Women and English Renaissance Drama: Making and Unmaking ‘The All-Male Stage’

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


We can no longer refer to ‘the all-male stage’ of Renaissance drama without a qualifying remark about the many performing women of early modern England. Over the past decade or so the combined efforts of feminism, gender studies and historicised archival work have shown that Shakespearean theatre was by no means an all-male pursuit in which women were represented only by transvestite boy actors. Recent research has uncovered a diverse and energetic range of female performers beyond the single-sex playhouse stages of Shakespearean London and has shown women to have a crucial role in early modern theatre. This article considers how the emergence of the woman player as a subject of study has changed the way that we think and write about Shakespearean drama. In particular, women's performance challenges the central critical paradigms of ‘the all-male’ and ‘the English stage’, while the plays of Shakespeare, Jonson and other canonical authors are changed by our new understanding of women's theatricality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)784-796
Number of pages13
JournalLiterature Compass
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2007
Externally publishedYes

Cite this