chapter  22
25 Pages

Staging Gender: William Shakespeare and Elizabeth Cary

WithMaureen Quilligan

Elizabeth Cary’s text provides a useful contrast to Kate’s speech because it provides at least response to the discourses defining wifeliness, voiced from one who had experienced subjectivity in the terms society decreed for a woman moving from the middle to the gentried class. Cary’s heroine, unlike William Shakespeare’s, must enact her own thought. The difference between Cary’s and Shakespeare’s versions of play between spouses is fundamentally generic to be sure, but because Cary’s version also speaks to the historical actualities of the suppression of women’s speech, we are forced to see it as a gendered difference as well. Cary’s unacted drama displays the social deformation at work in the crucial fact of Shakespeare’s stage: boys had to be female impersonators because women were not allowed to appear on stage. For Cary, the loosing of female breath in an imagined public spectacle was simultaneously authorial freedom and sexual shame.