Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Mario DiGangi

Committee Members

Thomas Hayes

Joseph Wittreich

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


During the early modern period intimacy was neither well-defined nor discussed in the drama in the way that we do today. My dissertation is an examination of the paradoxical nature of intimacy in Renaissance drama and the impact of space on this intimacy. I am looking at the behavior of married couples and same-sex couples within the home during the early modern period. To elucidate my theory of intimacy I have chosen the plays: Christopher Marlowe's Edward II, Thomas Heywood's A Woman Killed With Kindness, William Shakespeare's Cymbeline, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, and John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi. Intimacy in my dissertation is different from two people being alone or the idea of privacy. Intimacy is based as well as promises knowledge of self, loved ones (wife/friend), of social hierarchy (status relations). In all of the chosen plays women are victims within their homes. In almost all of the plays the heroine dies and the husband or male kin is directly or indirectly responsible for her death.

Space, too, plays an important part in my dissertation. Public and private spaces impact the development of intimacy in the plays. The open household is a problematic space at this historical moment. The plays are centered around the openness of the female body and openness of the early modern household. I will show that there is a relationship between the open household and the penetrability of women's bodies usually by men who are outsiders. Palaces in the plays are viewed as public spaces but are also private spaces for those who dwell within. Defining public and private spaces becomes problematic in the plays because early moderns are now creating private spaces for themselves and are utilizing these new spaces for personal, intimate purposes. Moreover, there is a blurring of private and public spaces within the plays. I will also demonstrate that the household is not a safe space for women who are often denied the use of private spaces. Cultural differences, too, impacts the development of intimate relationships between characters in the plays. Also, the theme of male guests violating their hostess is a recurring one in the plays suggesting a cry for cultural changes. Women should be better protected in their homes and the open household should be better fortified against preying male guests. I will also elucidate how notions of public and private affect the development and outcomes of the plays. Additionally, I analyze the issues that historically and culturally contribute to the paradox of public-private intimacy, as well as the kinds of spaces that promote or disrupt intimacy in the plays.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.