The Female Academy

The Female Academy


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When Margaret Cavendish published her first collection of dramatic work in 1662, she was keenly aware that none of her comedies or tragedies was unlikely to be acted, at least in her lifetime--but that did not deter her. "To those that do delight in scenes and wit / I dedicate my book," she writes at the beginning of the volume entitled, simply, "Plays."

As for the hard reality that her plays were not to be produced? She has an answer for that as well: "For all the time my plays a-making were, / My brain the stage, my thoughts were acting there."

"The Female Academy," the last play in her 1662 collection, opens with a fait accompli-a group of "old matrons" has established an educational institution devoted exclusively to the education of young women, "a house wherein a company of young ladies are instructed . . . to speak wittily and rationally, . . . to behave themselves handsomely, and to live virtuously."

In this play, Cavendish presents the Female Academy as an institution created by women, inhabited solely by women, and operated for the benefit of women. The play also allows us to see the reactions of men, excluded from the Female Academy. Instead of ignoring the school, or wishing its young pupils well in their educational pursuits, men can't stay away-they hang around and spy on what's going on through "a large open grate" that allows them to hear the lectures being given inside. The play alternates scenes between the young women inside the Female Academy and the increasingly frustrated men in the outside world.

This new edition, designed for classroom use, provides an ample introduction to Cavendish and her work, a carefully modernized text, with helpful glosses and notes, and a useful bibliography with references for further reading.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780692853238
Publisher: Saltar's Point Press
Publication date: 05/08/2017
Pages: 182
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.42(d)

About the Author

Sharon L. Jansen is Professor Emerita of English, Pacific Lutheran University, and the author most recently of an edition of Margaret Cavendish's "The Convent of Pleasure," of Mary Astell's "A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, and of "Reading Women's Worlds from Christine de Pizan to Doris Lessing.

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