What was the role of women in Shakespeare's England?

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the Elizabethan Era, women's roles were far more confined than they are today. Legally speaking, a woman was the property of her father and, later, her husband. Unless she was a widow, she could not own any property, make a will or even sign a contract - part of the reason why Queen Elizabeth never married. 

The Elizabethans believed that a woman's primary function was to get married and have children. They were denied the educational opportunities that were open to men, like attending university, and were expected to dedicate their lives to their domestic duties at home. Women did, however, contribute to the running of the household, in brewing ale and beer, for example, and often worked part-time, as tutors or in traditional industries such as spinning and knitting.