Date of this Version
Bierman, Anastasia S. “IN COUNTERFEIT PASSION”: CROSS-DRESSING, TRANSGRESSION, AND FRAUD IN SHAKESPEARE AND MIDDLETON.” MA Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2013.
This thesis examines the way women cross-dressing as men functions as a crime in Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker’s The Roaring Girl and William Shakespeare’s As You Like It and Twelfth Night. While many modern scholars have discussed cross-dressing in these plays, many look to the end of the plays as the foundation for their analysis rather than the play as a whole. Because of this oversight, scholars deem the characters in the plays not transgressive, when, in fact, cross-dressing is transgressive. They ignore the way cross-dressing is often presented in writing in the Renaissance, i.e. as a type of crime, alongside thieves, adulterers, and vagabonds amongst others. If cross-dressing is synonymous with these other crimes, it is then a transgression, no matter if a person were to suddenly stop cross-dressing. While all cross-dressing is transgressive, not all cross-dressing is fraudulent, as in the case of Moll Cutpurse in The Roaring Girl. Since she does not hide her cross-dressing, she is not a fraud. Shakespeare writes Rosalind and Viola to both transgress their prescribed gender roles and deceive other characters within the respective plays. Therefore, while Shakespeare overlooks it by ignoring the early modern English concerns about cross-dressing, using it as a comedic device, Middleton and Dekker directly pry apart transgression from fraud. In doing so, Middleton and Dekker’s Moll ultimately has more agency for she is able to become a self-actualized character who can maintain the hold and position her cross-dressing gives her even at the end of the play in women’s clothing.
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