© 2014

Shakespeare and the Performance of Girlhood


Part of the Palgrave Shakespeare Studies book series (PASHST)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Introduction: Girls Included!

    1. Deanne Williams
      Pages 1-17
  3. Shakespeare’s Girls

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 19-19
    2. Deanne Williams
      Pages 21-51
    3. Deanne Williams
      Pages 52-72
    4. Deanne Williams
      Pages 73-91
    5. Deanne Williams
      Pages 92-124
  4. Stages of Girlhood

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 125-125
    2. Deanne Williams
      Pages 127-148
    3. Deanne Williams
      Pages 149-169
  5. Writing Girls

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 171-171
    2. Deanne Williams
      Pages 173-188
    3. Deanne Williams
      Pages 189-207
  6. Conclusion: Girlhood After Shakespeare’s Heroines

  7. Back Matter
    Pages 211-277

About this book


This is the first scholarly study devoted to Shakespeare's girl characters and conceptions of girlhood. It charts the development of Shakespeare's treatment of the girl as a dramatic and literary figure, and explores the impact of Shakespeare's girl characters on the history of early modern girls as performers, patrons, and authors.


concept dancing drama France history history of literature knowledge patrons performance play William Shakespeare

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishYork UniversityTorontoCanada

About the authors

Deanne Williams is Associate Professor of English at York University in Toronto, Canada. Her previous books include The French Fetish from Chaucer to Shakespeare (2004), Postcolonial Approaches to the European Middle Ages: Translating Cultures, edited with Ananya Jahanara Kabir (2005), and The Afterlife of Ophelia, edited with Kaara Peterson (2012).

Bibliographic information


“Williams’ book emerges as an original and engaging contribution to the current critical conversation around childhood and youth in early modern literary studies. … Williams’ argument that girlhood is an unstable category constituted through performance is ultimately persuasive, and the strengths of her book are many: it is lucid and compelling, a work of great breadth and impressive scholarship, and a truly absorbing read.” (Rachel Prusko, Medieval & Renaissance Drama in England, Vol. 30, 2017)

“Shakespeare and the Performance of Girlhood opens new doors for future studies of the legacy of Shakespeare and childhood. It is a text invested in Shakespeare studies, social histories, literary theory, and feminist studies that advances each of these fields. Williams’s analyses and contextualizations of the works in question offer original ways of understanding the girls in Shakespeare’s works and how such works went on to influence the modern understanding of girls and girlhood.” (M. Tyler Sasser, Early Theatre, Vol. 19 (1), June, 2016)

“Williams adds valuable information to the history of girls and performance–in medieval entertainments and community festivals, in convent productions, in court masques and closet dramas, and as playwrights and public performers on the Restoration stage. Her book would be of interest and use to any scholar in the field of early modern gender and drama, but the writing is accessible and clear enough for general readers and undergraduate students as well.” (Laura Schechter, English Studies in Canada, Vol. 42 (1), 2016)

“Shakespeare and the Performance of Girlhood offers an original approach and an important contribution to the existing literature on Shakespeare and woman's history... The findings in this study help enrich the notion of (young) women as participants in and contributors to their local and national cultures in relation and at times in contrast to the representation of girls in plays written by male authors. The study of Jacobean girl dramatists who staged and performed images of family life in the contexts of their own households will be of particular interest to scholars and students of early modern drama and social history.” (Nadia T. van Pelt, Journal of the Northern Renaissance, Vol. 7, 2015)

“Richly researched and persuasively written... [Williams] opens up fresh perspectives for further research in 'the rich history of girls on stage' that she so elegantly explores in this volume.” (Janice Valls-Russell, Cahiers Élisabéthain, Vol. 87, Spring 2015)