Outside the doll's house : a study in images of women in English and French theatre, 1848-1914
The aim of the thesis is to document images of women in English and French theatre, between 1848 and 1914, which challenged the stereotypical image of women as passive wives and mothers in the'doll's house! The methodologies employed are not restricted to dramatic criticism, but draw upon a udder net of feminism, semiotics, and social history, in order to place the plays, roles and actresses in the theatre of their time. As a comparative study, it documents interchange, interaction and difference, between the theatre of England and France. The images are divided into three groups, viz., the 'female outcast', the 'third sex' and 'revolting women'. Section one documents a range of femme fatale images, including the courtisane; the Magdalen; Cleopatra, the royal seducer: Medea, the outcast queen, and the dangerous women of melodrama. The second section begins with studies of the male impersonators of music hall, notably Vesta Tilley, and the principal boys of Victorian and Edwardian pantomime. Male impersonation on the 'serious' stage is then considered, in a study of actresses in the cross-dressing role of Shakespeare's Rosalind, and Bernhardt's travesti roles, in particular her Hamlet. The third section considers the révolt6e of the social drama, and debate surrounding the rationale of motherhood, and the hostile reactions to the issues of abortion and infanticide. A chapter on Manchester's Gaiety theatre indicates the importance of the 'new theatres' in providing a udder and more realistic, representation of women, while the final study examines drama which portrayed the difficulties for women trying to survive independently of men, indicating the economic disadvantages and prejudices which drove many women into prostitution. Overall, the three groups of images represent three strategies for power and their success and failure is indicated and assessed. The capacity of theatre for social debate is highlighted, and the contribution of women in the creation of radical images is re-evaluated, thereby making a significant contribution to women's studies and to nineteenth century theatre studies.