Warlike women
‘reproofe to these degenerate effeminate dayes?
in Shakespeare’s histories and counter-histories
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This chapter proposes to return the female characters to the centre of history's stage, to reopen the closet to which they were seemingly confined in Henry V. In King John, in addition to the stage presence of the warlike Queen Eleanor, whilst the men are failing to protect their country and save 'mother England' from foreign occupation, brave English women are taking matters into their own hands. Constance's verbal performance in King John is reminiscent of the female roles in Richard III, for here women's tongues are likewise sharp and active. The impact of images of women conveyed via the language of the plays should not be underestimated. It has been argued that William Shakespeare's audiences possessed a highly tuned 'image consciousness' inherited from their medieval ancestors, so that spectators at the drama could readily construct offstage pictures in the mind's eye.


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