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Some women love to struggle: a cultural and critical analysis of dramatic representations of rape in the late Elizabethan and Jacobean periods

posted on 2011-02-22, 10:13 authored by Lyndsay M. Croft
Taking a feminist-historicist approach, this thesis analyses representations of rape in the period 1575-1625, drawing on recent work by Chaytor, Baines, Catty, and Bashar. It explores questions of gender, national identity, and the nature of speech. It considers the impact of changes made to the law in the late Elizbabethan period that attempted to define rape as a crime of sexual violation (differing from the medieval definition as a property crime), and assesses whether the result of this was to give more authority to the female voice, or whether rape remained a means of silencing. It investigates how Renaissance constructions of masculinity and femininity relate to the presentation of rapist and `victim', and it also identifies a trend of using conquering, war language to refer to rape in plays, even when rape is not a central theme. Early-modern legal texts by Lambarde and Dalton, and conduct book literature are used to place the plays in their cultural context. The plays range from the well-known (Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Marlowe's Tamburlaine) to the more obscure (Peele's David and Bethsabe and Marston's The Tragedy of Sophonisba). The thesis contributes to knowledge by offering original arguments on a range of plays (some so little-read that there are no modern editions, such as The Maid in the Mill and A11's Lost by Lust) and legal texts. The scope of the project and the way in which it draws together cultural, historical, legal and dramatic material to offer both depth and breadth in its arguments, makes it an authority on the presentation of rape in Renaissance drama. Importantly, it stimulates new debates about much discussed plays such as Titus Andronicus and Tamburlaine, offering new perspectives, particularly on the presentation of women and female speech.



  • The Arts, English and Drama


  • English and Drama


© Lyndsay Marie Croft

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en