The Grotesque Body: Early Modern Representations of Women and the Subversion of the Elizabethan World Picture

The Grotesque Body: Early Modern Representations of Women and the Subversion of the Elizabethan World Picture

Chan, Lai Sai Acón (Escuela de Lenguas Modernas Universidad de Costa Rica)

Revista de Lenguas Modernas, N° 14, 2011 / 43-53     


It goes without saying that some mainstream playwrights of the Early Modern period contributed to the portrayal and sustenance of the Elizabethan world view through the metaphor of the body politic and popular beliefs in the Great Chain of Being and the interconnectivity between Microcosm and Macrocosm among other hegemonic practices. Yet, these same playwrights, whether wittingly or unwittingly, acknowl- edged the marginal status of women and their subversion of the pre- established patriarchal order through depictions of female bodies that resist, deconstruct and mutate what Mikhail Bakhtin called the closed body. In Titus Andronicus, King Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth, The Spanish Tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi and The Changeling, new bodies are constructed and reconstructed, created and recreated by means of varied strategies. Shakespeare, Kyd, Webster, Middleton and Rowley employ subversive languages, the unsexing of the female body, the appropriation of masculine roles, and other marginal discourses to express the net of socio-ideological contradictions that make possible a vast array of what I call grotesque bodies in the context of Early Modern England.


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