Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Sara Munson Deats, PhD..


Prostitutes, Early modern England, Early modern drama, Anti-theatrical prejudice, Theater history


The works of William Shakespeare reflect the society in which he lived, and they can therefore be studied for the light they shed upon certain aspects of this society that may otherwise have been ignored or misrepresented by other surviving documents. This is especially true of prostitution. Women in this shifting English society were marginalized, and the prostitute occupied an especially precarious place since her profession identified her as an outsider, legally and morally. Surviving historical documents address the legality or morality of this institution, but fail to reveal how it was perceived by society as a whole. Shakespeare receives much praise for his keen observations of human behavior, so his plays can be seen as a type of historical document themselves. I am interested in how the characters of prostitutes function in his oeuvre and whether they uphold or subvert the attitudes implied by the other existing documents and scholarship on the topic.