Cheryl Birdseye

Cheryl Birdseye



Thesis title: Female Testimonial Voices in Early Modern Domestic Drama

Start year: 2014


Research topic

My thesis builds on the foundations of my MA dissertation, which discussed the depiction of sexual violence within the works of William Shakespeare. Much of this work dealt with the notion of silence as something that could be enforced upon women, but also as something that could be consciously adopted by women as a form of defiance. My doctoral research moves on from the importance of silence exclusively, considering instead the role of voice in all its ranges, and through my thesis I am exploring the representation of female testimony on the early modern stage. Within this work I am paying an especial interest to the developing genre of domestic tragedy as a transitional form of theatre that explored new ways of approaching the female voice through its intrinsic focus on domesticity. Much of my research considers historical crimes that were dramatised by playwrights either contemporarily or within a few decades of the trial. The collation and comparison of multiple contemporary sources regarding the same crime offers an insight into the possibilities available to playwrights – whether to stick to the records provided, offer an alternative view to popular belief, or to present something that complied with or detracted from these extremes. The plays I have selected for study date from the 1580s to the early 1620s, during the era in which domestic tragedy began to blossom. I am interested in how this genre opened up opportunities for playwrights to experiment with female testimonial and confessional speeches, interrogating traditional conceptualisations of female victims, perpetrators, and accusers, as well as the comparative treatment of their male counterparts. Increasingly, my work is also exploring the theme of receptivity as a part of these plays, including how playwrights were able to integrate their audiences as witnesses to the action onstage and, subsequently, as potential juries to debate the respective guilt or innocence of the characters before them.


English Literature, Early Modern Theatre and Drama, Crime and Punishment, Testimony, Domesticity, Voice, Self

General research interests

Early Modern Theatre, Domestic Representations, Crime and Punishment

Teaching experience

  • U67002, Shakespeare, Associate Lecturer and Seminar Leader, September – December 2016


Conference papers

  • ‘Witchcraft and Female Testimony’ – BritGrad 2015, The Shakespeare Institute, 5 June 2015
  • ‘Female Networks in Romeo and Juliet and Othello’ – Rye St Antony School, 27 November 2015
  • ‘Female Testimony on the Early Modern Stage’ – Oxford Brookes Winter Symposium, 5 December 2015
  • ‘The Many Testimonies of Alice Arden’ – Queen Mary’s University, London, 5 May 2016

Academic and professional training

  • BA(hons) in English, Oxford Brookes University, 2010–2013
  • MA in English, Oxford Brookes University, 2013–2014
  • Associate Teaching Qualification, 2016

Scholarships and prizes

  • John Henry Brookes Studentship, Oxford Brookes University, 2014–2017

Other experience and professional activities