Dominance and radical submission in seventeenth-century drama: chastity, fairness, and silence in portrayals of Mar(r)iam(ne), Sophonisba, and Cleopatra
Author ORCID Identifier
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
English, General Literature, and Rhetoric
Professor John Kuhn
English drama—17th century; Mariamne, consort of Herod I, King of Judea, approximately 57 B.C.-approximately 29 B.C. -- Drama; Sophonisba, -203 B.C. -- Drama; Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, -30 B.C. -- Drama; Critical theory; Racism
This thesis conducts an extensive reading of early modern English playwrights’ interpretation of ancient royalty. I survey a series of seventeenth-century plays concerning Mariamne I, the Carthaginian noblewoman Sophonisba, and Cleopatra VII. I argue that the English stage produced two models of ancient royalty. Mar(r)iam(ne) and Sophonisba personify one model, functioning as white, seemingly obedient figureheads. I document playwrights portraying their men as reducing them to their chastity and fairness, or lack thereof. Despite the inactivity of these objectified women, the qualities that these men obsess over catalyze masculine irrationality. The other model, which Cleopatra embodies, encompasses blackness and defiance. Though contemporary scholarship on these plays discusses the role of sexuality in these texts, scholars do not acknowledge the extent to which these ancient queens were sites of racial imagination, nor the extent to which these two models of ancient royalty were in conversation with another.
DeLuca, Laura S., "Dominance and radical submission in seventeenth-century drama: chastity, fairness, and silence in portrayals of Mar(r)iam(ne), Sophonisba, and Cleopatra" (2022). Graduate Dissertations and Theses. 124.