Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Dr. Mary Moore

Second Advisor

Edmund Tuft

Third Advisor

Dr. Nancy Lang

Fourth Advisor

Leonard J. Deutsch


Christopher Marlowe's plays reflect the changing concepts of gender found within the time he wrote them, as Elizabethan England struggled with the contradictions between the ancient, rigid gender roles embodied in the Petrarchan model and the paradox of a female monarch who rejected all suitors. This struggle, coupled with the rising popularity of the companionate marriage that itself implied some degree of sexual equality, challenged fundamental patriarchal assumptions about gender, property, even government, and critical thinkers like Marlowe infused their works with ideas from the debates of the day. Marlowe's early plays, especially Tamburlaine I & II, reflect a masculocentric world-view that treasures and eroticizes male relationships while marginalizing, if not ignoring altogether, male-female relations and female status in general. Edward II and the anomalous Dido, Queen of Carthage, however, are the products of a mind struggling with questions of gender, from the cunning of Isabella in the former to the queen who dominates Aeneas and threatens the order of heaven itself in the latter. Indeed, I contend that Dido ranks as one the most revolutionary characters in Renaissance drama, one who not only challenges but overturns gender roles, dominating the males in her world with as much power as Tamburlaine wields in his. Marlowe creates something in Isabella and especially Dido that history has no context for, that Aristotle and most Renaissance dramatists alike would dismiss as improbable, if not impossible: the tragic heroine


Women in literature.

Marlowe, Christopher, -- 1564-1593 – Characters – Women.

Marlowe, Christopher, -- 1564-1593 – Criticism and interpretation.