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How Women are Depicted and How They fight back patriarchal, anti-feminist society in King Lear and the Wife of the bath


Male and female are portrayed as the only known genders in the whole world. Many sociologists, as well as advocates, have spoken about the issue of gender equality but up to now, the issue has not been addressed properly because gender discrimination is still existing even in our current world. Women have always been discriminated against the men. In the patriarchal society, males were considered to be the head of the household, and they were the ones to make rules in the family (Shakespeare and Furness). In many families, men are considered to be the supreme authority and women are under them. Where in our current society we get that what is happening is not different to what happened in patriarchal and none of the woman in the society has never gone through any discrimination but at least once in her life. This is the issue that should be addressed very seriously to allow women to feel fully belonged to societies which will create confidence to them for them to continue delivering their ideologies that will be of great benefit in the world. In this paper, I will discuss, how women are depicted and how they fight back patriarchal, anti-feminist society in King Lear and the Wife of the bath. Therefore, depicting the role of women in the medieval and renaissance and the modern view.

King Lear

King Lear is an awful play that was written by Shakespeare. The play starts with an elderly Britain King, King Lear retiring as well as dividing his kingdom to his daughters. Regan, Cordelia as well as General. Before dividing his kingdom, He requests the daughters to express their love towards him. Goneril and Regan, the eldest daughters of King Lear, gave their best claims about their love for their father. They did their best to make their father happy. However, Cornella, the youngest daughter, took an approach that was different (Shakespeare and Furness). She disclosed that no given time could she depict her love for her father in words. The father failed to understand her and banished her. She accepted the proposal from the France king. Similarly, Earl of Kent, Cornella’s friend, was also banished for standing for Cornella in public. The daughter later turns against their father and take all her political power. However, Kent remains loyal to the king despite being banished. More then, Cornella comes with the France army to rescue her father from the acts of her sister (Shakespeare and Furness).

Women in King Lear

The book is based on three women who have different traits. Cordelia is shown as a stereotypical lady in the medieval era. She is not after the wealth of King Lear, his throne or any of the things that he owns. She did not accept his father’s request to show her love for him. As a result, she does not participate in the drama that took place in the King’sd courtyard. She loved her father much and never wanted to mock him in the drama. On the other hand, Regan and Goneril have opposite traits. She depicts them as monsters and demons. They are human enemies that destroy without caring. “I must change names at home, and give the distaff/into my husband’s hands.” It is evident that their love diminished with time (Shakespeare and Furness). They are the ones who caused chaos.

In this play King Lear, the author, Shakespeare challenges the traditional gender roles and discloses that when women are placed in power position failure is unavoidable. This daughters causes the King to fall into the madness and finally return to his identity. However, Cordella has worked to counteract this picture of women by restoring and redeeming it (Shakespeare and Furness).

Act two as well is depicted as anti-feminist. Luce Irigaray says “Man and woman, woman and man are therefore always meeting as though for the first time since they cannot stand in for one another. I shall never take the place of a man, never will a man take mine”. The sisters in discontinues way tried to take the opposite sex. They could get to power without intentionally belittling their father. In their relationship with their husbands shows that they dominated their relationship. This is clear when they refused to heed their husband’s advice about the need to treat their father well (Shakespeare and Furness).

Women in the Wife of the Bath

In the wife of Bath, bath’s wife is a fascinating character because she encounters all preconceptions that the medieval congregation may have had concerning women’s role. In her introduction, she starts by giving out various double standards existing between women and men pertaining sexual partners number they may be expected to have. She portrays that ” here the ways king, damn salomon/1 trowe he hadde wyves mo than one” king Solomon in the bible contained numerous wives. She had received various criticism because she had been in other five marriages. Women in this periuowere were expected to remain chaste however the wife said, “I will not keep myself chaste in everything” (Chaucer). She said that by not keeping herself chaste as the society expected, this was to make her feel better in the next marriage, sixth marriage. She argued that God said that people should grow fruitful as well as multiply. As a result, men advice does not be interpreted as binding. She as well said that virginity was a great perfection however it is not for each woman in the society. Evidently, the wife is older “the flor of al my age.” She explains that this is to the advantage of the men she marries. At the same time, she is not specifically beautiful but rather rotund as well as red. She rejects any shame feeling concerning her sexuality and proclaims her rights of owning her body. She states “my husband shall have it both evenings and mornings” (Chaucer).

This proto-feminist approach that every woman needs to control her affairs as well as be allowed to make her choices continues in the wife’s tales. This tale is different on a loathly lady tale recurring all through the English literature of medieval as well as closely associated with “The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle.” The introduction of the story is fairly surprising. A woman is raped by Knight in King Arthur’s court. Arthur and all his Knights had to decide on how he will be punished. Men in the court decided that this man had to die however the women in the court gave a different opinion. They suggested that for this man to understand who women are in the society, he had to live.

The Knight correctly understood that the greatest thing that women need in the society was the right to choose their ways. He was given a reward when an old woman look at his perfect bride, a young, good, looking lady who was faithful to him (Chaucer). In different views, this was a shocking act to the Knight who had committed a crime of rapping. However, the man had learned a lesson that every man in the society needs to learn. Therefore, this tale portrays the role of women in the society and clears shows how this woman argues her views more convincingly.

The role of women in the medieval and renaissance period

The two pieces raise the question on the role of women in the medieval and the renaissance. They embody numerous patriarchal values. These patriarchal values form the full medieval society as well as culture. These two pieces display the role of woman in a situation similar to that of Elizabeth (Bolton). The role of a woman was particularly complex since Elizabeth was a strong as well as a popular ruler. Her feminist was celebrated in her court of love (Bolton). In spite of the celebration of her as a leader anointed by the gods, the role of woman are displayed in various ways.

First, the women are given education depending on their background. For instance, women from noble families were given an opportunity of acquiring education. Most of the girls from the noble families were taught on how to give birth at home by specific tutors, on the same note the women of the age of five and below, they received teachings on languages, like Greek, French and even Latin. Music and dancing skills were vital for the women. Unfortunately, they were not allowed to proceed to the university. At home, the women never attended school to receive a formal education rather they were taught on how to govern the household and gain skills on how to take responsibilities concerning housewifely duties. The kind of education the women received it purely related to domestic nature. This was meant to prepare the women o real career option for the future marriage (Greenblatt and Christ). Sometimes, a single woman was chosen during this time who was looked upon with a lot of suspicions; the same single woman was educated on how to become a witch by their neighbors. The women were expected to get married where they were expected to depend on their husband the rest of their lives time.

In the society, the unmarried women spent most of their time in life I the convent nunnery, but it became not an option due to the resolutions of the monasteries. The domestic service was the only an alternative where the moved from lower classes to marriage (Parsons). The married women were considered to be desirable by the whole generation of the women of the lower classes. With the aid of parental freedom, it was legal for the women to marry at the age twelve though it was o recommended to get marriages at that young age.

In marriage, the women were expected to pay a dowry to the marriage, this dependent on the preference of the family. For instance, they were a form of money, goods and any other property that the bride would have brought to the marriage. This was considered as her marriage portion. After marriage, the women were expected to carry out the activities concerning the households and giving birth children. The bigger families according to the customs the rate for mortality children was very high, this made the women make prior arrangements for the care of their children in the case where themselves passed on while giving birth.

The women of this period were raised knowing that they are inferior in the society. The church had a notion ad quoted the bible for it to make sure that the continued adherence to the principle. According to the Protestant leader by the name, John Knox said “woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man. This made the women to be dominated by the husbands in their various families. They were required to follow instructions from both their fathers and brothers and any other male member of the society (Le Goff). The penalty for going against was the issue of whipping stool; they women were to beaten into submission and going against was considered a crime against religion. The women were not supposed to inherit the father’s property because it could have passed from father to son or brother to the father, depending on the situation, but I case of the monarchy the inheritance of women was accepted.

The depiction of women in the modern society

Due to the emergence of the woman’s liberation movements, their role in cultural, political, social and even economic lifestyle has drastically changed and progressed to an improved life. Giving an equal chance to men in many aspects of life (Dronke). The women have made tremendous advancement that has translated to popular culture and the media like radios, television and other social media that has to portray how different identities of women, sense of selfhood, the notion of what means to be a woman. In our modern society, women have adhered to various patriarchal structures this has changed with time brought about the issue of female empowerment and independence in the society (Dronke).

In political in our current societies, women have an equal opportunity for men to participate in seeking various seats in administering of a different level. They are assigned with different duties in the government to serve the nation unlike in the Rennaissance period when they were not given such opportunity in participating in the government. During the period of choosing leaders, women have equal opportunity in participating in voting to choose the leaders of their choice hence creating fairness in the society (Bolton).

In the education sector, the modern women have an equal opportunity of accessing formal education. They have an opportunity of acquiring education up to the university level and beyond. The education they acquire is very important because it prepares them to acquire skills to assist in the world‘s advancement. The skills also assist them to know their responsibilities in the different department more especially in fighting their right and freedoms in the government.

In the religion, the women have their respect. They have equal opportunity to be chosen to serve in different positions in the church which prepares them to be good leaders more especially in the serving people of the different categories. The role in the family has changed because as the woman can care about the family as well as the man can take care of the babies in the families this changing of the roles I the family has led to great change giving a woman to participate another outside activates other than being the territory of a man (Bolton).

In the family affairs, the women have equal opportunities with their brothers I the family. The daughter of the family has an opportunity of inheriting the property of the father as well as the son. The responsibilities are equally distributed in our societies without discriminating gender. This has empowered women to think positively and the essence of belonging to the specific family hence creating confidence of the members of the family (Bolton).


In conclusion, the book the Wife of Bath and King Lear depict women as in the medieval period. The women were negatively perceived in the community. The wife of Bath emphasizes that women need to have their right and make their own choice. At the time, Shakespeare portrays women as weak creatures who only cause chaos. However, this book King Lear shows a good woman Cardella, she only shows patriarchal character to her father, but she also redeemed the character of women (Bolton). The roles of womenclearly show that are the same as the role of women in the medieval period. However, the modern society has improved the description of women in the current society. However, in real practical life women have not achieved the true picture.

Work Cited

Bolton, Brenda. Women in Medieval Society. Vol. 88, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1976.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Wife of Bath. Simon and Schuster, 2012.

Dronke, Peter. Women Writers of the Middle Ages: A Critical Study of Texts from Perpetua to Marguerite Porete. Cambridge University Press, 1984.

Greenblatt, Stephen, and Carol T. Christ. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. WW Norton & Company, 2012.

Le Goff, Jacques. Medieval Civilization, 400-1500. Barnes & Noble, 1988.

Parsons, John C. Medieval Queenship. Macmillan, 1997.

Shakespeare, William, and Horace Howard Furness. King Lear. Courier Corporation, 1908.



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