CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

The Theatricality of Transformation: cross-dressing and gender/sexuality spectra on the Elizabethan stage

Sara E. Gorman, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Humanities

Dept/Program: English

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Phyllis Rackin

Date of this Version: 21 May 2006

This document has been peer reviewed.

 

Abstract

Feminist scholars of Shakespeare and contemporaries have become increasingly interested in the practice of cross-dressing on the early modern English stage in the past few decades. While much of this critical interest has revolved around relationships between the cross-dressed persona and real early modern patriarchy, this paper seeks to subvert some of the long-standing gendered binaries that dominate this field. This paper uses late 16th and early 17th century legal records to examine the nature of the discourse surrounding sexual misdemeanor in early modern England and returns to instances of staged cross-dressing to argue that the cross-dresser was an object of fascination for the early modern viewer for the same reasons the virgin and the young boy were equally spectacles. Arguing against the notion that staged cross-dressing was solely and primarily about gender, I instead suggest that the cross-dressed actor is a spectacular sight because he is arrested in a state of potentiality, always on the verge of a specifically performative and theatrical transformation.

Discipline(s)

Theatre and Performance Studies

Suggested Citation

Gorman, Sara E., "The Theatricality of Transformation: cross-dressing and gender/sexuality spectra on the Elizabethan stage" 21 May 2006. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania, https://repository.upenn.edu/curej/11.

Date Posted: 23 May 2006

This document has been peer reviewed.

 

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