Against Productivity: The Roaring Girl and the Value of Wasted Time
Armstrong, Deann Valrae
Scholarly responses to Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker’s 1611 city comedy, The Roaring Girl, usually attend to the play’s captivating depictions of gender anxiety, female eroticism, vocal power, and material consumption. This thesis examines the play’s related temporal attitude, as well as the timepieces and timekeeping tropes that express it. I consider how moments of contest over the keeping of time—whether over the measuring of it or the activity that occupies it—give way to moments of identity crisis, moments in which the performance of various roles, including sex and gender roles, is exposed and called into question. Throughout, I argue that the play develops a temporal ethos that places more value in the present enjoyment of individual experience than in the deferral of pleasure for an abstract, future reward. Within the play, this temporal ethos combats exploitation, especially the institutionalized material exploitation of women. It also underscores the social value of the politically compromised Jacobean theatre.