Women in Renaissance Drama



Published
In this module, we think about the presentation of women in Renaissance drama, focusing in particular on: (i) the negative stereotype of women in Heinrich Kramer's Malleus Maleficarum (1486/7), and the justification for such a stereotype in the Book of Genesis; (ii) the challenge to such negative stereotypes put forward by writers such as Emilia Lanier; (iii) the relationship between the ideal representation of women in (male-authored) Renaissance texts and what women were really like; (iv) the interaction between people say about women and what women are actually like: the character of Mother Sawyer in The Witch of Edmonton (1621); (v) the interest in female language, especially its ability to persuade, charm, tempt, etc.: Lucio's recognition of Isabel's powers of persuasion in Measure for Measure (1604); (vi) the importance of the Duchess' voice in The Duchess of Malfi, the one part of her that persists after she dies ("Many have suppos'd it is a spirit / That answers"); (vii) the reduction of female characters to the physical organs of speech, e.g. the description of Isabel in Measure of Measure as "the tongue of Isabel"; and (viii) the fact that female characters would have been played by male actors, and the fundamental unreality of the femininity we see on stage.

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This lecture is part of a larger course on John Webster's 'The Duchess of Malfi'. The full course can be found here: https://massolit.io/courses/webster-the-duchess-of-malfi-smith?source=yt

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MASSOLIT works with university academics to produce short video lectures in the arts, humanities and social sciences. It is available to schools and colleges on an institutional license as well as via private subscription: https://www.massolit.io/?source=yt
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History
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