Problem of Gender Bias in Plays of Shakespeare

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As it is a known fact that gender bias and patriarchy are the practices and the ideologies that prevalent in today’s world as well. Maybe they are not practiced the way they were practiced back in the day, but still the harsh reality is that these practices still exist in our societies. Women are still treated as the secondary citizens in the society. They are still considered inferior to men. Even today , even after women have achieved so much in the world and in every possible field, still they are majorly seen as homemakers and non working class in the economy. They are still treated as they always need the support of men if want to lead a happy and a successful life. Still they are expected to take permission from male members in their families , either fathers or husbands, even if they want to pursue the smallest of the jobs on their own. Still it is thought that women can not take care of themselves and they still need the male population to make their lives better.

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The two plays – Medea and Midsummer Night’s Dream – are laden with references and practices of gender bias and patriarchy. Even though in Medea , where the protagonist is a female and is portrayed in a very ferocious and a brave women , still instead of praising her guts and bravery, her acts are being compared to that of men. She is said to be “as brave as” or “as ferocious as a man” By such comparison , the play’s narrative automatically places the males over and above the females in the field of bravery and strength, which is a clear evidence of a patriarchy. It is a clear indication that women were expected to be very silent and soft spoken and they were not expected to show any strength and/or bravery. Even if they were to show any of these qualities they were always compared to men. In the play Medea, when Medea decides to take revenge from Jason for betraying her and is ready to go to any extent for her revenge, she is repeatedly compared to the male society for the extraordinary portrayal of courage, bravery, vengeance and anger. Even in the narration , it is very evident that the task or the actions which she intends to perform are not what women in society usually do and she repeatedly questioned about her actions. In the start of the play , a group of ladies come to console her after she has been betrayed and banished. But when she tells this group that she plans to take revenge for the injustice which she faced , they ask her that does she has the strength and the courage to go against his husband and the king. They also say that her revenge is justified but as soon as Creon enters they all shut their mouths and stand quietly in a corner. This is another example of a male dominated and male feared society that was present at the time this play was written.

These same incidents and practices can be seen in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. The same male dominated society who think women are incapable is visible in this play. Every act of the play except the Act where Hermia and Helena fight with each other over the two men, women are shown inferior , delicate and scared. When the rude mechanical s are practicing for their play, Peter Quince and rest of the actors come to a decision to have prologue before the lion’s part so that the people shall know that he is not a lion and actually a man. When they are having this discussion, they say that they should have this prologue as the ladies can get scared and this might get them hanged. During the actual performance also , when the Lion is narrating his prologue, he refers to the ladies who have a faint heart and get easily scared. By these two acts , it can be seen that men were considered braver and to have a stronger heart as compared to the women. Women were believed to have a faint heart and were the ones who might get scared very easily.

There are major evidences of patriarchy and gender bias in Medea. Throughout the play, any act done by Medea has been compared to what a male would do in that exact same situation. Also, all the acts of revenge and bravery done by Medea are considered to be wrong on her part and she is thus banished and exiled from the city of Athens. Some strong references of Patriarchy can be seen throughout the play. First reference which we come across is when Medea is betrayed by her husband and is banished by him with their two sons and still she is the one who is banished from the state and is exiled from the city by the king. Another major reference in the play which shows the male dominant society of that time is the instance where Jason can easily go and have a second marriage and yet face no consequences. But on the other hand, Medea has to go through a series of troubles and hardships even though she was the one who was the victim. Another evidence of Patriarchy can be seen when the king orders Medea to exile and Medea has no option but to follow the order. Disobedience of the order would have lead to death of both Medea and her children. Even though Medea had no other place to go and the order of exile was wrong on the king’s part, yet she had to follow the order. This shows that women were bound to follow whatever orders were given to them , even if they were unfair or they were punished.

Similar references of Patriarchy can be seen in Midsummer Night’s Dream. In this play also, the setting is of a patriarchal system were women are given less importance throughout the play and men are always considered right and superior. Since the starting of the play , women are considered inferior to men. We come to know that Hippolytha is the queen who was a warrior in reality but she had to marry Thesus as he won her in a battle. She , although being a strong women , was treated like some kind of a war trophy. Another incident which portrays patriarchy was when Hermia is defined by her father as his property and she will have to do whatever he orders her. She has no say in her own life’s decision and is expected to follow her father’s order. Also her father denotes Hermia as a baggage which he has the right to dispose off and he has full right of where she will go. Also , disobedience of her father’s order will either lead to her death or living the life of a nun. She absolutely has no say in this decision and even if she truly love Lysander , she can not disobey her father. Another incident of male dominance can be seen between Oberon and Titania. Oberon wanted Titania to give up the Indian Boy and he ordered her to do so as he was her Husband. Her refusal came as a shock to him and thus he asked Puck to get the love potion and trick her into giving up the boy. This shows that he was hell bent on defeating her own wife so that he can be seen as superior to her. All these incidents are evidences of the Patriarchal society that existed during that time.

These practices are still followed in today’s day and time and there is no escaping them. Women still live in a male dominant society and still have to go through various levels of hardships in their day to day life because the society they live in still believe that men are superior to women.

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