This essay investigates how the introduction of women onto the early modern Spanish stage disrupted patriarchal norms, as actresses often dressed, acted, and spoke as men, as they engaged in extemporaneous speech, and as female audiences gave voice in the theatre. Influenced by Italian commedia dell’arte, Spanish drama followed the commedia use of extemporaneous speech and female cross-dressing, that allowed women to act as men, with all the attendant freedoms usually barred women. The segregation the audience by gender far from containing the female audience instead enabled a powerful voice. As a case study to consider how women used the space of the theatre to negotiate their place in the world and to explore the limits and possibilities of gender, I turn to Tirso de Molina’s El vergonzoso en palacio [The Shy Man at Court], a play that features both female transvestism and monologues that suggest extemporaneous speech.
Amy L. Tigner (email@example.com) is assistant professor of English at the University of Texas, Arlington. Author of Literature and the Renaissance Garden from Elizabeth I to Charles II: England’s Paradise (2012), she has published in Modern Drama, English Literary Renaissance, Drama Criticism, and Milton Quarterly. Tigner is the founding editor of the online Early Modern Studies Journal (formerly Early English Studies), and is working on three projects: a monograph, From the Garden to the Kitchen: Early Modern Horticultural, Culinary, and Literary Practices, a co-authored book entitled Literature and Food Studies with Allison Carruth, and a collection with David B. Goldstein, Culinary Shakespeare.
Tigner, Amy L..
'The Spanish Actress’s Art: Improvisation, Transvestism, and Disruption in Tirso’s El vergonzoso en palacio'.
15.1 (2012). Article 9.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/earlytheatre/vol15/iss1/9