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During the time of William Shakespeare, the majority of women had very limited rights in England. Despite the fact that England was ruled by a female monarch for over four decades, most women had little power over the direction of their lives. Most writings about the life of the family during this time in history centered around the traditional partriarchal paradigm--that of "domination and submission." Just as the kingdom was ruled by a monarch, the father and head of the household ruled over his wife and children. Women were denied formal educations, the opportunity to hold office, and also guarded against speaking out too freely in fear of being labeled as a "scold." Such women were considered a threat to the public, and were corrected with such punishments as public humiliation and abuse.
Although women did endure such limits on their political and social rights, they did have extended to them greater econimic freedom. Single women were able to "inherit land, make a will, sign a contract, possess property . . . without a male guardian . . .". Unfortuantely, such rights dissolved with marriage. History shows as well that many daughters were heirs to a father's property, if there were no male heir, despite the tradition of promigeniture. Wives as well could find themselves in charge of a large estate after the death of a husband, until an eldest son was old enough to do so.
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