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

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

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

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

Synopsis

A critical analysis of the position of women in English Renaissance drama, this book examines the impact of male domination in the drama and non-dramatic treatises of the day and scrutinizes the kaleidoscopic images of women found in selected plays of Shakespeare, Webster, and Middleton. The book shows how the masculine code led to disintegration, defiance, and death for women, and to madness for men. Set against a generalized image of archetypal Eve, woman nevertheless could emerge as an individual, as a -splendid fighter for self-."

Excerpt

The woman question has reappeared, but the controversy over woman is not new; it reaches back to the sixteenth century and before, and was reflected in the drama and non-dramatic treatises of the day. In Elizabethan drama we find women characters caught in the maze of the masculine code, a psychological mind-set based upon anti-feminist stereotyping. Although the women characters vary in terms of defying this code -- some to the point of being considered heroes in their own right -- usually their attempts at autonomy prove short-lived. In the tragedies they usually die; in the comedies they live felicitously in disguise, but often this device proves more panache than panacea. Only in another culture, the Egyptian, does one character, Cleopatra, successfully defy the masculine control of Rome to emerge as a woman equal in authority, largely because she has the cult of Isis to back her. If Shakespeare, Webster, Heywood, and Middleton could find no final resolution to the problem of woman in a male-dominated society, they could, nonetheless, ask the right questions about her predicament. They could show that the masculine code led to disintegration, defiance, and death for women, and to madness for men. And they could show that, against a generalized image of archetypal Eve, woman could emerge as an individual, in the words of Travis Bogard, as a "splendid fighter for self. . . ."

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