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Virginity as Autonomy in Shakespeare's Pericles

FEB 15, 2018 | 6:00 PM TO 7:30 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




February 15, 2018: 6:00 PM-7:30 PM




Center for the Study of Women and Society


Virginity as Automony in Shakespeare's Pericles
Katharine Goodland 

In this talk I explore a perspective on female virginity that emerges in Pericles in the associations of Thaisa, Marina, and Pericles with the goddess Diana. The final recognition scene re-unites Pericles, Thaisa, and Marina at the temple of the Goddess Diana, which as F. Elizabeth Hart, shows, embodies a long history of potent goddess figures in this ancient city. I am particularly interested in exploring the power of the Virginal Maternal embodied in pre-Christian goddesses, defined, not as a mode of patriarchal oppression, but rather as an expression of female autonomy: as the woman’s power and freedom to choose her mate. In Pericles, both Thaisa and Maria choose their husbands. Pericles, in turn, remains loyal to Thaisa, and in his long period of mourning grows his hair long while praying to the goddess Diana in a way that recalls the male followers of earlier manifestations of the goddess. In the talk I consider as well other plays in which women choose their mates and conclude by suggesting another perspective on cuckoldry—one that emphasizes female social power and control rather than submission. My goal is to suggest additional ways of thinking about how Shakespeare represents female power within the patriarchal structure of his age.

Co-sponsored with the Society for the Study of Women in the Renaissance (SSWR) and the CUNY Academy for Humanities and Sciences.