Susanna Centlivre: Successful chameleon

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Woodville, Katherine Elizabeth
Brooks, Christopher K.

Susanna Centlivre, active in the post Restoration Theater, wrote nineteen plays from 1700 to 1723. A few of her plays were popular until 1900, but thereafter fell into limbo. By studying three of her plays, The Perjur’d Husband, The Busy Body, and The Wonder, A Woman Keeps a Secret, one can decide whether she can receive the classification of a protofeminist. This topic is important in helping to trace the evolution of women’s writing, and their movement toward the development in the novel. One must understand the issues involved for women writers as they struggled for recognition in the field of literature. Centlivre’s history prior to 1700 remains shadowy. Her early life is oft repeated with little or no substantiation of the facts. The study of situations and characters in her plays reveal attitudes of the interactions between men and women. The ideas about forced marriages and paternal attitudes toward children reveal themselves through both comedy and sorrow. Though Centlivre married three times no children came from those marriages; the plays she wrote reflected the manners of those times. Assigning the arbitrary label of protofeminist or feminist to Centlivre at this time might place her into a genre from which she could not escape. She should receive the same treatment as any male writer: a fair and balanced approach to her words based on equality between the sexes.

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Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of English.