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Mandatory Fields
Electronic Article
Edel Semple
Playing the whore: performing and contextualising prostitution in The Three Ladies of London
Optional Fields
Early modern drama; prostitution; Elizabethan literature; gender studies; transgression; comedy; Tudor drama
This essay explores the literary and social contexts of prostitution in The Three Ladies of London. Drawing on a diverse range of texts from the sixteenth century (including sermons, moral treatises, educational tracts, and drama), I investigate how Wilson represents prostitution not only as a moral evil, but also as a particularly social and economic failing. By the conclusion of Three Ladies, each of the female characters is identified as sexually transgressive; but how exactly is Lucre identifiable as a whore, why does Conscience turn to brothel-keeping, and how does the newly-married Love degenerate into Lust? Ultimately, I suggest that Wilson drew on and helped to establish a series of interlinked social, linguistic, material, and performative markers to delineate and stage the whore and that Three Ladies thus contributed to the development of the whore as a figure of dramatic interest.
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