Abstract

This essay draws attention to Irish playwright Matthew West’s rarely studied drama Female Heroism, A Tragedy in Five Acts (1803), performed at the Crow Street Theatre, Dublin, in 1804. The tragedy dramatizes republican woman Charlotte Corday’s murder of Jacobin leader Jean-Paul Marat, committed in July 1793. My paper contends that West’s tragedy blends an explicitly anti-Jacobin narrative, with a covertly embedded strain of Irish oppositional politics. Focusing centrally on West’s incorporation of a fabricated rape scene, which alludes strongly to contemporary allegories of the Act of Union, I hypothesize the possibility for Female Heroism to be interpreted by its Dublin theatre audience as a subtle rebuke of the union, which positions Corday as the personification of Irish independence, and Marat as the unlikely embodiment of tyrannical British rule.

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