How Men Viewed Women and How That Affected Their Identity

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Isabelle Tan, HA09 (2nd draft) Men’s identity depended on how women were viewed. Explore the ways in Much Ado About Nothing and Othello in which men viewed women and how that affected their identity. The Elizabethan era was the period during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I from 1558-1603. During this time, anxiety about female sexuality was high. Manhood was then defined as the ability of a man to command his wife’s faithfulness. As Martin Ingram aptly states in Love, Sex and Marriage, “A man whose wife has been unfaithful was portrayed as being sexually inadequate as well as incapable of controlling his household. Many of these men suffered public mockery of “cuckoldry”, a public display of horns, the symbol of cuckoldry, and taunting from the community.” When a man was seen as having horns attached to his head, it also meant a loss of his reputation. This could lead to the man slandering the wife publicly as seen in Much Ado About Nothing in which Claudio slanders Hero at the wedding altar. It could also lead to the husband being overwhelmed with feelings of jealousy and killing the wife to restore his honour as seen in Othello. Therefore, it can be said that men’s identity was built partly on honour and being able to command his wife’s faithfulness. It can be said that the different relationships between men and women influenced how the men viewed women. However, in almost all cases, women were viewed as property and valuable objects to boost men’s wealth, position in society or to upkeep men’s position. For the most part, women were also viewed as having a power that threatened men’s reputation. As Carol Cook states in her article on Reading Gender Difference in Much Ado About Nothing, “Masculine privilege is contingent on the legibility of women, and the ambiguous signifying power of women’s ‘seeming’ is the greatest threat to the men of Messina”. Although this
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