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Title page for ETD etd-08162011-124355

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Pellarin, Erin Michelle
URN etd-08162011-124355
Title Taming Shrews: Performative Speech Before the Act of 1606
Degree Master of Arts
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Leah Marcus Committee Chair
  • performative speech
  • cursing
  • cencorship
Date of Defense 2011-08-05
Availability unrestricted
In 1606, an Act was passed in the English Parliament that prohibited speaking the name of God or the Holy Trinity onstage. This paper examines the anxieties that this Act revealed, particularly anxieties over the use and efficacy of performative speech, especially women’s speech and curses. In tracing these anxieties, this paper traces how the Act changed how performative speech was used and portrayed in plays written both before and after the Act. The paper examines Taming of a Shrew and Taming of the Shrew as similar texts whose main differences stem from the pressures of the Act, the later text taking care to more fully control Katherine’s dangerous performative speech. The paper then examines how cursing is dealt with differently in Arden of Faversham (1592) and The Witch of Edmonton (1621); in the former text some kind of cursing is allowed, although performative language is rendered as ultimately dangerous, while in the later text cursing is shown to be a conclusive means to damnation. Finally, the paper examines how effective the Act really was—while it may have curbed religious cursing onstage it did not manage to curb the power of performative language; instead, it only highlighted this power.
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