In many of the traditional communities, women and men were assigned different roles depending on their gender. In most cases, women were seen as lesser beings, unlike men who were allowed to make the decisions for the communities of people. In the eras of the past, women could not be allowed to lead, command armies, make decisions on behalf of the men in the society among other significant roles (Kesley). As time advanced, however, the gender bias reduced and the women of the modern age can now do as much as the men in the modern world. This paper is an analysis of the role of women as expressed by Shakespeare in his comedy article Loves Labor's Lost. In addition to that, the two articles compare the wits that the women show compared to the foolishness that the men in the context exhibit.
First, women are seen as objects of pleasure whose primary reason is to serve the men. Women are not allowed to take part in the education systems that the men are involved in. It is clear that the play has only three male main characters who try to achieve as much academic knowhow as possible by dedicating their time to study without distractions. In the agreement, the four partners - Fedinard, Berowne Dumaine and Longaville agree that they will not engage in any act of seeing women throughout the time of study and will sleep less than 3 hours per night throughout the three years. In addition to that, the four agree that they will fast and eat only one meal per day. The agreement not seeing women portrays the perception that the people had about the women in that era. They were seen as distractions and were worth being avoided for the achievement of a more significant purpose such as educational achievement.
Men's wit is also evident in the strictness of the plan that the King has set. The policy to especially go without women is very unreasonable as it even entails all the male workers in the service of the king. It is almost impossible to avoid any contact with the women who are all over the Kingdom especially in such high ranks. It is bound that the partners were to interact with women no matter how hard they tried to avoid them. Berowne seems to be more reasonable than the rest and instead tries to oppose the idea but finally signs the deal. It is illogical that Ferdinand thought that he did not require the physical pleasures and food and could substitute them for coming up with a better result in his studies. He even terms the men who agree to take part in the agreement as conquerors in the war against their affections and a huge army of worldly desires.
Furthermore, the foolishness of the men starts being evident when the men begin breaking the agreement as Costard begins to woo a lady Jaqueneta. It is rather a rash decision that goes against the deal in which they are supposed to be soldiers in the war against the desires. As a result of his act, Costard is told on to the king by Adriano who also has feelings for the lady and is subjected to a diet of water and bran for a week. The men, in this case, seem to be going against the set policy by letting their desires to take control of their actions. The desires of Adriano lead him into telling his friend. In addition to that, the four friends later agree that it was stupid for them to sign the contract and now decide to indulge fully in not only wooing but also winning the ladies to their side. The undecided nature of the men is also a big sign of the folly that the men had. It was also wrong that they termed the women as the lesser gender and did not even include them in the agreement yet the same women manage to play games with the men as explained below.
The first sign that the women in the narrative are wiser than the men is the act of disguising themselves in masks and confusing the men after they got a tip from Boyet. It is a sign that the women can outwit the same men who claim that they are of a higher intellect. The plan works well, and the men each end up with a different woman unlike what they expected. In addition to outwitting the men, the ladies do not give in to the desires that the men have after they agree to woo and win the ladies over (Bamber). It is rather unfortunate that despite the trials that the men had made, the women later refused to be with the men. The efforts that the men made ranged from giving them flowers to making poems for them as a result of the love they had for them. The women are also assertive and quickly note the behavior that the men portrayed. It is a sign that the men had become tools of play for the ladies (Dusinberre 6). An excellent example of such a case is Rosaline who takes note that Berowne uses some artifice that ends in French pleas. Such a character is not expected considering that the men are seen as the more learned gender.
Another instance that expresses the witty and intelligent nature of women - Rosaline and Catherine, is when they sit to show each other their gifts and love poems that they had received from the men and note how ridiculous the men have been after falling for them. It shows the observant nature that the women have in observing the effect that they had on the women (Bamber). Furthermore, the princess is a symbol of high intellect. This is especially evident in the way she has responsibilities (Demaray 79). It would be unwise to set a person without much capability in a position to negotiate on matters that the state has. Even though the lady has some advantage of being born in a royal family, she has responsibilities that at that time seemed right to be accorded to men who were thought to be of higher intellect. In addition to that, she shows great stealth in teasing Ferdinand, yet she knew he was under oath. It is also wise of her to tell her servants to save their cunning nature for Ferdinand and his men in act three scene one and again in act five scene two.
In the fifth scene of the second chapter, the men show a shallow level of intellect, especially when playing the legend of Hercules. They even do not have a specific person to play the role of Hercules and Mote has to pretend and act the part. In addition to that, it is somewhat unwise that after receiving of the death of the princess's father, the men cannot get over the love that they have for the princess. It is stupid of Berowne to ask the princess not to let the death of her father ruin the romantic moment. It shows that his priorities were not well set and instead of being kind and encouraging the princess for her loss, he focuses on on his benefits (winning the princess over).
The play by Shakespeare goes against the odds of the time in which it was set. The people of this age had a low perception of the women and did not appreciate their mental and witty ability. They were only seen as sources of distraction and helpers of the men. The men of this age were assigned with tasks that had dire responsibilities which the ladies were perceived as incapable of. The play, however, portrays the great ability that women have in manipulating the decisions that the men make. They are also very observant and note all the behaviors that the men show and even use their nature to seduce the men.
Demaray, John G. "Unmasking the Revels: Love's Labour's Lost." The Shakespearean International Yearbook: Where are We Now in Shakespearean Studies?. Routledge, 2017. 76-86.
Dusinberre, Juliet. "Boys Becoming Women in Shakespeare's Plays." Shakespeare Studies 36 (1998): 1-28.
Kelsey, Cheryl Lynn. "Gender inequality: Empowering women." Journal of Legal Issues and Cases in Business 3 (2015): 1.
Shakespeare, William. Loves labor's lost. Vol. 14. Lippincott, 1904.
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