The previous chapter presented dramatic and polemical texts that offer insight into conceptions of masculinity among early modern men of different social strata. In this chapter, I consider how female duellists were represented in the drama and what we can learn about cultural expectations from the dramatic convention of cross-dressed characters and their frequent use of the sword.1 As Stephen Greenblatt has commented, “a culture’s sexual discourse plays a critical role in the shaping of identity. It does so by helping to implant in each person a system of dispositions and orientations that governs individual improvisations” (SN 75). As a dramatic representation, I would argue, each instance of the cross-dressed duellist in these plays functions as both an individual improvisation and as part of a system of orientations.


Male Character Female Character Social Rank Early Modern Period Individual Improvisation 
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© Jennifer Low 2003

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  • Jennifer Low

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