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Travel and Travail: Early Modern Women, English Drama, and the Wider World

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Popular English travel guides from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries asserted that women who wandered too far afield were invariably suspicious, dishonest, and unchaste. As the essays in Travel and Travail reveal, however, early modern women did travel, often quite extensively, with no diminution of their moral fiber. Female travelers were also frequently represented Popular English travel guides from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries asserted that women who wandered too far afield were invariably suspicious, dishonest, and unchaste. As the essays in Travel and Travail reveal, however, early modern women did travel, often quite extensively, with no diminution of their moral fiber. Female travelers were also frequently represented on the English stage and in other creative works, both as a reproach to the ban on female travel and as a reflection of historical women’s travel, whether intentional or not. Travel and Travail conclusively refutes the notion of female travel in the early modern era as “an absent presence.” The first part of the volume offers analyses of female travelers (often recently widowed or accompanied by their husbands), the practicalities of female travel, and how women were thought to experience foreign places. The second part turns to literature, including discussions of roving women in Shakespeare, Margaret Cavendish, and Thomas Heywood. Whether historical actors or fictional characters, women figured in the wider world of the global Renaissance, not simply in the hearth and home.  


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Popular English travel guides from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries asserted that women who wandered too far afield were invariably suspicious, dishonest, and unchaste. As the essays in Travel and Travail reveal, however, early modern women did travel, often quite extensively, with no diminution of their moral fiber. Female travelers were also frequently represented Popular English travel guides from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries asserted that women who wandered too far afield were invariably suspicious, dishonest, and unchaste. As the essays in Travel and Travail reveal, however, early modern women did travel, often quite extensively, with no diminution of their moral fiber. Female travelers were also frequently represented on the English stage and in other creative works, both as a reproach to the ban on female travel and as a reflection of historical women’s travel, whether intentional or not. Travel and Travail conclusively refutes the notion of female travel in the early modern era as “an absent presence.” The first part of the volume offers analyses of female travelers (often recently widowed or accompanied by their husbands), the practicalities of female travel, and how women were thought to experience foreign places. The second part turns to literature, including discussions of roving women in Shakespeare, Margaret Cavendish, and Thomas Heywood. Whether historical actors or fictional characters, women figured in the wider world of the global Renaissance, not simply in the hearth and home.  

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