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When we think of the time that Shakespeare was writing his most famous plays, what do we think of? A time when the world was very different- so different that women were sold into marriage by their fathers, prohibited from entering most professions, denied the right to vote, even barred from writing literature or performing on a public stage. In the Elizabethan era, the male distrust of female sexuality underlies much of their patriarchal system. It was a common belief that women tempt men with their beauty, landing the burden of responsibility solely on the woman because it was taught that men cannot control their physical arousal.
In one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice is often remembered as the feminist icon. But Beatrice and Benedick’s reluctant romance is a sub-plot, after all. The main action revolves around Hero, the innocent and obedient daughter of Leonato, who is praised for her modesty. She is used by the play’s villains in a setup that results in her being publicly slut-shamed on her wedding day by both her father and her fiancé. Her loyal cousin Beatrice is the only person who comes to her defense, prompting Shakespeare to write some of Beatrice’s most famous words “O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place.”
So where does that place women today, four hundred-some-odd years later?
This episode is hosted by Jenni Stewart, Associate Artistic Director at Shakespeare Dallas. Our guests are Rosaura Cruz, Executive Director of Junior Players; Vietca Do, Arts Engagement Programs Manager of The Old Globe; Lauren Smart Professor of Practice in Journalism at Southern Methodist University.
Shakespeare Dallas is a non-profit theater company located in Dallas, Texas. To keep this podcast and other educational programming free and accessible, donate here: https://www.shakespearedallas.org/give/