This week’s seminars concentrated on the theme of authorship. It was interesting to research the idea of late medieval vernacular authorship with regard to Chaucer’s presentation of his status as an author. During the Middle Ages there was not a clear sense of authority in the English vernacular. Texts could be adapted for different readerships and contexts, and each scribal version was different. The discussion on dramatising female speech was also quite engaging. This seminar focused on the female voice in Elizabeth Cary’s The Tragedy of Mariam. This play begins with a female soliloquy, which was quite unusual at the time. This sets the tone for the rest of the play which goes on to question the patriarchal culture of the seventeenth century. Cary questions issues surrounding the the triad of virtues associated with the “ideal woman” – silence, chastity and obedience. There is a strong emphasis on the connection of language and voice to promiscuity throughout, and this is connected to the idea of gender and authorship, and the place of women’s writing in a patriarchal society. The Tragedy of Mariam is useful in examining the female voice and opinion on these social restraints, but it is also interesting to compare this with the male viewpoint in William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare similarly questions the male patriarchal system and concludes his play with as much ambiguity regarding personal opinion as Cary does.
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