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“An Host of Enemies Entered My Citadel / Could Not Amaze Like This”: The Woman Question and Politics in The Changeling

Seoul National University the Journal of Humanites
Journal of Humanities
Publication Date
  • 여성문제
  • 정치
  • 순결
  • 여성의 욕망과 성
  • 여성성
  • Linguistics
  • Political Science


The recent critics tend to see The Changeling as either an attack on political rule, or as a reflection of the contemporary patriarchal ideology. In these views, The Changeling demystifies state power and ideology, and in doing so more aggressively exercises male patriarchal authority. Reading against these perspectives, this study proposes that The Changeling, a play influenced by the history of Frances Howard, discloses the matrix of assumptions that conditioned the way her contemporaries saw her. Middleton and Rowley use domestic tragedy in order to discusses the conflicts and tensions in sex, marriage and femininity based on the analogy between family and state. Thus they reveal the politics of patriarchy that dictated the manner in which she was represented as an epitome of female villainy, malicious, irrational and lustful. Also they expose the complicit premises on which family and kingdom were founded. In The Changeling, Beatrice, who is blamed for her irrational sexual desire by male characters, tries to guard her familial honor. She is a woman who internalizes the ideology of a contemporary patriarchal society that is obsessed with preserving women’s chastity as both a symbolic value of her family and a map of the integrity of the state. Through Beatrice, Middleton and Rowley reveal the contradictory patriarchal discourses that defined woman as a lascivious whore, yet required her to be chaste. Moreover, her success in the chastity test and the barrenness of the happy conclusion after her death show that the politics of patriarchy that contradictorily defines femininity brings society to a crisis.

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