Review Of “The Arrival Of The Actress” By Elizabeth Howe

April 15, 2022 by Essay Writer

This week, I chose to read Elizabeth Howe’s article “The Arrival of the Actress”. The portion of the article that stood out to me the most was the discussion regarding the fact that there has been great deal of confusion as to exactly what solidified women’s place onstage during the 17th century: “…while a lack of suitable boys may have precipitated an abrupt change to actresses, this does not explain why the change was considered desirable in the first place”. It seems as though women were thrust upon the stage both to follow the trend in Spain, France, and Italy admired by the royals as well as to draw in an audience to witness this previously taboo sight.

Exploring Howe’s article highlighted the interactions between men and women as I read The Country Wife. Just as Howe’s article left the impression that women were used simply to mimic other countries and attract audiences, they are objectified by men consistently, but really, what’s new? The objectification does not solely present itself in a bawdy way, but also as a system of exchange between the men of the play: through women, men acquire both relationships with and dominance over other men. Power shifts as women remain passive, being strategically used to benefit male allegiance or even instill fear. In Act I, Hoerner discusses Pinchwife’s recent marriage with him. In the same scene, fearing that Hoerner will cuckold him should he come into contact with his wife, Pinchwife does all he can to deter Hoerner from Margery: “No, no, she has no beauty but her youth, no attraction but her modesty. Homely and housewifely, that’s all. She’s too awkward, ill-favored and silly to bring to Town.” At the simple mention of the woman in Pinchwife’s life, Hoerner is able to assert dominance and instill fear. It is as though he is playing with his food. The conquest of the woman might not even be nearly as satisfying as backing her husband into a corner and watching him squirm: “But was it thy wife? She was exceedingly pretty. I was in love with her at that distance.” Horner cleverly heightens Pinchwife’s paranoia while knowing the majority of the husbands believe him to be harmless in his rumored impotence.

Just as uncertainty about the reasoning behind placing women onstage exists, so it does in regard to where Hoerner gains the most pleasure. He is not simply out to bed women, but he carefully curates his use of women and words, masquerading as an underdog, to implicate his own dominance over the women’s husbands.

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