For Sex or Marriage: The Commodification of Women in William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and Aphra Behn's The Rover


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William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and Aphra Behn’s The Rover emphasize the effect on women of being treated as commodities. When the plays were written, marriage was the most common means by which women were commodified, while prostitutes and courtesans were more obviously “for sale.” The similarities between these two categories of women are remarkable both in real life and in literature, but considering the social value of a woman’s chastity and the attitudes toward female sexuality at this time, the likenesses are not surprising. Behn analyzes the commodification of women to a greater extent than Shakespeare. He has always attracted attention because of his strong women, but Behn knew firsthand both the freedom and potential perils that a woman alone in the world faced. Her experience with these concerns was probably the primary reason for this difference in focus.



Shakespeare, Behn, women, commodification, marriage, sex