Chastising Female Chastity: Social Criticisms of Female Virtue in Cyril Tourneur's "The Revenger's Tragedy," Thomas Middleton's "The Second Maiden's Tragedy," and Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher's "The Maid's Tragedy"
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The objective of this analysis is to chronicle the idealization and subsequent deprecation of the chaste Renaissance woman in three seventeenth century revenge tragedies. This paper first explores Renaissance society's expectations for female chastity and examines how these rigidly defined rules for maidens and wives were once strictly enforced by men. Cyril Tourneur's "&Idquo The Revenger's Tragedy &rdquo" illustrates this obsession with protecting female virtue in a world where women were beginning to break free from the constraints of strict gender and sexual codes of behavior. Next, this paper segues into a discussion of how societal corruption threatens the existence of this romanticized female figure. In Thomas Middleton's "The Second Maiden's Tragedy ", the only truly moral woman cannot live a pure life in her sinful surroundings while a formerly virtuous woman learns that guidelines for chastity are useless and worthy of mockery. From there, this piece then examines the eventual disappearance of female chastity in a decadent world that no longer upholds the same moral values. After studying Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher's "&Idquo The Maid's Tragedy rdquo," it is clear that this model of female perfection has faded into oblivion, replaced by women who care more about their needs and desires than their virtue. Finally, this thesis considers what social factors motivated women to rebel from these traditional gender conventions and how Renaissance society was forced to reevaluate its views of women.