Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Jessie Mills

Reader 2

Jennifer Chang

Reader 3

Tessie Prakas

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2021 Olivia R. Silva


While revered and idolized, Queen Elizabeth I’s unmarried status throughout her reign increased anxieties surrounding succession amongst the 16th century British public. Amidst a continental debate surrounding the Querelle des Femmes, or “the woman question", that attempted to label female roles within societal and political spheres, Elizabeth was infamously defined by her unconventionality as both a monarch and a woman. These succession and patriarchal anxieties not only influenced but were actively played out in Shakespeare’s canon, particularly in his comedies. Shakespeare used the Unconventional Woman trope within his comedies in creating certain female characters, all of their endings concluding in a marriage or relationship of some sort. While not ever confirmed, some believe that a reason for this was to send a message to Elizabeth and to give the British people some sort of closure in incorporating patriarchal and political values into his works. The historical context and literary analysis unpacked in this thesis lead into performing as Beatrice, one of Shakespeare’s most famous Unconventional Women, in Pomona College's production of Much Ado About Nothing. It also explores how this background information affected and strengthened the experience of performing, particularly over a virtual format during the pandemic.

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