Menopausal shakespeare and the anxious womb

McMahon, Victoria (2021). Menopausal shakespeare and the anxious womb. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Abstract

Although ‘menopause’ was not defined as a medical, physiological or sociocultural event for the early moderns, I argue that such a medical and cultural transition can, in fact, be identified by sub-textual clues distinguished by various embodied anxieties. This thesis will explore several ageing women of the Shakespearean tragedies as they transition through this liminal menopausal period. Theoretically underscored by humoral theory, my analysis is metonymically centred upon the womb as the seat of menopausal anxiety. These menopausal undercurrents, not only permeate the dramatic action of each play, but also emanate outward to reflect the medical, physiological, cultural, social, and religious concerns generated by the ageing woman of the early modern period at large. Drawing upon diverse theories and methodologies, I explore how these menopausal anxieties are embodied by some of the ageing female characters of Shakespeare’s major tragedies: Gertrude, Tamora, Volumnia, Lady Macbeth, and Cleopatra. While Shakespeare creates the dramatic conditions to explore menopause, the fears and anxieties of the ageing body cannot ultimately be suppressed. The only consistency of Shakespeare’s project is that each of the female characters is ultimately ‘silenced’, often in violent ways, by each of their respective play’s conclusion.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Supervisor(s):
Supervisor(s)EmailORCID
Laoutaris, ChrisUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Rokison-Woodall, AbigailUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Fernie, EwanUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Licence: All rights reserved All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, The Shakespeare Institute
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/11161

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