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Title: Performing the mistress : the emergence of the modern mistress on the early modern stage
Author: Brooks, Victoria
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis explores the presentation of women in extra-marital relationships on the early modern stage, demonstrating how this modern understanding of the 'mistress' emerged performatively while its definition was still evolving. I will examine how playwrights utilise narratives of sexual coercion to represent how the chaste mistress of courtly love literature is sexualised before exploring dramatic representations of the ruler's mistress. I argue that playwrights represent this 'modern mistress' by emphasising how her illegitimacy allows her to usurp the prerogatives and masculinity of male characters. The third chapter will be a case study of Anne Boleyn on the early modern stage, demonstrating how dramatists utilised a strategy of evasion to represent this personage which allowed them to produce a more nuanced portrayal. Finally, an exploration of women on trial reveals how dramatists exploit the possibilities of theatre to allow female characters who engaged in sexual relationships to argue against erroneous efforts to categorise them, demonstrating the inadequacy of pre-existing categories of womanhood and their ideological misuse by men. These trial scenes allow playwrights to demonstrate the significance of performance and how the theatrical arena allows for female characters to resist incorrect terminology that may be applied to them. The theatre therefore produced characters who occupy the social and cultural space of the 'modern mistress', creating a new category of womanhood in early modern drama.
Supervisor: McMullan, Gordon Alexander ; Lavagnino, John David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available