The Role of Gender in Medieval English Theatre

  • Zahra Alamri

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

This thesis explores gender representation in medieval mystery plays within the framework of New Historicism and in consideration of the theory of social space by Henri Lefebvre, and the concept of gender performativity introduced by the feminist Judith Butler. Medieval misogyny was closely tied to the depiction of women in relation to a Christian ideal, which is also represented in the four extant mystery cycles (York, Chester, Wakefield, N-Town). This research explores the templates of femininity and masculinity in the following three plays: The Fall of Man, Noah’s Flood, and The Second Shepherds’ Play.

Many critical voices state that the humour and morals of the works derive from the husbands' inability to discipline their wives. More recent critics have challenged this view and have looked at the women characters as linked to female empowerment. This study also investigates the representation of gender in contemporary theatre by examining modern adaptations of medieval plays. It moreover provides interviews with four theatre makers (Jo Clifford, Susan Worsfold, Jo George, and Katie Mitchell), analysing their stylistic approaches to staging gender in their modern adaptations. This study furthermore investigates depictions of Biblical figures as transgender and gender blind individuals. Bringing together these concepts, this thesis considers the mystery plays and the contemporary theatrical space a social product, since they are not only affected by society, but also influences and shapes society.
Date of Award2021
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsSaudi Arabia Ministry of Higher Education
SupervisorJodi-Anne George (Supervisor)

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