Essay about Gender in Shakespeare's As You Like It

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Questions of Gender in Shakespeare's As You Like It

Throughout history, men and women have been assigned specific roles to which society prescribes standards and qualifications. There are certain tasks that have been traditionally completed only by men, and others that have been assigned to women; most of which are separated by the realm of the domestic sphere. During the period of the Renaissance, men and women were assigned very different roles within society. The value, social expectations, legal status, and rights of citizenship differed greatly between the sexes as well as among the classes. Many of these gender roles can be identified through careful readings of the literature produced throughout the Renaissance.
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Such a life was impossible for women . . . because for a woman, a public reputation was dishonorable, a sure sign of immorality and scandal" (Wiesner 12). Women were excluded from any position of meaningful authority in any realm of society. Men were even valued for their ability to classify an object or being as beautiful. During this period of great creative accomplishments, men may ". . . have taken to commerce or to drink, but as a matter of fact they took to visible beauty" (Putnam 164). They established beauty as an important quality of life, and only men had the capacity to differentiate between that which was beautiful and not beautiful.

Women, therefore, were often valued for their physical features. In the Renaissance, ". . . the beauty of woman is more praised and esteemed than any other beauty . . . [for] it appears to be the order of nature that what is lacking in one sex is supplied in the other, and since man is endowed with wit, judgement, and a mind almost divine, . . . woman is given bodily beauty that she may be superior to man in this respect" (Camden 20). Women were object to be viewed with pleasing affections, not with any sense of worth other than their physical features; ". . . the only positive demand of the woman was that she should be beautiful" (Putnam 164-165). Women were also valued for qualities that define them as submissive and passive. A woman's