Amanda Howar

Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2018

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


English, Linguistics, and Communication

Department Chair or Program Director

Richards, Gary

First Advisor

Mathur, Maya

Major or Concentration



The Restricted Agency of Women in Arden of Faversham and The Spanish Tragedy

Amanda Howar

ENGL 447N: Renaissance Drama Seminar Sponsoring Faculty: Dr. Maya Mathur

This project looks at the restrictions placed on two early modern female characters: Alice Arden in Arden of Faversham (1592) and Bel-Imperia in The Spanish Tragedy (1589). In the paper, it argues that the female characters combat these restrictions through rhetorical and sexual manipulation, which gives them agency for a limited period of time. Alice Arden gains agency through rhetorical manipulation that pits people against her husband, Arden, and gives them opportunities to kill him. She also challenges the traditional belief in monogamy by defending her right to a relationship with Mosby, her lover. Like Alice, Bel-Imperia uses rhetorical manipulation in order to avoid marriage and avenge the death of her lovers, Don Andrea and Horatio. Her success is clear when she manages to kill Balthazar, the Portuguese Prince who murdered her lovers and wishes to marry her. The women are ultimately bound by societal conventions and are punished for their agency by death. While Alice and Bel-Imperia were able to use their agency to enable the murders of two men, their deaths show how quickly the patriarchal authorities in these plays work to keep women in their place.