DID WOMEN HAVE A RENAISSANCE? Discuss in reference to the staging of sex gender roles and Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi and Middleton and Dekker’s The Roaring Girl.

(Help me with my essay)

Convener(s):Amy Letman

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Although women may have had some kind of renaissance they were not allowed to participate in it.

One lady argued that it wasn’t until the 1970’s and 1980’s that the female renaissance truly began. 

Quote for essay: “Did the Duchess of Malfi have a Renaissance? No – Because otherwise she would have been in Act 5.” 

The Renaissance, a period of so-called political, intellectual and artistic development. This ‘rebirth’ did not benefit women. 

The renaissance was mainly to do with MEN and CAPITALISM

It wasn’t until the restoration that stronger female characters came along. The renaissance female characters were a result of the idealized ‘male gaze’ 

Was Queen Elizabeth a powerful woman? In order to be taken seriously she had to act like a man. She was always surrounded by men (Like the |Duchess is in the play!) Elizabeth never married. She did not want to hide behind a mans name. Women in power was a predicament at this time. The Duchess of Malfi is a play about what can happen when women are in power. (The Duchess is killed)

Cross-dressing and Transvestism:

During the renaissance female characters were only played by young boys or men. Today we sometimes see this the other way round, as in King Lear or Richard III. Cross-dressing in Cloud 9 (Churchill being one of todays predominant female writers) 

For Conclusion:

If the female renaissance didn’t happen until the 70’s and 80’s with writers like Churchill, this is extremely worrying for the situation of women in theatre today. Has the promise for women in theatre which feminism brought ever been fully realized? Many would argue no. Now that feminism is often seen as a ‘dirty word’ where do women stand in theatre today? Has female energy ever been truly realized on stage? 

Are characters like Moll in the Roaring Girl and the Duchess early voices of feminism? Albeit through a male pen and through a male voice. Are they hope that new material was beginning to be tolerated? Did this come from audience need? (There would have been a lot of females in audiences)

Why the need for disguise?

All’s Well That End’s Well: Helena does not need to take on manly persona or disguise in order to execute her desires:

‘My intents are fixed and will not move me’

‘Our remedys, often in ourselves do lie’