Leontes Double Standards

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In order to prevent the female empowerment, social rules and customs were rather biased toward women. Much like everything else that has been discussed in this essay so far, the double standards originate from the structure and values of Early Modern English society. The topic of sexuality was also subjected to laws that favoured men and, according to Bernard Capp, “female sexuality was regarded (by men) as a male possession” (70). Leontes’ words reinforce this argument: “Ere I could make thee open thy white hand / And clap thyself my love; then didst thou utter, / “I am yours forever”” (WT, 1.2.104-106). This perspective on love and marriage partially explains Leontes’ behaviour, but it also proves how extreme it became, considered that his…show more content…
Leontes does not believe anything she says and stages a public trial, at the beginning of the second act, in which he openly accuses Hermione of infidelity and gives order to imprison her. This modus operandi was common in the society of the time; by shaming the supposed whore in public, the men formally regained the control of the situation, by condemning a dishonouring act. Instead, the insult that more often was directed to men was that of cuckold. This term does not focus on men’s misdeeds, but rather on them being the victim of women’s misdeeds; Leontes says, in fact, about himself: “-There have been, / Or I am much deceived, cuckolds ere now” (WT, 1.2.189-190). As Gowing states, there was not a correspondent word for whore used for men (4). This argument proves how the ideal equal culpability promoted by the church was incredibly difficult to achieve in reality, when even the words were inadequate to establish equality. Post-structuralist and postmodernist philosophers discussed this idea. Among these, Michel Foucault underlined the importance of discourse, with the meaning of what is actually said, in influencing and shaping people’s thought and power

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