Societal fascination with and anxiety over the potential unfixing of essentialized, oppositional gender roles manifests itself at many different levels in early modern English drama. What Catherine Belsey labels “the tradition of female transvestism,” and its facilitation of staged, comedic, female usurpation of masculine authority, is noticeably absent from tragedy. This article proposes a tragic tradition employing Edenic iconography in connection with female gender-transgressive behavior. Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy and Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus showcase the ways in which the unfixing of sexual disposition intersects in tragedy with the garden/bower as a physical setting, with Edenic/garden metaphor applied to and around the bodies of the plays’ female characters, and with an emphasis on perpetual and multilayered vulnerability to observation which, as in Eden, threatens patriarchal inheritance and ultimately results in death.


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pp. 141-169
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