Feminism and Gender Roles in Old Literature

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It is no secret that women have always been looked down upon in society throughout the years, it has been going on for many decades now and is not a shock to anyone. There are even stories written in old literature portraying just how strong the use of feminism and gender roles are, two very important critical lenses, by showing the women’s roles, personalities and fate in the tales being told. Many people actually think that feminism doesn’t exist,and women are already treated the same. In the stories of old literature it supports the evidence to just how unequal women are treated and relates to women even today. Many authors are trying to bring attention on the use feminism and gender roles in their pieces to show their belief on how unequal women are treated and viewed to society. The purpose of the use of the critical lenses is to bring light without actually focusing on the women’s roles unless you look at the writing as a whole and critiquing the language of literature. A few famous tales from the Middle English 1500’s ,Hamlet, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Wife of Bath, illustrates just how strong feminism and gender roles were used to affect how the story flowed and how the women were perceived as back then.

Many people have most likely heard of the name William Shakespeare, often called the English national poet and considered by many to be the greatest dramatist of all time. He is well known for his famous play of the iconic love story of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare also wrote another play with a storyline unlike his typical romantic tragedy, but was based originally on a Danish revenge folktale told by a man called Saxo Grammaticus. In the version told by Grammaticus, a young prince fakes being crazy in order to get revenge on his uncle for murdering his father. In Shakespeare’s version he introduces a twist from the passed down fable in which he called the piece, Hamlet, a tale of a young prince who actually seems insane and determined to get his father’s revenge on his own uncle, who is in charge of his father’s murder. Throughout the whole story, Hamlet is so focused on trying to kill his uncle, he does not realize how many people’s lives he has put in danger: he fails to check up on Ophelia, the girl he likes, and her fate ends up ending her own life because of how unimportant she felt to everyone, including to Hamlet,who killed her father because he thought he was King Claudius. The story ends in a shocking tragedy, which seems to be common in Shakespeare’s work, where everyone in the royal family dies, including Hamlet and King Claudius.

Although getting vengeance may seem like the main focus of the story, since they mainly centralized the story on men, it also portrays just how little they cared about the women in the story.

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