As we’ve seen previously, the men of Shakespeare’s plays are not exactly feminists. Several of the male characters we’ve seen definitely view women as the weaker sex. Though not all male characters are as disrespectful towards women on an extreme level like Iago’s character, most of Shakespeare’s male characters treat women differently than they would treat a man. Having discussed this a few times in class, I think it is now clear that women had it rough in the 1700s.
Keeping this in mind, it is useful to compare the father-daughter relationships of the plays we’ve read so far to the relationship between Prosper and Miranda. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the relationship between Egeus and his daughter, Hermia, is one that seems common of a Shakespearian play. It is common in that we expect to see Egeus treat Hermia like she is his property. We know that this is what it was like for women of this time period. Egeus is outraged because his daughter believes she is eligible to make her own decisions. If she disobeys Egeus and married the man she actually loves, rather than one he has picked out for her, she will either be killed or forced to join the convent.
Similarly, we see an equally controlling relationship between Desdemona and Othello. Othello’s male friend tells him that Desdemona might be having an affair. Instead of confronting his wife about this ongoing issue, Othello chooses to believe the manipulative Iago. Clearly, Desdemona’s word could not be trusted because she is a woman, a member of the weaker sex. When Othello strangles Desdemona out of rage and jealousy over something that never even happened, it is proven that a woman’s word in a relationship is never enough.
As the males in these relationships dominate their female counterparts, it is significant to note the relationship between Prospero and Miranda in Act I of The Tempest. To me, their relationship seems atypical from what we’ve generally seen between a male and female in Shakespeare’s plays. Prospero seems to actually respect his daughter, Miranda. Miranda feels as if she was a burden to Prospero when she was young and they were alone on the island. She says to Prospero, “Alack, what a trouble/ Was I then to you!” (1.2.152-153). Prospero responds to this by basically telling Miranda that she is the reason why he even survived. He says, “O, a cherubin/ Thou wasn’t that did preserve me. Thou didst smile,/ Infused with a fortitude from heaven,” (1.2.154-156). Along with this, Miranda refers to Prospero as “sir” and Prospero to Miranda as “dear lady.” It seems as if the two have a lot of respect for each other, which is something that seems rare in Shakespearian times. When Prospero does not want Ferdinand to court Miranda, he says it is because Ferdinand is a traitor. Unlike Egeus, Prospero has an actual reason for not wanting a certain man for his daughter. Prospero is looking out for his daughter, he tells her she deserves someone better. I am intrigued by the relationship between Prospero and Miranda and I’m hoping that throughout The Tempest, Miranda is able to make choices for herself.