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Women’s Positions in the 17th Century

分类:高级精读   更新:2016/1/4   来源:本站原创

    Passage Five (Women’s Positions in the 17th Century)

    Social circumstances in Early Modern England mostly served to repress women’s voices. Patriarchal culture and institutions constructed them as chaste, silent, obedient, and subordinate. At the beginning of the 17th century, the ideology of patriarchy, political absolutism, and gender hierarchy were reaffirmed powerfully by King James in The Trew Law of Free Monarchie and the Basilikon Doron; by that ideology the absolute power of God the supreme patriarch was seen to be imaged in the absolute monarch of the state and in the husband and father of a family. Accordingly, a woman’s subjection, first to her father and then to her husband, imaged the subjection of English people to their monarch, and of all Christians to God. Also, the period saw an outpouring of repressive or overtly misogynist sermons, tracts, and plays, detailing women’s physical and mental defects, spiritual evils, rebelliousness, shrewish ness, and natural inferiority to men.

    Yet some social and cultural conditions served to empower women. During the Elizabethan era (1558—1603) the culture was dominated by a powerful Queen, who provided an impressive female example though she left scant cultural space for other women. Elizabethan women writers began to produce original texts but were occupied chiefly with translation. In the 17th century, however, various circumstances enabled women to write original texts in some numbers. For one thing, some counterweight to patriarchy was provided by female communities—mothers and daughters, extended kinship networks, close female friends, the separate court of Queen Anne (King James’ consort) her often oppositional masques and political activities. For another, most of these women had a reasonably good education (modern languages, history, literature, religion, music, occasionally Latin) some apparently found in romances and histories m

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