Women in the Theater

Natasha Korda

in The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theatre

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199697861
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Women in the Theater

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
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This article highlights divergent approaches to the subject of ‘women in the theatre’ in William Shakespeare's England, as well as the apparent impasse produced by this divergence. It reductively refers to these two perspectives as ‘female absence’ and ‘female presence’, respectively. Simply put, proponents of female absence hold, as Dympna Callaghan succinctly puts it in Shakespeare without Women: ‘there were no women on Shakespeare's stage’, while advocates of female presence maintain, as Phyllis Rackin argues in Shakespeare and Women, ‘Women were everywhere in Shakespeare's England’, including the theatre. This article argues that the dichotomy of female absence versus presence, although it has produced important scholarship regarding women's exclusion from the professional playing companies and inclusion in other modalities of performance and spheres of theatrical production, has tended to occlude investigation of the gendered division of theatrical labour.

Keywords: William Shakespeare; England; women in the theatre; female absence; female presence; Dympna Callaghan; Phyllis Rackin; playing companies; gendered division

Article.  9680 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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