Reading Performance, Reading Gender: Early Encounters with Beaumont and Fletcher’s The Scornful Lady in Print

Simon Smith, Lucy Munro (contributing editor)


This essay investigates Francis Beaumont’s seventeenth-century afterlife through material evidence left by early readers. Taking his immensely popular collaboration with John Fletcher, The Scornful Lady, as a test case, it traces patterns of shared interest and attention in different readers’ engagements with the play in quarto. Considering commonplacing habits, readers’ marks, and preparations for performance from a printed text, the article emphasizes fluidity between page- and stage-based engagements with drama in the seventeenth century. It also argues for the perhaps surprising receptiveness of Beaumont and Fletcher’s drama to readers’ reflections on and interrogations of gendered expectations, particularly regarding public female decorum.

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