Views of Women from Pre-Classical Era Through the Renaissance

1251 Words Apr 28th, 2013 6 Pages
Martha Gilleece
World Lit 1 Term Paper
Word Count/1209
Views of Women from Pre-classical Era through the Renaissance

The attitudes of male characters towards female characters changed from pre-classical literature to classical literature drastically from the time “Gilgamesh” was written to the time Shakespeare’s sonnets were published. The change was slow, in Gilgamesh women are tempting animalistic people and in Homer’s “Iliad,” and the “Odyssey,” the women represent what was and wasn’t okay in society. In Dante’s “Inferno” the woman Beatrice was a symbol of holiness to him and he used her as a symbol to represent his salvation. Later, Petrarch used Dante’s mold to create Laura, who unlike Beatrice was described more as a
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Both women represent opposite sides off the scale. Penelope is the representation of a faithful wife who stays loyal to her husband for many years. Helen, on the other hand, is a woman who leaves her husband for Paris and attempts to sleep with his brother. Both of the women are seen as objects of desire but not much more.

“Begin when all the rest who left behind them headlong to death in battle or at sea had long ago returned, while he alone sill hungered for home and wife” (186) Odyssey

Odysseus is not faithful to his wife during the journey back, but Penelope stays loyal throughout.
Expected to be even though she is flirted with and many men attempt to marry her. “The loyal wife” is just an object, and though Odysseus misses her, he misses the simple domestic happiness of his previous life as well.

In Medieval literature the view of women changes, specifically in Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” Beatrice, a woman that Dante saw only three times is the muse for most of his journey through the numerous stages. She is the asexual woman who guides him back to god. Dante sets the example for Petrarch’s Laura who is a woman he sees in church once and then dedicates the rest of his life writing about her. The difference between Laura and Beatrice is that Laura is a desirable, physically described being, whereas Beatrice is an asexual being that represents holiness. Petrarch constantly describes Laura
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