chapter  13
“A Woman’s War”: A Feminist Reading of Richard II
ByRichard Levin
Pages 17

Linda Bamber posits 'a female principle apart from history', a positive image of feminine Otherness which can issue, albeit from a position of acknowledged impotence, a challenge to the priorities of history. Richard's Queen Isabel is described for example as 'queen of an alternative realm' in which the female principle is fully differentiated from the masculine Self. Coppélia Kahn's treatment of the history plays in Mans Estate discovers an alternative to this resigned acknowledgment of female occlusion: she is not primarily concerned with the representation of women, but rather with dramatic explorations of masculine ideology: The patriarchal world of Shakespeare's history plays is emphatically masculine. The relationship between 'femininity' and 'history' is thus constructed in Linda Bamber's argument as a binary opposition of mutually incompatible contraries. The Duchess of Gloucester seems to represent a potentiality for female assertiveness, which is nonetheless deflected and turned to self-destructive grief and melancholy.