Elizabethan WomenElizabethan society was patriarchal. This means that men were in authority, and women were subordinate. We see evidence of this in our knowledge of Shakespeare’s productions, in which women had such little status, they were not even permitted to act, and men performed female roles.
A Woman’s father or husband made most decisions for her. Equality was not a concern. Women were seldom in control of their educations, marriages, politics, or careers. Women in the Elizabethan era did not have equal access to education, especially the poor. Poor women were almost never educated. A poor girl “…
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had to learn how to govern a household, and how to conduct herself in the social class into which her marriage would place her.” (Internet Shakespeare Editions.) She would not have time or money for a tutor. While women of the nobility had a better chance of education, it was an education designed to serve men. Some noble girls were allowed to have private tutors. They were taught to read, write, keep accounts, manage a household and have proper social skills.
Women, regardless of their social class, were not allowed at universities. Their only possible future was marriage, raising children, taking care of a home, or becoming a household servant.Marriage was a necessary part of an Elizabethan woman’s life, though it wasn’t always fair. Women had little say in who, or when, they married.
Parents chose husbands for them. “Marriages would be arranged to bring prestige or wealth to the family …. Many couples would meet for the very first time on their wedding day” (Elizabethan Marriages and Weddings).
Girls could be married-off as young as 12 years old. Wives were subservient to their husbands and always obeyed them. “Disobedience was seen as a crime against their religion.” (Elizabethan Marriages and Weddings).
Women were taught that they were inferior to men and to depend on men entirely for support. They had no notion of choices or independence.Women did not have influence in politics, in which they rarely held power. “Women, regardless of social position, were not allowed to vote.”(Elizabethan Women) This meant that women did not get to choose their political representation.
Occasionally, when a monarchy had no male heir to assume the throne, a queen would become monarch. If a queen was unmarried, she would have power over the nation. However, if she married, her husband would become king, and assume her power.
Most people wanted their queen married, so a man would be in charge, making an heir to the throne possible.Women did not have a choice in their work. “Women were not allowed to enter the professions, i.e., law, medicine, theatre, and politics.” (Elizabethan Women). They usually worked as housewives, cooks, or maids.
Women were expected to provide heirs for their husbands.Shakespeare produced his plays with men in female roles as a playwright portraying the culture of his time. In marriage, politics, work, and society, women did not have their own voices, they only had the voices men gave them, just like the actors in Shakespeare’s plays.