Congreve and Dryden: Sexual Desire, Danger and Double Standards


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Essay #: 055807
Total text length is 14,693 characters (approximately 10.1 pages).

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The beginning:
Congreve and Dryden: Sexual Desire, Danger and Double Standards
'Sexual desire on the part of a woman exposed her to appalling dangers, dangers which must be averted by making her a cold-hearted temptress if necessary' (Paul Langford).
The manifestation of this situation in two very different representations of female sexual desire – Congreve’s The Way of the World (1700) and Dryden’s All for Love (1677) – is revealing of how attitudes towards desire have historically been gendered and defined by stereotypes and double standards. This essay will argue the thesis that while Dryden and Congreve deal with human sexual desire in very distinct ways, the fact that they similarly represent the “cost” of public manifestation of sexual desire as...
The end:
.....World seem to describe similar moral universes in which there exists a double standard with regard to the expression of sexual desire. As the Langford quote that opens this essay suggests, in this expression of desire women in both plays open themselves to danger; most particularly in the threat of ostracism from civilized society. However, Congreve’s moral universe differs from Dryden’s in that – while both are sympathetic to the condition of women in this double standard – Congreve’s universe suggests that women have options and can, if they choose to be cold-hearted and calculating, succeed as well as men.
Congreve, William. The Way of the World. New York: Dover, 1993.
Dryden, John. All for Love. New York: W.W. Norton, 2004.