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Title: The question that subverts : equitable drama on the early modern English stage, 1591-1621
Author: Stephen, Scott
ISNI:       0000 0004 2710 6032
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis examines drama and ideas of equity, judgement, and legality in early modern England. Drama of this age is a product of a society of disputation – and the debate surrounding the marginalised female is investigated here. Taking the lead from Ina Habermann, I argue that ‘equitable drama’ offered playgoers spaces of re-interpretive potential. Focusing initially on Arden of Faversham (1592) and A Woman Killed with Kindness (1603) I argue that these domestic tragedies focus on problematic homes during an ‘age of anxiety’. The Arden playwright engages in a re-interpretation of the murder of Thomas Arden – highlighting flaws in the legal resolution to this scandal to show how drama can probe injustice. Heywood’s A Woman Killed with Kindness illustrates an alternative domestic site of dramatic debate. Focusing on Heywood’s interrogation of acts of ‘kindness’ towards females, I suggest that Heywood demonstrates the workings of equitable drama removed from necessary correspondence to a specific real-life case. I then consider how three Jacobean dramas subject female witchcraft to in-depth equitable analysis. Contextualising Macbeth, Sophonisba, and The Witch within contemporary witchcraft debates, I suggest that these plays use witchcraft to interrogate a patriarchal society that reviled witchcraft whilst also demonstrating uncertainties about its reality. I conclude with The Witch of Edmonton (1621) – which is part witchcraft drama and part domestic tragedy. Within the depiction of the real-life ‘witch’ Sawyer, the audience is asked to question the iniquities of communal mob justice and the common law. Tracing new links between these works provides a sense of how early modern drama represented contentious issues surrounding gender, deviancy, and judgement. Ultimately, I argue that equitable drama is rooted in an early modern theatre informed by legal and social debate, which utilised interpretive difference to invigorate performance.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English drama ; Drama ; Theater