This chapter explores the transnational use of a theatregram in an English
and a Spanish play, in which a woman of higher rank instructs her ‘servant’
to write a love letter for her which she in fact intends for the writer
himself, unbeknownst to him. Through this ruse, Silvia (of Shakespeare’s Two
Gentlemen of Verona, c. 1593) and Diana (of Lope de Vega’s El perro del
hortelano, c. 1615) get around the limitations that should prevent them, as
women of high rank, from courting men of lower standing. This essay looks at
the way such a theatrical scenario transports within its own structure and
aesthetic logic a disruption to the play’s aristocratic hierarchy, and
argues that a parallel critique of social hierarchy, aristocratic
distinction, and of ‘hierarchical service’ (Schalkwyk) is embedded in the
theatregram. This theatrical dynamic suggests a different way in which
radical political ideas may have travelled in early modern Europe through
dramatic scenarios. This transnational theatre practice also challenges
notions of the purity of national literary traditions, and suggests that the
canons of Spanish, English or European drama in this period cannot be truly
separable or national.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book demonstrates that incest was representative of a range of interests crucial to writers of the Gothic, often women or homosexual men who adopted a critical stance in relation to the heteronormative patriarchal world. Incest, a sexual act associated with transgression, violations of power and violence, has readily been conflated with sexual violence in Gothic scholarship and consigned to one of two gendered plots. Sexuality, questions of ownership, inheritance, women's subjugation to male authority, laws of coverture and primogeniture and issues concerning gender roles pervade Gothic works from the mid-eighteenth century on. The incest thematic as employed by women writers in the early modern period is shown to be transgressively endogamic in Maureen Quilligan's excellent work on incest in Elizabethan England.
There are several problems that usually emerge in scholarship examining representations of father-daughter incest in the Gothic, even in works by scholars whose goal is to lay bare the feminist themes that are central to the genre. Principal among these is that representations of father-daughter incest often cause works to be placed in the gendered subgenre of Female Gothic and to be viewed through a lens predicated on this generic division. This chapter examines the incestuous relationships between fathers and daughters in Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, Ann Radcliffe's The Romance of the Forest and Mary Shelley's Matilda and the texts' attendant scholarship. These three works have been selected in order to compare the way that incest is rendered in a representative chronology of Gothic texts beginning with what has been traditionally defined as the original Gothic novel.