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Title: Telltale women : the dramaturgy of female characters in Shakespeare's history plays
Author: Bachrach, Hailey
ISNI:       0000 0005 0287 5131
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis undertakes a feminist re-reading of the female characters in Shakespeare’s history plays. Drawing upon both historical and contemporary performance and the broader theatrical context of the early modern period, I use the multidisciplinary lens of dramaturgy to investigate how these characters function as specifically theatrical figures, realigning traditional understandings of the shape and purpose of the history play. The first chapter explores some of the most common assumptions about the nature of a history play—that it is tragic, that it is historically accurate, that it relates to a broader nationalistic agenda, and that exclusion of the female is fundamental to the genre—and looks at how reading plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries through the lens of their most prominent female characters troubles these assumptions. The second chapter turns to female characters whose roles in the plays are smaller and more marginal, a position that has led to critics consistently underrating their contributions to the plot. The chapter uncovers a pattern of interactions that recur in minor female roles across almost all of Shakespeare’s history plays, instances of attempted disruption of the plot that are unsuccessful. The third chapter explores how characters narrate history within the plays themselves, particularly when they appear to transgress the boundaries of historical possibility through curses, prophecy, or narrating events they have not seen—extra-historical powers enabled by their marginalisation from political power. The fourth chapter argues that these processes of marginalisation represent a feminine, not explicitly female, mode of storytelling by suggesting that male characters who undergo processes of disempowerment explicitly associated with femininity are endowed with the same historicising powers as female characters. The fifth chapter examines contemporary history plays written by and about women that explicitly or implicitly challenge Shakespeare’s still-influential historical dramaturgy. These new works reveal not only the negotiations that self-identified feminist writers undertake to find a space for women within Shakespearean dramaturgy, but the assumptions about Shakespeare, history, and the role of women within both that inform such artistic responses.
Supervisor: Massai, Sonia Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available