"Female" stage props: Visualizing the disappearing woman on the early modern stage
Pollard, Amy Rachael
Skura, Meredith A.
Doctor of Philosophy
This study investigates stage props as alternate stage representations of female characters. Since the 1970s, a great deal has been written independently about both stage props and about women on the early modern stage, but the two are seldom discussed together. Recent theater criticism has sought to establish a link between stage props and their broader social utility outside the theater, while gender criticism has investigated the paradoxical position of early modern women as both subject and object, particularly in regard to women as consumers and commodities. This work draws together these two lines of investigation in order to highlight the substitution that often occurs between female characters and "female" stage props. The traditional relationship between character and prop, in which the prop is firmly situated as an extension of character, exists as a specifically masculine relationship seldom available to female characters. I focus on the way in which the frequent disappearance of female characters within plays allows women to be represented by one or another of a small group of "female" props like rings, necklaces and other trinkets. The readings of the plays of Shakespeare, Thomas Kyd, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Middleton and Cyril Tourneur suggest that in order to witness female identity in its fullness, attention must be paid not only to interpersonal relationships between gendered subjects, but to the relationships visualized between female subject and object as well. "Female" stage props function as a means of furthering the understanding of how female subjectivity differs from that of male subjectivity on the early modern stage.
Theater; English literature