Comparing Evadne And Arethusa In The Maid's Tragedy

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In both plays, the females characters — Evadne and Arethusa — assume a more masculine role as warriors in the fight for love. However, in order to demonstrate that Evadne and Arethusa do act as warriors, a focused analysis on the feminization of their male lovers is first necessary because it leads to the circumstances that prompt Evadne and Arethusa to take action against the king. In the opening scene of The Maid’s Tragedy, the audience is informed of the awkward situation between Amintor, Aspatia, and Evadne. Amintor’s relationship with Aspatia, who, at one time, “had [Amintor’s] promise” (1.1.138) to marry, is set aside not by Amintor himself, but by the figure of the King. It is the King who “made [Amintor] make the worthy change” (1.1.139)…show more content…
In The Maid’s Tragedy, Evadne is tasked with killing the king by Melantius, who, despite having an entire army at his back, “will not fight” (3.2.232) against the king with brute force. However, while Evadne is charged with the task of murder by her brother, who threatens to make his “sword be [her] lover” (4.1.97), she, when asked by the king “what bloody villain provoked [her] to this murder” (5.1.104), replies with: “Thou, thou monster” (5.1.105). Evadne’s reply is significant because it allows her — “a woman” (5.1.128) — to assume the more active role in the plot against the King, with revolutionary consequences: she kills the king herself. Literary scholar, Peter Berek indicates that Evadne’s decision to take revenge “stands in notable contrast to the conspiratorial dithering of her brothers” (Berek 370) and the “clowning of Aspatia’s father” (370) because she decides that she “must kill him, / And that [she] will do’t bravely” (The Maid’s Tragedy 5.1.26-27). The fact that Evadne participates in “wars [that] are nak’d” (2.1.2) conflicts, which require her to “undress” (2.1.1) for “battle,” lends further credence to the idea that she is a warrior in play. The repeated emphasis on Evadne’s gender by the characters who find the king’s “stiff, wounded, and dead” (5.1.124) body reveals the unconventionality of her decision to kill the king in a place of intimacy: the bedchamber. In William Shullenberger’s “‘This For the Most Wrong’d of Women’: A Reappraisal of The Maid’s Tragedy,” he suggests that the murder of the king “gives a symbolic deathblow to the myth which has sacralized the figure of the king” (Shullenberger 155) and rendered the male characters incapable of taking action against him. Shullenberger’s suggestion indicates that Evadne, by virtue of her gender, is
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