"Harmless delight but useful and instructive" : the woman's voice in Restoration adaptations of Shakespeare
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The changes and upheaval in English society and in English ideas which took place during the seventeenth century had a profound effect upon public and private perceptions of women and of women's various roles in society. A study of the drama of this period provides the means to examine the development of these new views through the popular medium of the stage. In particular, the study of adaptations of early drama offer the opportunity to compare the stage perceptions of women which were prevalent during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century with attitudes towards women which emerged during the Restoration and early eighteenth century; such an examination of these differing perceptions of women has not yet been undertaken. The adaptation of Shakespearean plays provide the most profitable study in this area; Shakespeare was not only a highly influential playwright, but was also one of the most adapted of all the early dramatists during the years of the Restoration. In order to facilitate this survey, I have selected plays which span the entire Restoration era, beginning with William Davenant's The Law Against Lovers and Macbeth as well as John Lacy's Sauny the Scot from the 1660's, through the late 1670's and early 1680's with Edward Ravenscroft's Titus Andronicus and Nahum Tate's The Ingratitude of a Common-Wealth, and finally into the reign of Anne Stuart with William Burnaby's Love Betray'd. The study of these plays offers the best opportunity for the examination, through the medium of the theatre, of the changes which occurred in the perception of women and their changing identity with the rapidly evolving society of Renaissance and Restoration English society.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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