Weeping Widows and Warrior Women

A Feminist Reading of Shakespeare's First Tetralogy

by Corey Lynn Hutchins

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Synopsis

Weeping Widows and Warrior Women will consider the plays of Shakespeare's first tetralogy, which includes 1, 2, 3 Henry VI and Richard III, through a feminist critical perspective. It will assess the female characters of these plays through their speech and actions rather than giving credence to external evaluations of them, whether from other characters or a perceived stance of the playwright. The goal throughout is to divorce previously seldom-studied characters from oppressive patriarchal interpretations of their actions in order to bring them in line with a feminist understanding of fully individuated women.

This thesis will explore issues of sexuality, witchcraft, war-mongering, widowhood, mourning, and scolding through the characters of Joan la Pucelle, the Countess of Auvergne, Eleanor Cobham, Margaret of Anjou, Elizabeth Grey, Anne Neville, and the Duchess of York. Feminist issues such as biological determinism, the difference between sex and gender, rejection of hegemonic patriarchal history and discourse, and patriarchal punishment for gender transgression will further develop discussion of the texts.

By revisiting the plays of the first tetralogy through a specifically feminist critical discourse, this thesis will prove the existence of alternative readings of the plays that do not depend on patriarchal exploitation of female characters. The readings explained in this thesis could provide a basis for a resurrection of these early history plays by replacing a reactionist acceptance of the inherent misogyny of the genre with an exploration of the difficulties of female existence in a patriarchal society.

About The Author

Corey Hutchins completed her Master's degree in Renaissance Literature at the University of Edinburgh. Her undergraduate degrees are from the University of Oklahoma in English and Music, and she received awards for her honors theses in both subjects. Upon graduation, she was presented the Mary Gray Thompson award for outstanding contributions to the University of Oklahoma Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts. Her poetry has been published by Windmill, Shinshi, a handful of stones, and Deep South Magazine. She is currently the Plano-area volunteer coordinator for the North Texas Food Bank and a Logistics service associate with the American Red Cross. Her service and work are dedicated to her late fiancÚ, 2nd Lt. Geoff Street, USAF.