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Master Thesis

"Longing Ladies" and Witty Heroines : ‎The Representation of Women in the Comedies by Molière and Etherege

Abstract : This work will focus on the representation of women of all ages and social statuses in the comedies by Molière and Etherege. In England, the Restoration period is a tipping point in the relationship between women and theatre, with women being allowed to act on stage, the rise of female spectatorship and, in the second part of the era, the emergence of female playwrights. French theatre is also subject to some changes, albeit a bit earlier, in the 1630s, with the comedies becoming more polished, thus drawing in more women and upper-class people, creating a mixed audience that influences the development of the plays of the second half of the seventeenth century, including Molière’s. We shall endeavour to compare how these playwrights – who both also staged their own plays – build their female characters, both through the significance of their actions in the plays and through their discourse and that of the other characters, and how this representation evolves during the second half of the seventeenth century. This study will focus on three main questions: that of the importance of female characters in the structure of the plays, that of their comic role, as well as that of the feminisation of the stage, with the progressive appearance of, as has been mentioned already, actresses, as well as female playwrights and female perspectives on stage. These topics will also lead us to analyse the relation of the audience to these characters and whether they offered a “realistic” portrayal of the people and mores of their time, or even, in the case of young gentlewomen, an ideal to try and reproduce in real life. The central corpus studied here is comprised of Etherege’s three plays, The Comical Revenge or Love in a Tub (1664), She wou’d if she cou’d (1668) and The Man of Mode, or Sir Fopling Flutter (1676), as well as plays both representative of Molière’s vast production, containing typical elements of the comédie de moeurs, and that represent typical or particularly interesting female characters, L’École des femmes (1662), Le Tartuffe (1664) and Le Misanthrope (1666), as well as Les Fourberies de Scapin (1971), which is one of Molière’s later plays and is considered to be a blend of comédie de moeurs and farce in the Italian tradition, that is to say, a buffoon type of comedy that relies on exaggeration, absurdity and physical comedy. Occasional reference may be made to other plays, both by Molière and by other Restoration playwrights. Additionally, references will be made to present-day productions of the plays of the corpus, as sources on seventeenth-century productions are scarce and only studying the text of the plays amputates them from the essential feature of theatrical texts, which is that they are meant to be represented in front of an audience.
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Master Thesis
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Submitted on : Friday, September 10, 2021 - 3:25:37 PM
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Alice Marion-Ferrand. "Longing Ladies" and Witty Heroines : ‎The Representation of Women in the Comedies by Molière and Etherege. Linguistics. 2019. ⟨dumas-03341191⟩

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