which were experienced many centuries ago, yet is still encountered in the current world; for sure Shakespeare was ahead of time. However, just like in the ancient world there were those who always defied and fought against such biases, for instance Hermia, Helena, and Titania rebel against the gender stereotyping through insistently pursuing love. Thus, one could say, as it is evident in the play that Shakespeare poses a gender argument in this pay in the manner Lysander's and Demetrius are charged on the same note with the nature of their enchantment. Conversely, Hermia and Helena show nothing as such. Thus, the play depicts that women are destined to be a subject of diverse views of reality in the context of love.

The audience, in general, supports the nature of the relationship that subsists between Lysander and Hermia, somewhat because her father rejects that love. They are captivated by Lysander's father indifference to the happiness of his daughter. He vows to make her daughter die instead of enjoying life with a man he rejects. Lysander's father gives the audience as well as Theseus no basis as to why he rejects the choice of his daughter. It is like he just rejects his daughter's choice on arbitrary grounds, just to wield his will.

Male supremacy also plays an essential role in the drama since Shakespeare associates love with male domination coupled with aggressiveness. For instance, when Demetrius fails to convince Hermia to love him, he resolves to a very demeaning and violent way of raping her and Hippolyta is married to Theseus just because he subdued her in a battle.

The cycle of oppression will keep going on until women realize that men need to take responsibility for breaking their trust, friendship and marring their dignity with shame. Helena allows Demetrius to get away with abusing her physically. Chauhan (pg. 147) emphasizes on the need for women to challenge oppressive cultural norms. Despite the plight of women as portrayed in the play Midsummer Night's Dream, there are daring and strong-willed female characters who defied the oppressive nature of society to pursue their deepest desires and dreams. Hermia resists the control of her father and the rule of the Duke of Athens for love. She is even ready to face the consequences of her decision, "… so die, my lord, ere I will my virgin patent up unto his lordship whose unwished York..." (…). Hermia is willing to sacrifice her family to be joined to her true love and live among strangers. Titania is another intelligent character who does not fear to speak her mind. Although her husband succeeds in manipulating her, she comes out a strong character who defies her husband's authority. She remains adamant in her decision not to let her husband have the Indian boy until love portions get in the way of her thinking.

Shakespeare uses the idea of romance and in this play to explore the issue of gender inequality and the stereotypical attitude towards women in a patriarchal society. Shakespeare was a feminist who empowered his female characters and made use of sarcasm, comedy, and satire to communicate critical issues about gender roles and relationships (Jacobsen, pg.47). The play Midsummer Night's Dream condones societal practices that disregard the rights and freedoms of women. Shakespeare uses the character of Helena to bring out effect that a patriarchal way of life has on women. According to Andersen et al. (pg. 1440), a society controlled by men looks down upon women which lower their self-esteem and denies them the freedom to stand up for themselves. The character of Hermia and Titania encourage women to rebel against oppressive cultures and speak their mind with equal authority as the men in their lives.

Works Cited

Andersen, Steffen, et al. "Gender competitiveness, and socialization at a young age: Evidence from a matrilineal and a patriarchal society." Review of Economics and Statistics 95.4 (2013): 1438-1443

Chaunhan, Kaushal. "Role of Women Empowerment in Present Challenging Environment." Journal of Social Welfare and Management 8.3 (2016): 147

Ferguson, Kathy E. "Feminist Theory Today." Annual Review of Political Science 20 (2017): 269-286

Jacobsen, Ken. "Shakespeare's Novel Life: Speech, Text and Dialogue in Recent Shakespearean Fictions." Shakespeare and Millennial Fiction (2017): 46

Queisser, Monika. "Gender equality and the Sustainable Development Goals." OECD Insights (2016): 87-90

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