Women’s Reactions to Expectations During the Renaissance

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Throughout history, women were always seen as inferior to men. Their contributions were always overlooked and most times were denied access to basic necessities in life such as education. The renaissance was a period in history when people started to move away from the dark age and enter a period that was defined by art and literature. People started to move away from religious to more secular ideas. However, that did not mean the hierarchy was going to change which reflects since when we talk about the Renaissance, we only hear about the accomplishments of Nobel men. To answer the question, How did women react to expectations imposed upon them by men during the renaissance, I looked at things women at that time did and whether or not they had a renaissance. If you were a woman during the Renaissance, there were only a few options as to what you could be and they ranged from being a wife, a prostitute or a nun. So, the answer to that question would be that women did comply to the expectations imposed upon them by men in public but also lived a different life in private in which they fulfilled their artistic desires.

To differentiate between the two lives women during the renaissance lived, we would have to define what were the expectations that women had to meet. Women during this time were expected to be very obedient, dependent and sophisticated. They were to be kept home and only be seen when it was time for them to be married. Marriage was a big part of peoples’ lives in the renaissance. “For the middle- class family man, the choice of a wife involved complicated issues- gaining alliances with the family and the relatives of the bride, receiving the all-important dowry along with the bride, and- most important- fathering the legitimate children who would guarantee the continuity of the all-important family line.” Women were judged from top to bottom to determine whether or not they will be able to carry children. In a way, that was the main role women served and they had no value otherwise.

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One notable woman named Alessandro Strozzi goes against the norms and becomes the head of the household after her husband’s death. She manages finance while still continuing to keep the family reputation in their town. Alessandra Strozzi decided not to remarry, mainly because that would mean she has to go back to being in the house and staying low. She would have to give up her opportunity of being the model for her sons. Strozzi was also a very independent and strong woman. She did not let emotions or feelings get the best of her. However, “in her feelings about her children, their progeny, and the importance of preserving her family’s wealth and social rank, Alessandra was quite conventional, reflecting the mentality of her class. She accepted without question or reservation the hierarchical structure of Florentine society, and she also accepted its patriarchal ethos, based on the conviction that women were inherently inferior to men.” Although, she went against the norms and stereotypes to become an empowering and independent woman in Renaissance Florence, her choices in marrying her daughter Caterina depicts the idea mentioned above. Caterina’s life is an example of what the life of Florence women looked like. Her husband molded her in luxurious clothing and jewelry which will show off his wealth when she goes out.

Women after marriage were dressed luxuriously and wore precious emeralds as a way to show off to others the wealth of their husbands and their status in society. “When she goes out she’ll have more than four hundred florins on her back.” It publicizes her character and potential to all others. “The two sides of the medal thus depict the two sides( inner and outer) of the individuals; the crystallizing of character on the reverse of medals enables others to see that, accompanying the physical beauty depicted on the front of the medal, there is to be found also, the beauty of the intellect equally bestowed on them.” This tells us that men during the Renaissance believed that if women were to be dressed in expensive clothes and wore medals embellished with bronze, silver and gold, it would also showcase their inner beauty. Women were very idealized which during the renaissance were associated with having a round high forehead, puckered eyebrows, fair skin, and rosy cheeks. All of which can be seen in portraits of women done by Fra Filippo Lippi, Antonio, Piero del Pollaiuolo and Sandro Botticelli.

Women did, in fact, have a renaissance but their renaissance was not as easy going and it was very difficult to publish their works because of their gender, which is why most writers and artists were living in private. As mentioned before, Women received a lot of medals and luxurious items. Then, “do these allusions suggest that the medals simply reinforced patriarchal assumptions, that the public notice of these women was intended only to mandate their roles of chastity, sacrifice, and confinement?” The book states how some medals women received depicted virtues more masculine and how some had things like armed women which would mean women were to be strong and brave. Women during this period started to play parlour games which they would dominate over men. “The Parlour game in particular afforded a transition from a private to more public life, just as the parlour was a literal and metaphorical space mediating between the private world of the family and the public world of conversation, competition, and fame.”5 Women were able to express themselves in these parlours where they were able to socialize without being judged by men.

Another sphere that women during the renaissance took part in was the religious sphere as becoming a nun was one of the options women had. “Cultural productions by women in that sphere contribute compelling evidence of the reinvention, appropriation, endurance, and revival of the medieval within the early modern that marks the new thinking about periodization in English literary history.” Nuns were highly educated and had many connections which gave them great social and political influence. They were scribes, stewards, artisans, writers, teachers, and community leaders who had great influence during the renaissance. “Whether or not Lanyer had explicit knowledge of this tradition, her Salve Deus recalls—and renews—a past that likewise recognized the creative and critical potency of women’s speech and writing from a religious ground.” These writings and speeches gave women a chance to be heard in a world where they were meant to be silenced.

Women also wrote about other things such as science, poetry and history. “Early modern English Women were directed to confine their literary aspirations to socially acceptable ‘feminine’ genres: religion, advice to children, and translation of male-authored works. These areas corresponded to traditional female moral virtues of chastity and obedience and to the domestic roles that male writers of conduct books repeatedly exhorted women to cultivate.” These genres also ranked below the ones written by male writers which were dependent on knowledge in ancient languages and literature which were unavailable to most renaissance English Women. Most women would write in hopes to gain patronage and preferment, not financial gain as most came from Noble families. “By writing about science, Renaissance women argued that they were qualified to write about science. Although they could not emulate Galileo in obtaining university posts, or seek roles as court philosophers, they could and did contribute to Renaissance scientific culture in other ways: as experimenters, readers, commentators, correspondents, and critics.” In order for their works to be read, women writers would print their works and pass along to other women in parlours or in private spaces. “The clever women in Siena’s parlour games and beyond claimed an increasingly assertive role in the festivities, as they did as well at the walls, in the emblems, in the academies, in the press- and in the conversation.”

When society poses expectations upon women, they always found a way to go around it. Although, there were women who just followed the norms, there were also others who followed their ambitions. Women during the renaissance were housewife yet also a leader. They were mothers but also writers who wrote about things they were not allowed to speak about. Complying with the expectations placed upon them, women in the renaissance also became great artists, writers and leaders.

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Women’s Reactions to Expectations During the Renaissance. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/womens-reactions-to-expectations-during-the-renaissance/
“Women’s Reactions to Expectations During the Renaissance.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/womens-reactions-to-expectations-during-the-renaissance/
Women’s Reactions to Expectations During the Renaissance. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/womens-reactions-to-expectations-during-the-renaissance/> [Accessed 30 May 2024].
Women’s Reactions to Expectations During the Renaissance [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2024 May 30]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/womens-reactions-to-expectations-during-the-renaissance/
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