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Women who wreak havoc: a new perspective on early modern drama, 1603-1642

By Julie Sutherland


This doctoral thesis looks anew at the representation of women in the non-Shakespearean plays of early Stuart England (1603-1642). The chapters progress chronologically, locating common themes of the period, which I analyse independently in each chapter, and consider in the conclusion comprehensively. The introduction serves to present these recurring themes and alert the reader to their importance and relevance to the period as a whole. Chapter 1 considers adultery and torture, as well as the ramifications of a woman's speaking and writing in George Chapman' s The Tragedy of Bussy D 'Ambois (1604). Chapter 2 investigates the nature of villainy, and also the moral ambiguity in the representation of suicide in Thomas Heywood's The Rape ofLucrece (1607-08). Chapter 3 is a reading of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher's The Maid's Tragedy (1611): the analysis takes exception to the common perceptions of villainy, and considers narcissism and melancholy in women. Chapter 4 examines early modem humoral theory in Nathan Field, Philip Massinger and John Fletcher's play, The Queen of Corinth (1616-17). The chapter also explores the period's views of the Self. In Chapter 5, on The Sea Voyage, by John Fletcher and Philip Massinger (1622), colonial discovery, its metaphorical associations with . appropriating women, and its links with utopian ideals in early modem England are explored. Chapter 6 surveys the women in John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (1629-22). It presents a critical examination of natural law and morality, and investigates melancholy in women. Issues relating to women and knowledge, and the nature of women's revenge are also considered. Chapter 7, on The Lost Lady, by William Berkeley (1637), deals with race, the fetishising of the anatomical parts of a woman, and the representation of friendships between women. The final chapter,' on James Shirley's The Cardinal (1641), undertakes an examination of the similarities between colonial exploration and the appropriation of women's bodies. Additionally, views on both virginity and widowhood are explored. This chapter also demonstrates how the successful execution of revenge is denied to women, and how melancholy was often exhibited as madness when it was diagnosed in women. The conclusion contends that the playwrights, far from reinforcing gender stereotypes, create women with whom we can sympathise even though they ignore the period's imposed expectations and overthrow cultural assumptions about their natures. It further suggests that the reason for their having been ignored is a fault of modem scholarship, which has either exalted Shakespeare to the detriment of these other worthy plays, or turned to these plays with an essentialist analysis that excludes the multifaceted nature of women from their work

Year: 2004
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.dur.ac.uk:766
Provided by: Durham e-Theses

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