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Research reveals female characters took centre stage in Tudor theatres

Leading female characters were commonplace in plays before Shakespeare, reveals academic Dr Andy Kesson on PRI's The World Radio on Friday 24th February.

Posted: 1 March 2017

image for news story Research reveals female characters took centre stage in Tudor theatres
Dr Andy Kesson

Roehampton academic Dr Kesson has identified that female main characters were popular in Tudor and early Elizabethan plays. Several of the first surviving plays are named after female protagonists, a contrast to later plays written by Shakespeare, and had female centric plots. Unlike his predecessors, Shakespeare only included female characters in the title of two plays, in both cases placed after their male counterpart.

Whilst the plays were previously known about it, this is the first time the trend in naming plays after female characters has been spotted. John Lyly was a prominent playwright who contributed to this phenomenon with his plays including Sapho and Phao and Gallathea. This discovery is part of a wider project, Before Shakespeare, led by Dr Kesson, and is the first of its kind to research the earliest playhouses and theatres in their own right.

The radio programme 'Theater before Shakespeare' first aired on Friday 24th February on PRI's The World. The podcast is available to listen to here.

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