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The Dynamics of Inheritance on the Shakespearean Stage
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Early modern England's system of patrilineal inheritance, in which the eldest son inherited his father's estate and title, was one of the most significant forces affecting social order in the period. Demonstrating that early modern theatre played a unique and vital role in shaping how inheritance was understood, Michelle M. Dowd explores some of the common contingencies that troubled this system: marriage and remarriage, misbehaving male heirs, and families with only daughters. Shakespearean drama helped question and reimagine inheritance practices, making room for new formulations of gendered authority, family structure, and wealth transfer. Through close readings of canonical and non-canonical plays by Shakespeare, Webster, Jonson, and others, Dowd pays particular attention to the significance of space in early modern inheritance and the historical relationship between dramatic form and the patrilineal economy. Her book will interest researchers and students of early modern drama, Shakespeare, gender studies, and socio-economic history.


'… pays particularly close attention to spatial discourse as a theatrical mode of expressing the historical pressures and exigencies shaping sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English patriarchal and patrilineal economies. … Dowd’s study also reminds us that spatial discourse offers an underappreciated archive for rethinking the kinds of cultural work accomplished by the dynamics of early modern drama.'

Mark Albert Johnston Source: Renaissance and Reformation

'The Dynamics of Inheritance on the Shakespearean Stage generates new kinds of questions while employing a sound and sophisticated form of both/and reasoning that Dowd proves the topic demands. … Dowd’s feminist methodology is a welcome intervention into the arguably patrilineal terrain of Jonson studies. Dowd’s research and the arguments she advances about the drama unlock the once open-and-shut case of primogeniture.'

Ann C. Christensen Source: Modern Philology

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