Early Women Dramatists 1550–1800 by Margarete Rubik (auth.)

By Margarete Rubik (auth.)

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The author often reverses sexual roles, supports endeavours to gain better education for women and ridicules double standards, for instance when a husband regards it as 'allowable and seemly' in men to flirt, but 'immodest, and unbecoming, and dishonourable' in his wife (Loves Adventures, IV/19). Women are shown to be as gifted as men in all walks of life, even in soldiering and scholarship. In Loves Adventures the disguised Lady Orphant performs miracles in battle to defend her lover; in Bell in Campo the heroine heads a female army which routs the enemy, and in Youths Glory and Deaths Banquet another female prodigy amazes the Academy of Sciences with her philosophical reasoning.

The play is notorious for supposed bawdiness in that it shows the prince rising from Cloris' bed, having spent the night with her. But in fact this is not really a scene of extramarital sex, since the girl has received a legally valid promise of marriage; the prince chooses not to honour his vows until he realises that she is not a simple shepherdess and that her family may cause serious trouble. Then, rather suddenly, he discovers his renewed affection for his spurned bride. What has gone largely unnoticed by critics, 40 The Restoration and Turn of the Century however, is the unmistakably homosexual undertone when one of the courtiers propositions Cloris, who has followed the prince in male disguise.

The Epilogue asserts that the author does not seek praise unless it be her due. Later female dramatists, with the exception of Behn, were generally far less selfconfident in their addresses to the public and often humbly requested special indulgence for a woman's work. In Marcelia, Boothby made use of the popular pattern of the splitplot comedy Etherege had created in Love in a Tub (1664), combining a quasi-heroic plot along the lines of Fletcherian tragi-comedy with humorous lower-life scenes.

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