Sunday, February 22, 2009

Arden of Faversham (Scene 1-3)

Upon reading the first three Scenes of this play it became obvious that poor Alice has no hope of being seen as an average woman. Although this play is based on a true story in which a wife murdered her husband, it is apparently an embellished version with the wife portrayed as the murderous villain. The common fear of the period, that women might rebel against the authority of their husbands and seek retribution against them for any little transgression, is brought to life in this tale of a woman who does exactly that. Anyone reading this play will be able to see that Alice is meant to be the monstrous adulterer and wanton woman. She is portrayed as a deceitful woman whose moods and desires change as easily and quickly as hurricane force winds, raging in all directions and destroying everything. There is little hope for Alice to be seen as a women who is simply unhappy with her greedy husband, a man who is disliked within the community and known for his ruthless greed in his quest to own everything. Rather he is portrayed as a man who is concerned about his wife, who he knows is having an affair, and as a man who is making every effort to save his marriage which he believes is only being compromised by another man. He doesn't for an instance entertain the idea that he may not be making his wife happy.
The opening of the play is obviously meant to set the tone, with Franklin commenting on the true ways of women. He states that "It is not strange / That women will be false and wavering" (20). This conversation which takes place between Franklin and Arden is meant to display to the audience that Arden is aware of his wife's affair and he wishes to fix things between them, however it also serves to demonstrate the obvious stereotypes surrounding women of the period. It makes it clear that female sexuality was an unknown and was to be feared, and women who rebelled against their husbands were also to be feared. Rebellion against authority was seen as a crime that must be deterred within the household as well as within government. The fear was that this rebellion might spread outside of the house and in some way affect the monarchy. For this reason women who murdered their husbands were charged with Petty Treason and were often burned at the stake for such rebellion.
Although the play does portray Alice as the murdering wife, it also allows the reader a less obvious insight in to why Alice might not be happy with her husband. Even other people in the community dislike Arden for his ruthless attempts to obtain land, and his ignorance of what his wife needs or wants is also displayed throughout the play, though these hints toward Alice's unhappiness aren't nearly as obvious as those that comment on her "false and wavering" nature.

No comments:

Post a Comment