Louis Montrose’s “Shaping Fantasies”: Figurations of Gender and Power in Elizabethan Culture stated Shakespeare’s plays, like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, were meant to entertain the audience, as well as a reflection of the powerful influences of Queen Elizabeth. He recounted several instances where people were influenced by the Queen.
A consistent description of the Queen mentioned her mostly white attire, her elderly age, and slight nudity. I began to think the Queen was “touched” by senility, but apparently “Elizabeth’s display of her bosom signified her status as a maiden…and… [symbolized] a selfless and bountiful mother” (34). Another explanation was offered; the author mentioned that the acts could be “a kind of erotic provocation” (34). These views are very important socially and politically.
In order to understand the influences of Queen Elizabeth, one must understand the social and historical context of the time period. The reading stated, “With one vital exception, all forms of public and domestic authority in Elizabethan England were vested in men: in fathers, husbands, masters, teachers, magistrates, lords. It was inevitable that the rule of a woman would generate peculiar tensions” (34). Louis Montrose hoped to analyze the affect of Queen Elizabeth on English society and her effect on plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Specifically, Montrose highlighted the relationship between two men desiring the same women versus two women desiring the same man. The men “despise[d] his previous mistress in order to adore the next” (39). Whereas, the women “do not fluctuate in their desires for their young men…It should be added that the maidens remain constant to their men at the cost of inconstancy to each other” (39). Men were the dominating force; women represented subordination.
Montrose acknowledged that “Egeus effectively absolves his daughter from responsibility for her affections because he cannot acknowledge her capacity for volition” (40). Theseus defeated the “Amazonian matriarchate” and subdued her into marriage. Oberon overpowered and manipulated Titania. In essence, the men retained the true power. The women were subject to that power.
I believe the analysis made by Louis Montrose was exceptional and relevant. All literature must be viewed as it relates to the social and historical context; his analysis benefits the reader and enriches the literary experience. One is able to see that Shakespeare’s plays were a “product” of the Elizabethan experience.