Sexuality of female royals in renaissance plays: Duchess of Malfi, Gertrude and Cleopatra
AuthorPrioti, Ishrat Jahan
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The Renaissance period, even at the height of its progression, saw limited improvement in women’s lives regardless of their socio-economic status. While men were engaging themselves in the pursuit of knowledge, inventing new technology, and pushing boundaries, women were confined to the household, their lives suffering under the strict constraint of social, political, and religious customs which were strongly biased in favor of men. It is sadly surprising to see that aristocratic women, who were thought to be politically powerful, were equally controlled by the patriarchal conventions of society. The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the postulation that, although wellborn women were recognized nobility, they did not have the same freedom and privileges that men of the same position enjoyed. To examine the restricted lives of aristocratic women, this thesis looks into three aristocratic women, viz-a-viz, the Duchess of Malfi, Gertrude and Cleopatra from the plays, The Duchess of Malfi (1623), Hamlet (1603) and Antony and Cleopatra (1623). Drawing on feminist perspective offered by Virginia Woolf and Simone De Beauvoir among others, this paper examines the degree of independence actually granted to highborn and governing women, and the extent of their right to pursue their sexual and matrimonial proclivities.