Epicene, or the Silent Woman

Transforming the Presentation of Gender: Epicene and The Roaring Girl College

‘Oh London…. Thou hast all things in thee to make thee fairest, and all things in thee to make thee foulest: for thou art attir’de like a Bride, drawing all that looke upon thee, to be in love with thee but there is much harlot in thine eyes.’ (Dekker).

The plays produced during the early 17th century signified a turning point in the portrayal of the women within literature. Female sexuality and agency were beginning to be seriously explored due to proto-capitalist city economy providing more women with economic independence, and thus, a greater degree of personal freedom. One could argue that this is reflected in The Roaring Girl by Dekker and Middleton and their representation of women through Moll Cutpurse, a female character that occupies a position of total opposition to patriarchal structures of the 17th century. But, it would be inaccurate to suggest that Jacobean theatre is progressive in its representation of women. Many writers viewed the consumerism that emerged with the economic rise of London as a problem rooted in women, they regarded the ‘city women’ as being unvirtuous, as evident in Jonson’s Epicene were woman are portrayed as deceitful and mercenary characters. The economic upheaval and urban growth during...

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