It’s complicated: The rhetorical uses of cross-dressing in Restoration closet drama written by aristocratic women



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The use of closet drama as a mode of theatrical writing gained significant popularity during the London theater closure of 1642-1660. After the ban had been lifted, several writers still chose to use this form for their dramatic writing. In looking at the different ways that cross-dressing is used in Cavendish’s The Convent of Pleasure (1668) and Finch’s The Triumphs of Love and Innocence (1688), we begin to see the complex attitudes of aristocratic women regarding the sociopolitical conversation of the seventeenth-century. While each woman uses the trope of cross-dressing in different ways throughout their plays, cross-dressing serves as a method of experimentation for Cavendish and Finch to question the heteronormative practices of the Restoration. In choosing two authors whose plays are often overlooked in favor of their poetry, my goal is to fill a gap that has been created and investigate the rhetorical importance of their dramatic writings.



Anne Finch, Margaret Cavendish, Closet drama, Restoration, Drama, Feminism