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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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Female Infants and the Engendering of Humanity

Female Infants and the Engendering of Humanity

Chapter:
(p.104) Chapter 3 Female Infants and the Engendering of Humanity
Source:
The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Sisters
Author(s):

Jennifer Higginbotham

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748655908.003.0004

On the early modern public stage two types of characters were literally inhuman: infants and live animals. What they had in common was that no actors performed their parts. Infants were represented by bundles of blankets or dolls rather than live children, and in the absence of a body beneath the bearing cloth, the only markers of the fictional infant’s human status were the actions and words of the players. Without them, the infants would have remained in a thing-like state, suspended somewhere between prop and character. To create the dramatic illusion that these inanimate bundles were human characters, early modern playwrights had their characters describe these neuter objects as gendered subjects. Using Shakespeare’s Pericles, The Winter’s Tale, and Henry VIII and Thomas Middleton’s A Fair Quarrel and A Chaste Maid as a jumping off point, this chapter demonstrates that to be spoken of as human on the early modern stage depended upon a language of gender.

Keywords:   Infants, Gender, Early modern stage, Shakespeare, Thomas Middleton, Pericles, Henry VIII, The Winter’s Tale, Chaste Maid in Cheapside, A Fair Quarrel

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