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Grant number like: FB-54876-10

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Pamela Allen Brown
University of Connecticut (Stamford, CT 06901-2315)

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2010 – 7/31/2011

Extravagant Stranger: The Foreign Actress and Shakespearean Drama

In the 1580s, eighty years before the first Englishwomen began to act on the professional stage, characters resembling foreign divas made their debuts in English plays. Spurred by the rapid rise of the Italian actress in the mixed-gender commedia dell'arte, Shakespeare and others responded by inventing the diva type and exploiting her potential. Because of this innovation, female roles played by boys and youths expanded enormously in length, importance, and emotional and intellectual range. Many plays central to the canon, such as Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, Merchant of Venice, and Twelfth Night feature the complex theatricality of Italianate foreign women in comic and tragic scenes stressing their histrionic skill and versatility. As a result English drama advanced beyond earlier forms of drama, an innovation that allowed major female characters such as Cleopatra and Rosalind to emerge and seize center stage.