The Crisis of Masculinity: Twins, Early Modern Medicine, and Drama, 1594-1655

POWELL, Louise Marie (2019). The Crisis of Masculinity: Twins, Early Modern Medicine, and Drama, 1594-1655. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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This thesis examines the representation of twins in three early modern medical works and eight dramatic texts which were published between 1594 and 1655 in relation to the idea of a crisis of masculinity. It will analyse the illustrations and descriptions of two people who shared the same birth in midwifery manuals by Eucharius Rösslin, Jacques Guillemeau, and Jakob Rüff alongside the twin characters of dramatic works. The plays range from the very well known to the relatively obscure, while the gender configuration of twin characters is split evenly between wholly male and mixed-gender twins. Chapter One examines William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors (1594) and William Ryder’s The Twins (1635), while Chapter Two focuses upon John Fletcher’s The Bloody Brother (c.1617) and Francis Quarles’ The Virgin Widow (c. 1639). John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi (1614) and John Ford’s The Broken Heart (1628/29) are analysed in Chapter Three, with Chapter Four exploring William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (1600/01) and John Fletcher’s Monsieur Thomas (c. 1610). Through these four chapters, I argue that gynaecological writers, medical illustrators, and playwrights all employed twins in order to highlight factors which could cause a devaluation in masculine identity. A singular view of masculinity, the practice of primogeniture, the notion that men who shared power were effeminate, and the connection between violence and masculinity are all suggested to have the potential to plunge this form of identity into crisis. At the same time as medical and dramatic twins suggest that a crisis of masculinity could destroy this form of identity, however, they also indicate that such an event could strengthen it if the right conditions existed. This thesis therefore demonstrates that early modern medical and dramatic representations of twins were used in order to acknowledge how masculinity was presently constructed, and how it might be constituted if ii attitudes and practices changed. It makes an original contribution to knowledge in that it is the first full-length study to analyse the way that medical and dramatic representations of twins related to early modern constructions of masculinity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Hopkins, Lisa
Additional Information: Director of studies: Lisa Hopkins
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
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Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2019 09:35
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2021 13:41

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