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Professor discusses women’s role in Shakespearean theatre in British Library article

Professor Clare McManus explores the history of women’s performance in Shakespearean plays in a special article for the British Library to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.

Posted: 30 March 2016

In the article, which is for the British Library's new Shakespeare in Ten Acts exhibition, Professor of Early Modern Literature and Theatre, Clare McManus argues that although in Shakespeare’s day female parts were played by male actors, his plays have always been shaped by women’s theatricality.

Professor McManus said: “Shakespeare’s theatre has always involved women, in one way or other. He wrote his plays against the backdrop of women’s performances in masques at the royal court and moments in his plays such as Ophelia’s mad-scene in Hamlet or Desdemona’s Willow Song in Othello respond to the famous Italian actresses who were touring the continent and London at the time of his writing.”

Professor McManus acted as an advisor for the British Library exhibition, Shakespeare in Ten Acts. The exhibition focuses on landmark moments in Shakespearean theatre, such as the first appearance of a woman in a Shakespeare role in 1660 and the first British performance of Othello by a black actor in 1825.

You can read Professor McManus’ article, Shakespeare and Gender: The Woman’s Part in full here.

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