There has been a double standard for men and women reflected in English Renaissance Drama and may be said to mirror the social life of the age. Further, the growing importance of women in commercial and social spheres was examined in the drama, and Louis B. Wright concludes that
This activity and boldness of women, especially women of the middle class, aroused the ire of conservatives who vented their displeasure in pulpit, and were answered by staunch defenders of the virtues of the criticized sex. Even stage plays took up the cudgels.
This divergence of opinion on the subject of women can be seen by cataloguing some of the satirists and defenders of the sex. the most famous detractors are the author of Schole house of women (about 1542) and attributed to Edward Gosenhill; John Knox, The Monstrous Regiment of Women ( 1558); Philip Stubbes, The Anatomie of Abuses ( 1583); Stephen Gosson, Quippes for Upstart Newfangled Gentlewomen ( 1595); and Joseph Swetnam , The Araignment of Lewd, idle, froward and unconstant women ( 1615), as well as the anonymous author of Hic Mulier or the Man-Woman ( 1620).
The attacks did not go unanswered. Indeed in the case of Sir Thomas Elyot Defence of Good Women ( 1540), praise preceded attack. Other notable defenders of women were Edward More in The Defence of Women and Especially of Englyshe Women ( 1560); Nicholas Breton The Praise of Virtuous Ladies ( 1599); and Daniel Tuvil Asylum Veneris ( 1616).
Finally women writers began to appear. ...