Gendered Madness in Early Modern Drama by Eve Green

Dublin Core


Gendered Madness in Early Modern Drama by Eve Green


Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies


Madness is a prevalent theme in Early Modern Drama, yet the Oxford English Dictionary’s (OED) definitions of madness in use during this time suggest that these portrayals of madness may be misunderstood by modern audiences without sufficient contextual knowledge. The OED’s definitions of madness suggest that men and women in Early Modern England may have been identified as mad as a result of their abandonment of traditional gender roles. This paper investigates these forms of madness in the characters of Bel-imperia and Hieronimo in Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (1580s), and Hamlet and Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1600s). Through comparing the portrayals of male and female madness respectively, this paper identifies similarities and gender tropes in these forms of nontraditional behavior resulting in madness: women in the early modern period appear to have been identified as mad when they play the role of truth teller, adopting the role of a man by claiming to possess important knowledge, and men are characterized as mad due to extreme displays of obsessive effeminate grief. This paper suggests that several instances of madness within Early Modern Drama need to be reclassified for contemporary audiences in order to ensure accurate modern portrayals of early modern madness as rejections of gender roles.


Eve Green


Senior Showcase Artistic presentation


Ripon College


April 17, 2018


The author reserves all rights.


Majors: English; Philosophy; Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies

Lane Cove, Australia
ARMs Capstone


Green Gendered madness 2018.pdf


Eve Green, “Gendered Madness in Early Modern Drama by Eve Green,” Senior Showcase Digital Collection, accessed June 21, 2024,

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