Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"When the bad bleeds, then is the tragedy good": Performative Masculinities in Revenge Plays by Kyd, Shakespeare, and Middleton
by Page, Jennifer K., Ph.D., University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2014, 195; 3622952
Abstract (Summary)

Discussions of early modern gender have been, until recently, focused on the construction and performance of femininities, yet it is significant to understand that the patriarchal institutions that prescribed acceptable forms of femininity also placed restrictions on appropriate masculinities. In Renaissance drama, a form which excluded female participants, we can see the conspicuous construction and portrayal of masculinity as a response to socially prescribed gender norms; the revenge play in particular demonstrates the precarious, liminal social position many Renaissance men experienced: simultaneously privileged above women and lower-ranking men and yet necessarily submissive to socio-political behavioral constraints. In four representative revenge plays, The Spanish Tragedy, Titus Andronicus, Hamlet, and The Revenger's Tragedy, the revengers' orthodox and radical responses to prescribed gender behaviors are apparent in turn as the revenger ascends to social favor by submitting to patriarchal rule, followed by an inevitable descent into illegality, madness, and graphic violence as he takes vengeance, or rebels against patriarchal standards. Though violence, cruelty, and emotional control are required for taking revenge, the revenger's gender performance is not limited to his stereotypically masculine aggression; rather, his familial, professional, and social roles, as well as his age contribute to a unique portrayal of masculinity. Likewise, the masculine characteristics demonstrated so frequently by revengers are not necessarily limited to male characters; female characters, though featured minimally in revenge plays, are equally capable of demonstrating agency, emotional manipulation, violence, or even bloodlust in order to incite or take vengeance. Close readings of these four texts and analysis of the contemporary cultural zeitgeist shed light on the perception, creation, and response to Renaissance masculinities.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Vaught, Jennifer
Commitee: Bobo, Elizabeth, Wilson, Mary Ann
School: University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Louisiana
Source: DAI-A 75/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Theater, British and Irish literature, Gender studies
Keywords: Masculinities, Renaissance dramas, Revenge plays, Shakespeare
Publication Number: 3622952
ISBN: 978-1-303-95133-6
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