Girl Culture in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

Contradicting previous scholarly assumptions about the early modern stage as male-dominated, Deanne Williams explores girls’ participation in medieval religious drama, Tudor civic pageants and royal entries, Elizabethan country house entertainments, and Stuart court and household masques. This book situates its historical study of the girl actor within the wider contexts of “girl culture,” including girls as singers, translators and authors. By examining the impact of the girl actor on constructions of girlhood in the work of Shakespeare – whose girl characters register and evoke the power of the performing girl – Girl Culture in the Middle Ages and Renaissance argues that girls’ dramatic, musical and literary performances actively shaped medieval and early modern culture.


Shakespeare and the Performance of Girlhood

This is the first scholarly study devoted to Shakespeare’s girl characters and conceptions of girlhood. It charts the development of Shakespeare’s treatment of the girl as a dramatic and literary figure, and explores the impact of Shakespeare’s girl characters on the history of early modern girls as performers, patrons, and authors

Articles and Book Chapters

  1. “The Girl Player, The Virgin Mary, and Romeo and Juliet.” Playing and Playgoing in Early Modern England. ed. Simon Smith and Emma Whipday. Cambridge University Press, 2022: 77-98. Link
  2. “Chastity, Speech, and the Girl Masquer.” Childhood, Education, and the Stage in Early Modern England. ed. Deanne Williams and Richard Preiss. Cambridge University Press, 2017: 162-183 Link
  3. “Shakespeare and the Girl Masquer.” Shakespeare Studies 44 (2016): 203-229 Link
  4. “Prospero’s Girls.” Girls and Girlhood in Adaptations of Shakespeare. Special issue of Borrowers and Lenders. The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation 9 (2014) Link
  5. “Isabelle de France: Child Bride.” French Connections in the English Renaissance ed. Hassan Melehy and Catherine Gimelli Martin. Ashgate, 2013: 27-50. Link

Coming Soon!

“Hrotswitha of Gandersheim, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, and Humanist Girlhood.” New Approaches to Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Shakespeare International Yearbook, 2023.