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Shakespeare and the Predicament of Women

            One of the main aspects of Shakespeare's writing that literary critics assess and praise is his ability to write women that are fully developed and rich in character. Women who were intelligent, willful, and opinionated, were under-appreciated due to the social, political, and artistic milieu in Britain during the Elizabethan era. Whilst the independency of women was an unfamiliar concept, the idea that they could maintain power without the support of a man was generally inconceivable; however, the reign of the Virgin Queen, accompanied by the writing of William Shakespeare, became a platform in which people could begin to discuss the predicament of women.

The Elizabethan's paradigm of the 'ideal woman' consisted of several criteria that molded them to fit into their patriarchal society. Perhaps the most unvarying opinion was that a woman's worth was congruous with her virginity. 
In The Tempest, when Ferdinand first meets Miranda, despite being immediately taken by her beauty, his primary concern is her chastity: "If you be maid or no." .
             Sheri Metzger, in Cliffnotes on the The Tempest, states that the reason behind his unease is that "a man of property, especially a king or his son, must be assured that his offspring are truly his. A woman's virginity, which implies her chastity, is promise that her husband's paternity will never be questioned". However, it can be argued that it is far more complex than that. When Prospero is about to "give" Miranda over to Ferdinand, he sternly warns him not to break the virgin-knot before the wedding had been officialised. We realise that this marriage is more than one of mutual love and support; it is not only a new political alliance, but also an exchange of patriarchal power. She now belongs to another man who is not her father; she is restricted to her virginity and this confinement is not her choice. 
Given that there is little character development, it seems that, as the only woman present in the play, "she is crucial for the action of the play and yet she is 'deprived of any possibility of human freedom, growth or thought.

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