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Humanities 2019, 8(1), 40;

The Gatekeeper within: Early Modern English Architectural Tropes of Female Consent

Department of English, Howard University, Washington, DC 20059, USA
Received: 2 December 2018 / Revised: 18 February 2019 / Accepted: 20 February 2019 / Published: 28 February 2019
PDF [225 KB, uploaded 28 February 2019]


This essay maps out a constellation of early modern English feminine gatekeeper tropes that represent female sexual consent and imagine a gendered Cartesian dualism. This trope’s inherent mind–body divide grants the female subject’s mind a greater measure of rationality and autonomy from the body than other early modern discourses of feminine virtue, such as humoralism. However, it can also undercut feminine agency in self-regulation by placing all the responsibility and blame on the woman’s mind in cases of sexual harrassment and assault. Hadrian Dorrell’s Avisa, Shakespeare’s Lucrece, Thomas Heywood’s Jane Shore, and Christopher Marlowe’s Hero represent a spectrum of feminine mental complicity in extramarital sex, yet their mental “gatekeepers” are all suspected of failure. Shakespeare’s Juliet and Cressida literalize this gatekeeper trope and render it a material allegory when they negotiate with male suitors at literal portals on stage, a window and a chamber door. Examining the extraordinary pressures put on feminine “gatekeeper” minds in early modern texts allows us to discern contemporary willingness to blame the victims of sexual assault. View Full-Text
Keywords: early modern women; chastity; rape; consent; architecture; Shakespeare early modern women; chastity; rape; consent; architecture; Shakespeare
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Oh, E. The Gatekeeper within: Early Modern English Architectural Tropes of Female Consent. Humanities 2019, 8, 40.

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