Let’s take a moment to talk about womanhood. In a play that has such intense thematic entanglement with feminism, traditional gender roles, and sexuality, nineteen years on this earth as a female identifying person has certainly given me some intense insight on the subject. I invite you to read a poem below by Margaret Atwood titled “Spelling:”


My daughter plays on the floor

with plastic letters,

red, blue & hard yellow,

learning how to spell,


how to make spells.


I wonder how many women

denied themselves daughters,

closed themselves in rooms,

drew the curtains

so they could mainline words.


A child is not a poem,

a poem is not a child.

there is no either/or.



I return to the story

of the woman caught in the war

& in labour, her thighs tied

together by the enemy

so she could not give birth.


Ancestress: the burning witch,

her mouth covered by leather

to strangle words.


A word after a word

after a word is power.


At the point where language falls away

from the hot bones, at the point

where the rock breaks open and darkness

flows out of it like blood, at

the melting point of granite

when the bones know

they are hollow & the word

splits & doubles & speaks

the truth & the body

itself becomes a mouth.


This is a metaphor.


How do you learn to spell?

Blood, sky & the sun,

your own name first,

your first naming, your first name,

your first word.

In the play, Moll Cutpurse is accused, by the father of the man she is helping, to be a witch and full of evil and crafty tricks. In the 21st century this is simply a term that is adopted by neo-paganism more specifically the Wicca religion. But in the 1600’s, this was a vile undoing; a judgement of character, soul, and body. Historically, witches have been used to create mass hysteria in male dominated societies to push women into roles of subservience, by either accusing them of witchcraft, or by encouraging women to turn on each other to remain “apparently loyal.” The Salem Witch Trials are the first thing that often comes to mind of course, but in the 1500’s-1600’s throughout Europe, prior and during the years this play was in printing and circulation was an era of secularization. Contextually, The Roaring Girl came during a time where England was adjusting from their 44 year reign of Elizabeth I (the Virgin Queen) to James VI equating in gender conflict, religious conflict, and the general reflections. Thus I see a correlation between women’s rights and freedom and times of political turbulence. In the play, the accusation of Moll’s withcraft is so fascinating, because instead of simply being unyielding to a man’s will, Moll as a character straight out rejects traditionally applied hetrnormative and cisgender societal binaries. In a time where mass hysteria and witchcraft accusations were affecting the personal and private lives of many thousands of women, Decker and Middleton chose to write a play glorifying the heroic and often kind deeds of a woman who doesn’t adhere to expectation (the historical Moll Cutpurse has quite the criminal record in comparison to her character in the play). And thus, I am ever proud of our cast for telling this story, because as theater people, as women (those who are), as artists, as deeply feeling individuals, we are all witches in our own way. We all hold the responsibility within ourselves to remain vigilant, educated, and outspoken lovers of the world and exist in opposition to expectations that limit all we may offer.

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