Abstract

Abstract:

Two recent productions of Shakespeare's history plays in England were held up in the press as exemplars of 'feminist' Shakespeare performance: Jeanie O'Hare's conflation of the three Henry VI plays, Queen Margaret, and a production of Henry V that absorbed Katherine's role into that of the Dauphin, transforming King Henry's bride-to-be into a soldier. This article highlights three ways in which O'Hare and Elizabeth Freestone, who directed both productions, reshape their female characters against Shakespeare's text: through their compression of the 'public' and 'private' spaces in the plays; through their erasure of feminized styles of speech; and through cross-gender casting. I argue that each of these methods suggests a conservative understanding of the potential roles of women in history and in history plays, and the performances thereby reinforced the stereotype that there is no place for women in the plays as written. I suggest that this stereotype is untrue, and that O'Hare and Freestone's choices flatten and reduce rather than enhance the avenues of feminine involvement in the plays. Their choices suggest that mainstream feminist performance of Shakespeare has yet to keep pace with recent feminist scholarship, which increasingly recognizes the unique and essential contributions such characters make to the history plays in spite of their limited stage time.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1427
Print ISSN
0748-2558
Pages
pp. 491-510
Launched on MUSE
2020-10-21
Open Access
No
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