Studies of female rulers as they are depicted on the seventeenth-century stage are certainly not unknown among scholars, yet scant attention has been paid to women rulers as portrayed by women dramatists. Thus, criticism in this area may be too embryonic to speak of a female aesthetic in Western European theatre, but an analysis of two plays by two women dramatists will illuminate how Spanish female playwrights may have informed the work of their counterparts north of the Pyrenees. This article centers on Ana Caro Mallén de Soto's El Conde Partinuplés (1630-1640) and Catherine Bernard's Laodamie reine d'Épire (1689), showing how each female ruler's marital status is inextricably intertwined with her political and physical survival. Both monarchs must face the demands of their citizens, the paternal pressure of absent fathers, and the right to question the absolute authority of an unmarried female ruler. While taking charge of the courting process, the women redefine the parameters of heroism and nobility. (TPF)


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pp. 131-148
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