Thesis (Ph.D)

The Woman in the Moon: the Moon as a Dramatic Character in the Works of John Lyly and William Shakespeare


This thesis looks at the moon as a dramatic character in the works of John Lyly, William Shakespeare, and Shakespeare in collaboration. The thesis contextualizes these playwrights’ moon-characters within a broader trajectory of the moon as a dramatic character over the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Using early modern cosmological theory, this thesis regards the moon-character through its connection to the material moon and the moon’s spatial relationship with the earth. It demonstrates how this character, as developed by Lyly and Shakespeare, has the potential to occupy a stance apart from the social and relational practices encoded onto what is presented as earthly and ‘natural’ within drama. It specifically focuses on how the moon-character, through the act of encountering other characters on the stage, can have a transformative effect on the social practice of marriage or heterosexual monogamy. Using Gérard Genette’s theory of ‘hypertextuality’, this thesis looks comparatively at the work of Lyly and Shakespeare and regards the two playwrights in relationship with one another.1 Through analysis of Lyly’s The Woman in the Moon (c. 1588), Galatea (c. 1584), and Endymion: the Man in the Moon (c. 1588), the thesis shows how Lyly expands upon the established theatrical figure of the moon-character to create a dramatic character that poses a range of resistances to hegemonic relational, sexual, and gendered practices. Through analysis of As You Like It (c. 1600), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (c. 1595), Pericles: Prince of Tyre (c. 1607), and The Two Noble Kinsmen (c. 1613), the thesis demonstrates how these plays of Shakespeare (and collaborators George Wilkins and John Fletcher) look back specifically to Lyly’s moon-character and self-consciously foreclose its oppositional potential. The thesis takes a historicist approach to the analysis of moon-characters in these plays but it also scrutinizes the role that the moon-character has played in the process of literary canonization. The thesis asks why Lyly has himself been confined to the moon in criticism while Shakespeare has been exonerated. It demonstrates how analysis of the moon-character can shed light on the continuing relationship between cultural hegemony and social orthodoxy.

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Bradley, Hester


Supervisors: Bartleet, Carina ; Lowe, Eleanor; Craik, Katharine

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of English and Modern Languages
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences


Year: 2019

© Bradley, Hester
Published by Oxford Brookes University
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