Autocratic and immature, the term ‘wilful’ has a certain double edge: applied perjoratively to a child, it conveys headstrong, obstinate, self-willed. But used in a wider context it also implies strength, autonomy, decisive action. A person who performs ‘wilful’ actions intends them deliberately, not accidentally. In this chapter I argue that the ‘wilful woman’ is a central female image in our theatrical canon; an image riven by its own double edged meaning of adult strength and childish obstinacy; a source of anarchy, an attack on the status quo, and therefore traditionally presented as an ‘evil woman’. Additionally, there is a subtext to the term ‘wilful’ in the world of the theatrical patriarchy which views women simply as children, at times uncontrollable and destructive, incapable of maturity and adultness.
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