Women in Shakespeare's Time

By Molly, Ashley, Mason, and Ally

Women In the Household

  • Women in Shakespearean times were considered the weaker sex despite female rule.
  • They were supposed to have children every two years but because children died often, families were small. Still, bearing children was a great honor.
  • The husband was expected to scold the wife to keep her obedient.
  • Women were not allowed professions, but they could write literature as long as the subject was suitable.
  • Single women were seen as being suspicious and most convicted of being witches
  • Could marry as young as 12
  • Spinning, cooking, preserving fruits, keeping accounts, doing needlework, weaving, playing musical instruments—and other tasks to have a pleasantful homelife—were considered imperative to upper class education
  • Before the dissolution of monasteries, single women usually spent their time in them until marriage, if it ever occurred.

John Knox

”Women in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man.”

Women In Education

  • Denied chances to be schooled beyond the basics (basic reading and writing skills)
  • Commoner women did not receive any education due to their obligation to prepare for common life and marriage.
  • Gentry families hired tutors to teach their daughters
  • Their education didn’t prepare them for universities of professions such as becoming a doctor.
  • It wasn’t until the early twentieth century did two institutions decide to give women degrees equivalent to that of men -- Cambridge in 1948 and Oxford in 1920

Queen Elizabeth I

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Elizibethan Era

The Elizabethan era introduced a new way of thinking under the rule of Queen Elizabeth I, which entitled the noble women to some restricted education. The education focused primarily on the fine arts and language studies. The reasoning behind this was to create a perfect house-wife. Women could marry as young as 12. Marriage was seen as highly desirable- by lower-class women especially. Elizabethan women were expected to present dowry similar to Hindu culture.


Queen Elizabeth never married, because it would require her obedience to her husband and she would lose her power.

Queen Elizabeth's Effect on Shakespearian Women

  • Elizabethans founded grammar schools with “Men Only” signs -- those that accepted girls gave them a softer, easier course of study
  • Queen Elizabeth was looked up to as a role model for upper class women with her expansive knowledge over ancient languages and texts such as Flemish, Italian, German, mathematics, astronomy, and history (but the knowledge of foreign languages was seen as highly ornamental)
  • Eton, a headmaster to a prestigious noted the becoming trend of women engaging in studies, which was largely influenced by Queen Elizabeth