Sederi 22 — 2012
Berta Cano Echevarría & Ana Sáez-Hidalgo
Francisco J. Borge López
Juan Antonio Prieto Pablos, “Women in breeches and modes of masculinity in Restoration comedy.” SEDERI 22 (2012): 69-91.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.34136/sederi.2012.4 Download PDF
The dramatic tradition that featured female characters dressed in men’s costume was revived after the theatres reopened in the Restoration, with the difference that this time these roles were played by actresses. It has been argued that the contemplation of the female body reinforced the erotization of the actresses for the sake of predominantly male audiences. Their performances in “breeches roles” have also been interpreted as evidence of a progressive acknowledgement of the social possibilities of female agency. My own contention is that these roles did not only raise female agency to a level equal – if not superior, occasionally – to male agency, they also served to disrupt certain fashionable notions on the nature of masculinity, and therefore illustrate a trend that promoted new gender modes. To argue this thesis, I will focus on three comedies that represent as many stages in the development of this trend: the anonymous The Woman Turned Bully (1675), Thomas Shadwell’s The Woman Captain (1680), and Thomas Southerne’s Sir Anthony Love (1691), all of them featuring women wearing breeches and upsetting male order, with both comic and serious consequences.
Keywords: Restoration comedy; gender identity; masculinity; breeches roles.
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