William Shakespeare 's ' The Duchess Of Malfi, And Elizabeth Cary 's The Tragedy Of Mariam

1595 Words null Page
Renaissance theatre was staged in an exceedingly patriarchal and misogynistic society where women were considered beneath men. One only has to look at the words of English Puritan cleric William Whately, who said that a woman during this period should “acknowledge her inferiority” and was to “carry herself as inferior” (Whately). However, there are some works of Renaissance theatre that do subvert these gendered beliefs, such as William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, and Elizabeth Cary’s The Tragedy of Mariam. Through looking at these three texts I aim to focus solely on how Renaissance theatre challenged beliefs in the ‘natural order’ in accordance to gender norms. There were many beliefs surrounding the ‘natural order’ of gender throughout the Renaissance, mostly due to the fact that gender was a social construct that women were expected to perform and adhere to. Considering the theme of women’s speech, and looking firstly at Antony and Cleopatra, it is clear that Cleopatra did not adhere to these gender constructions but did in fact challenge them. Throughout the play, Cleopatra is in control of her own speech, in fact, “she speaks more than any other female character in Shakespeare” (Callaghan 12). The most notable instance of this is during Antony’s death when Cleopatra denies him the right to speak. The stark negative “no, let me speak”, and the repetition of his words back to him, as well as the use of the imperative,…

Related Documents