Woman as Individual in English Renaissance Drama: A Defiance of the Masculine Code

By Carol Hansen | Go to book overview

II
The Masculine Code

Authority of the Father

To define the term "masculine code" is not to turn to a list of dramatic conventions, although the repetition of the dominant, if not domineering, male who controls the actions of the submissive female is frequent enough, I think, to warrant the inclusion of this term as a paradigm in English Renaissance Drama. Often the pattern is more implicit than explicit; that is, it lies beneath the texture of the drama, in the male characters' attitudes towards the women characters, and tends to surface when the woman attempts to assert herself, either in thought or action. As suggested earlier in reference to the characters in the Italian commedia dell'arte (although the code was by no means limited to comic treatment), the code is chiefly concerned with the ostensible protection of a young woman by her father or other male guardian, who dictates the choice of her husband as well as her general manner of life. As a means of insuring her virtue -- and her marriageability, which in the Elizabethan context could be read as her marketability -- the young woman is carefully watched, so that no slur might come upon the family name. At the slightest suggestion of her self-assertiveness, either in the choice of a husband or an independent life, deep suspicion is aroused and her virtue is often called into question, releasing an avalanche of unbecoming epithets, or the threat of death. In a sense, man -- first as father, then as fiancé or husband -- appears to serve as the representative of God in this context, for he is supposedly all powerful and capable of wreaking his wrath and revenge upon her, should she disobey his commands.1

-11-

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Woman as Individual in English Renaissance Drama: A Defiance of the Masculine Code
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Preface vii
  • Table of Contents ix
  • I - Introduction 1
  • Notes 9
  • II - The Masculine Code 11
  • Notes 80
  • III - Speaking Daggers: A Study of Male Rage 83
  • Notes 105
  • IV - The Defiant Woman 107
  • Notes 161
  • V - Woman as Actor 163
  • Notes 182
  • VI - Epilogue 185
  • A Selected Bibliography 205
  • Index 213
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