Masters Thesis

“Bewhored” and “Broken”: gendered experiences of trauma in Titus Andronicus and The Changeling

This thesis juxtaposes the characters of Lavinia and Tamora in William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus (1594) and Beatrice-Joanna and Isabella in Thomas Middleton and William Rowley’s The Changeling (1622) to examine the plays’ treatment of female transgression, to analyze the women’s varied responses to trauma, and to illustrate the inadequacy of the martyr/whore binary as a representation of gender interaction. Though not contemporary to the early-modern period, modern psychological theories of trauma explain the behavior of characters that may seem counterintuitive to the audience. The ritual sacrifice of the pharmakon, a fixture of Greek tragedy, has value as a metaphor for the scapegoating of women in these plays. This thesis ultimately demonstrates that Medieval and Renaissance beliefs regarding women’s sexuality and agency inform current assumptions about their roles in Western society. Rape resulting from a woman’s beauty and a man’s entitlement is evident in the current #MeToo movement.