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Research Statement

Though the influence and use of antiquity in Renaissance drama has always been of interest to scholars, studies of male playwrights, especially on Shakespeare, have occupied most of the discussion. So far the dramatic pieces written by Shakespeare’s female contemporaries have not received a full examination in terms of how they relate to classicism despite the fact that these women wrote in a cultural milieu which they shared with their male counterparts. My research examines eight dramas by women written between 1550 and 1668 to explore the relationship between women’s reading, translation and playwriting. To what extent does the tradition of humanist education encourage these women to write plays? How do they draw ideas from the classical intellectual heritage and use their dramatic productions as literary responses to these conventions? More importantly, what causes the pattern of less reliance on classical models in plays written later during the period? This research argues, through a case study of eight plays in particular, that these plays illustrate not only the way in which Renaissance learned women negotiated with the male literary tradition, but also reveal their authors’ underestimated contributions to English literature.