Becoming Youth: Coming of Age in Shakespeare and Marlowe

  • Author / Creator
    Prusko, Rachel
  • While studies in Renaissance childhoods, literary and historical, are becoming more prominent, this work has failed to distinguish between children and adolescents, leaving youth, as such, largely unexamined. My project attends not to the children of early modern drama, but to post-pubescent characters in their teen years, and argues that many plays literalize the ‘re-naissance’ of teenagers (‘adolescents’ or ‘youths’ in early modern England), reimagining what it meant to be young during a period when discourses surrounding youth were already clearly, yet crudely, defined. This thesis is a historicized analysis of young characters in several plays: Marlowe’s Edward II, and Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, Pericles, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest. I argue that these plays intervene in the standard definitions so frequently applied to teenagers during the early modern period. The perception, on the one hand, of youthful behavior as violent, reckless, and rash was commonplace: Protestant preachers and moralists of the day insisted that young people were naturally prone to sin, rebelliousness, and unruly behavior, and so required strict regulation. On the other hand, optimistic portrayals of youth abounded as well: the age of youth was associated with hope and beauty as often as it was with folly and sin. These dual perspectives were rudimentary types, broadly construed and indiscriminately applied. My dissertation works to account for the presence of highly nuanced, individuated, and agential teenaged figures in the plays of Shakespeare and Marlowe in the context of this widespread yet limited perception of youth. The literary text, I claim, both participates in and works to disable discourses of youth in the period.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of English and Film Studies
  • Specialization
    • English
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Hart, Jonathan (English and Film Studies)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Novy, Marianne (English, University of Pittsburgh)
    • Bowers, Rick (English and Film Studies)
    • Verdicchio, Massimo (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
    • Demers, Patricia (English and Film Studies)
    • Epp, Garrett (English and Film Studies)