The portrayal of women in novels written hundreds of years ago. Speaks of "The Medea" and King Arthur

Essay by Karin DunA, May 1991

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The portrayal of women as seen in novels written hundreds of years ago would be considered appalling as compared to today's standards. In the days of Euripides, a great author of tragic plays, and Sir Thomas Malory, the author of Le Morte D'Arthur, women were subservient to men. Once married, their main role was to obey their husbands and care for the children. Also, women were thought of as the root of all evil. Both Euripides and Malory illustrated their views of women very openly in their novels through their characters' actions and words. However, each author used different arrangements to subordinate the female character.

According to written documentation, Euripides' attitude towards women was not favorable. Although they always played a part in his plays, they were not always portrayed in a positive fashion. The Medea, the story of a woman who killed her sons in order to punish her unfaithful husband, was a prime example of this.

The first indication of the negative representation of women occurred on the first page when the nurse spoke of a woman's submission to her husband.

In Corinth; where, coming as an exile, she has earned

The citizen's welcome; while to Jason she is all

Obedience - and in marriage that's the saving thing,

When a wife obediently accepts her husband's will. (Euripides p. 17)

Here, the nurse explained that a perfect marriage evolved when the woman took it upon herself to conform to her husband's wishes. Along with this obedience, a double standard existed. While any man could escape from the blame of an affair, a woman never could. Medea lamented over this unjust fact.

Under the marriage yoke, our life is enviable.

Otherwise, death is better. If a man grows tired

Of the company at home, he can go out,