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The Girlhood of Shakespeare's SistersGender, Transgression, Adolescence$
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Jennifer Higginbotham

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748655908

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748655908.001.0001

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Roaring Girls and Unruly Women: Producing Femininities

Roaring Girls and Unruly Women: Producing Femininities

(p.62) Chapter 2 Roaring Girls and Unruly Women: Producing Femininities
The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Sisters

Jennifer Higginbotham

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter investigates the way the discourse of girlhood produced gendered identities in George Gascoigne’s The Adventures of Master F. J., Shakespeare’s The First Part of Henry the Sixth and Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker’s play The Roaring Girl. Writers of conduct manuals were acutely aware that female human beings had to be trained to be ‘women,’ and the vast literature attempting to regulate and control female behaviour and sexuality testifies to these concerns. When positioned in relationship to womanhood, girlhood was consistently marked as a time of transgression compared to womanhood, and the word ‘girl’ was subsequently extended to adults who refused to be made into the obedient women idealized in the conduct literature. The description of adult female characters as “girls” in the three texts examined shows that early modern writers turned to the category of the ‘girl’ to account for female characters who were not only sexually, but also more importantly, socially and politically resistant to gender norms.

Keywords:   George Gascoigne, Roaring Girls, Femininity, Girlhood, Henry VI, Joan of Arc, Moll Frith, Conduct manuals

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