Woman on Trial: Gender and the Accused Woman in Plays from Ancient Greece to the Contemporary Stage By Amelia Howe Kritzer and Miriam López-Rodríguez


This study breaks new ground in comparative drama by focusing on a phenomenon that can be observed in the drama of different cultures and across a large span of time. The essays illuminate the ways in which the plays interrogate law as an institution that subordinates and controls women through the categories and relationships it constructs, as well as by means of the actions it sanctions—some of which apply to women only. In some cases the woman on trial has not committed the offense for which she is being tried; in others she has committed a serious crime, often murder. The action may hinge on determining innocence versus guilt, or the play may attempt to present innocence and guilt as qualities that are structured by culture. Many of the plays also highlight factors such as nationality, race, poverty, or working-class status, as they interact with gender to create perceptions of the woman on trial. The woman or women on trial may represent dissidents or activists in general, or they may epitomize the failure of the law to protect women from crimes, especially sexual violence, placing the victim rather than the perpetrator on trial.