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Throughout the works of Shakespeare there are examples of women, especially wives, physically harming themselves and threatening violence to others as a way of proving themselves. My research explores how and why Shakespearean wives seek to prove their worthiness by physical acts of violence and how an early modern audience might have understood this. While there has been research about violence committed against Shakespearean women, there is little research on women utilizing violence as a method of proving their trustworthiness, loyalty, and bravery to men. These questions are particularly poignant when considered within the context of marriage. I use secondary literature to discuss instances in Shakespeare's works where wives use violence against themselves to prove their masculinity and trustworthiness, as well as communicate with their husbands. I also use primary source documents to discuss how early modern audiences viewed the trustworthiness of women and their use of violence. Ultimately, my research found that Shakespeare reinforced stereotypes about women's inconsistency.

Publication Date



Logan, UT


female stereotypes, physical harm, self-harm, Shakespeare


Arts and Humanities

Women's Self-Harm in Shakespeare