Poor women do not fit easily into the household in Shakespeare. They shift in and out of marriages, households, and employments, carrying messages, tallying bills, and making things happen; never the main character but always evoking the ever-present problem of female poverty in early modern England. Like the illegal farthings that carried their likenesses, poor women both did and did not fit into the household and marriage market. They were both essential to and excluded from the economy. They are both present and absent on the early modern stage. In the drama, they circulate between plots, essential because they are so mobile, but largely unnoticed because of their mobility. These female characters represent an exploration of gender and economic roles at the bottom, as England shifted from feudalism to empire in the span of Shakespeare's lifetime. We find their dramas played out in the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Number of pages: 268
Weight: 390 g
Dimensions: 226 x 150 x 20 mm
'For McNeill, 'the drama provides a living document of the changing economic conditions of ... 'early capitalism', which forced poor women to shift into the limited freedom of provisional labor and then shifted them back into bondage in the workhouse and plantation'. She analyses these social moves through examining the 'words for women' located in the texts that dramatize them. Exploring plays, pamphlets, conduct books, court records and more, she provides a fascinating look at the diverse roles poor women played, both onstage and in their daily lives.' Theatre Research International
"While Poor Women in Shakespeare may not add much to Shakespearean literacy criticism directly, with its careful scholarship it will facilitate a historicist approach to some of the plays." --The Shakespeare Newsletter