Done by Mary and Velvet


Spy period:

Can we say that A.B was inspired to write a play about the power that disguises provide, having been an ex spy? I would say definitely so. Doubtlessly, that is not the only point that she would like to make, but the power of disguise is certainly an essential aspect of the play.

Thus, we can parallel AB’s play’s crucial theme of Disguise with her life as an ex-spy, which involves putting on a charade everyday of her life when she was one.


Women and disguise:

Florinda and Hellena end their discussion of their oppressed lives with an act of resistance- going out in disguise to join the carnival celebrations.  The anonymity made possible by the carnival disguise allows them to be temporarily free and do as they desire, namely to participate in the public spheres.

Disguise somewhat also drives the plot and allows the young women to meet the men they will marry.

Question: What does it say about disguise and freedom? Also, is too much freedom a bad thing? Where does it show in the play?

Hellena’s adoption of a male disguise: Why did Hellena choose to disguise herself as a man rather than a “public woman”, etc?

Perhaps it can be said that she uses male disguise to avoid some of the problems encountered by masked women, such as being approached for sex. She is also able to bring messages to Willmore, and talk to men openly thus gaining insights about their characters.

Conversely, why did Florinda not choose a male disguise?

The role of the Mask:

In 1660s, women started wearing masks when they attend the theatre. Subsequently, when prostitutes also started to wear masks, the distinctionss between respectable women and prostitutes became blurred. The mask becomes a sign associated with an offer of anonymity, where freedom is offered from conventional roles.

It is both a subversvie and liberating object for [women] characters. On one hand, it frees them from recognition and allows them a certain degree of liberty, whereas on the other hand places them in dangerous situations.

Any examples of women/men being placed in dangerous situations because of the mask?

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