The Values Of Women In The Elizabethan Era

1371 Words6 Pages
Defining what a female was supposed to be and do was an act of Renaissance culture. For most of Renaissance society, women represented the following virtues which, importantly, having their meaning in relation to the male; obedience, silence, sexual chastity, piety, humility, constancy, and patience. The most important being sexual chastity and piety. The Elizabethan age regarded women’s sexuality as a form of currency. In England’s social structure currency was a means to power. A woman’s virginity was something to be bargained for, and when the time was right, sold to the highest bidder. In modern day, this slightly resembles prostitution, but during Elizabethan times selling a daughter’s virginity was the quickest way up the social ladder. During this time, the sacrifice of virginity implies marriage. Young women rarely married on the idea of love alone, due to the father’s interests in finding an ideal husband that will strengthen the family’s position within the community. Author of Shakespeare’s Women, Angela Pitt states “if for some reason it was impractical for a girl to marry she was encouraged to enter a nunnery,” (15). English women were predominantly ignored outside of the matrimonial and spiritual world. A woman could not pledge allegiance to anything besides the church or her husband. To do otherwise, she would be shunned by English society and by the Church. Women were viewed as a source of sin and unfaithfulness, as Pitt writes, “women were… temptresses who would lead men down the primrose path to fortification. Their women’s bodies proclaimed that they were the living symbols of Man’s First Disgrace. Everyone knew that because it was not only in the Book of Genesis but in the New Testament where St. Paul spoke of women as being inferior to men,” (Pitt 15-16). The only thing a woman could do to escape this harsh judgment was to either enter a nunnery or marry and serve a man. By doing this, she was serving two lords: God and her husband. To not serve a husband through consummation and not serve God by entering a nunnery, would be viewed as a complete rejection of God. Thus, women were not only restrained by the political standards enforced men, but also the consciousness of the Church that
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