Document Type



Master of Arts



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Kurt Schreyer, Chairperson


Kurt Schreyer, Chairperson

Eamonn Wall

Kimberly Welch


The most interesting oddity about the Early Modern English stage is the overwhelming presence of the female form despite the obvious lack of female performers. Male actors performed female characters and sometimes those female characters were subversive and tested the boundaries of their constructed heteronormative society. A common comedic trope followed the crossdressed crossgendered heroine, or the boy actor dressed as women dressed as a man. This trope appears in the plays discussed in this thesis: Thomas Heywood’s Fair Maid of the West, Part 1 and John Lyly’s Gallathea. By adapting Michel de Certeau’s concept of space, wherein space is the practiced action of a place, I inspect both the physical and figurative spaces within plays that represent sites of anti-normativity that produces both queer gender and queer forms of love. Namely, these sites are a female owned and commanded pirate ship and the matriarchal interior of the forest. Within these spaces, queer gender and alternative love are performed and affirmed by their inhabitants. While interrogating the male-determined sexual economy and hierarchal patriarchal orders within each play, I seek to answer these questions: how do crossdressed crossgender characters occupy space within the geographies of the staged world they inhabit and how do these spaces represent cultural sites of queerness? To answer these questions, I explore the philology of gendered language, the one-sex medical theory, and disruptions in social class, social rank, and gender expression to trace the anti-normative behavior exhibited by the characters in question.