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The whore in earlier seventeenth-century drama

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Marlowe, Karen Patricia Alex (1982) The whore in earlier seventeenth-century drama. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Such was the popularity of the whore as a dramatic figure in
the earlier seventeenth century that one could be forgiven for
accusing the playwrights of an obsession with the more prurient
side of life. But, the significance of her role is in fact not
confined to probing particular areas of sexual experience but
extends beyond to encompass many areas of tension within man
and society. Originally this thesis was intended simply to
explore an expanding concept of the whore as a negative image
of destruction, one which reflects a growing interest in the
state as a secular entity. The discovery, however, of an
apparently altered relationship between the whore and her society
within certain plays, at least a variation in the patterning
of guilts and sympathies, led to modification of this aim or
rather to a further development in my argument.
The Introduction establishes a working definition of
whoredom which takes into consideration prevailing attitudes
towards women and sexual activity, and briefly examines the
whore's early dramatic function as essentially a personal threat
to the soul. From this I move into a description of the whore's
expanding and more secular-oriented destructiveness. Chapter I
looks at the whore's activities as a threat to the institution
of marriage, noting also some attempts to deal with the problem
of judgment and reintegration. Chapters II and III deal with a
further extension of the whore's social disruptiveness,
presenting her as a saboteur not only of personal and marital
stability but of state law and order, on both political and
economic levels. But interestingly it is here, in certain of the
Court and especially in the city satires, that the whore changes
from being an isolated example of disorder, exterior to society
and attacking its well-established order, to being merely a
typical participant in a predatory and deceiving world, and her
greed or lust becomes metaphorically identified with all man's
greeds - for power, money, status, as well as sex. Satiric
assertion this may be, but such is its dramatic strength that it
does suggest a changing attitude towards man and society, at
least as expressed in the plays, a growing scepticism or
insecurity. And this is confirmed elsewhere in the drama. In
Chapter IV, the plays described are concerned very much to
question man's or society's ability to act and judge adequately,
using the motif of whoredom to demonstrate both the natural
fallibility of man and the limitations of the codes defining
behaviour. In Chapter V, the loss of confidence and the
relativity of judgment is such that the deviant role of whore
may take on a tragic stature. Finally, the various earlier
arguments are brought together in a concluding review.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: English drama, Prostitutes in literature
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1982 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D)--University of Tasmania, [1984?]. Bibliography: l. 274-299

Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2014 02:25
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2017 02:10
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