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posted on 17.06.2022, 03:42 by Priyanka Roy

This thesis explores women’s anger in Shakespeare’s plays. Anger, and its intensive form, rage can effectively highlight women’s justified anger at unfair treatment and injustice. In the early modern period, gender and class-coded humoural theory and courtesy manuals influenced the idea of temperance in conduct, resulting in a negative view of women’s fury. The early modern discourse of anger control further marginalised women’s anger by classifying women’s righteous rage in the category of uncontrollable passions, whereas anger was seen as a normal, even necessary, emotion in men. Women’s anger can reveal vital innermost desires of women since anger propels a subject to act in a specific manner which in turn points to anger’s agential powers. The misogynistic views of women’s anger, in currency during the early modern period, need to be interrogated. Dismissing women’s anger as an overreaction or anger for anger’s sake sidelines anger’s power to initiate change and reform. It is thus imperative to study women’s anger for its feminist implications for the audience and highlight how anger is connected to women’s subjectivity and agency.

In this genre-based study, I closely examine selected Shakespearean comedies (Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing and Measure for Measure), histories (Henry VI, Parts 1, 2, and 3 and Richard III), tragedies (Titus Andronicus, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra) and romances (Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest) to explore how anger and rage are expressed through verbal and gestural elements in these plays. I investigate the discourse of anger control, humoural theory, early modern medical and philosophical texts and conduct literature to study how these construe women’s anger. This thesis is situated within an intersectional feminist framework, in which I have employed theoretical tools from affect theory, cognition studies, history of emotion and theatre studies, to examine the empowering qualities of women’s anger. As part of my methodology, I consider how women’s anger is represented in contemporary productions using critical elements from emotion and gesture studies. I conducted interviews with theatre practitioners from the Royal Shakespeare Company, Bell Shakespeare, American Shakespeare Center and Pop-Up Globe, and learnt the role directorial vision, actor’s interpretation and production theme play in the performance of women’s anger. I also organised a facilitated workshop through which I demonstrated how affective gestures can make visible women’s anger on stage. My original contribution to knowledge is that I posit women’s anger has agency, and demonstrate how affective gestures of anger play a critical role in revealing the loss, pain and rage of women in Shakespeare’s plays.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

130104 The performing arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

3 Applied research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre, Media Studies and Art History


O'Donnell, David; Wenley, James