Women About Women in 17th-century Comic Theatre
Towards a Nuanced Understanding of the Representation of Female Characters
Scholarship on female characters in comic theatre has focused mostly on stereotypes such as chatterboxes, evil wives and horny old women. This paper will draw attention to alternative – and more positive – ways in which women figure on the Dutch stage in the seventeenth century. Especially comic theatre staged different kinds of women engaged in conversation during ‘women’s meetings’ such as birth meals and tea parties, but also during their daily chores. Women were used by playwrights to address feminine daily concerns, such as pregnancy and breastfeeding. Since they were mainly active in the household, they could credibly voice critical opinions on increasing food prices and the difficulties of managing a household during times of crisis. Moreover, female characters were often used to voice criticism on ongoing discussions on the exuberance of the rich and famous in Amsterdam. In this way, an alternative analysis of female characters in such plays can contribute to a new view of seventeenth-century female identity.
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