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The Representation of Widows and Widowhood in English Drama, 1576-1642

Kimura, A; (2016) The Representation of Widows and Widowhood in English Drama, 1576-1642. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This study examines the representation of widows and widowhood in plays written or performed between the opening and closure of the London commercial theatres. My purpose is two-fold. First, I consider how widows might have appeared on the early modern stage by discussing the material conditions of theatre of the period, including costume, props, gestures, actors, the audience, and theatre structure. Second, I highlight both similarities and differences between the Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline representation of widows by discussing plays in each period in relation to their social, political, religious, and theatrical contexts. Chapter One examines the physical appearance of real-life and stage widows by discussing their costume, accessories, and other attributes. Chapter Two considers the development of two basic types of the lamenting and lusty widow in Elizabethan plays by focusing on widows’ gestures. Chapter Three highlights the transition from the late Elizabethan to early Jacobean periods by examining the representation of the husband’s ghost. Chapter Four considers three plays performed by the King’s Men in the mid-1610s in relation to the adolescent body of the boy actor, uses of the stage balcony, and metatheatrical references to the ‘lusty widow’ trope respectively. Lastly, Chapter Five explores the detailed descriptions of widows’ households and Henrietta Maria’s cultural influence on the representation of ungovernable widows on the Caroline stage. This study not only reasserts the complexity of widow characters, but also tries to demonstrate how a focus on widows can deepen our understanding of early modern theatre in general. By reconstructing how playwrights and acting companies might have represented widows’ ambiguous position in early modern patriarchal society on the contemporary stage, I aim to make a distinctive contribution to current critical interest in the material conditions of early modern theatre as well as feminist studies of early modern drama.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The Representation of Widows and Widowhood in English Drama, 1576-1642
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Third party copyright material has been removed from ethesis.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1531922
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