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Persian queen, wife of King Ahasuerus. The story of Vashti, as told in the book of Esther (1: 9–22), relates how the king, while in his cups, orders Vashti to appear before the assembled nobles wearing her royal crown in order to display her charms to them. (The Talmudic Rabbis embellish the tale by understanding the king's order to mean wearing her royal crown and nothing else.) Vashti refuses to obey the king's command, accusing him, according to the Rabbis, of not being able to hold his liquor, after which his counsellórs advise him to depose her, otherwise all women will take her as an example to defy their husbands. The king deposes Vashti, thus paving the way for the eventual appointment of Esther as queen. Henceforth, the verse states, every man will be ‘lord in his house’. In the Jewish tradition, Vashti is portrayed largely as a figure of fun but in Jewish feminism she is the heroine of the feminists because of her refusal to submit to the extraordinary and obscene demands of her drunken husband.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.

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