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Sexual desire is ubiquitous in all theater. It follows that virtually all theatrical traditions struggle with the issue of the representation of that desire onstage. The French stage of the 1630s and Jean Rotrou's theater of that period in particular constitute an unusual moment of relative freedom before the imposition of the bienséances banished sexual activity from the stage. What I propose is a theatrical reading of sex in Rotrou's plays, a tripartite examination of dramatic strategy: how Rotrou foregrounds the scandalous by direct depiction of sexuality onstage; how at other moments he moves to attenuate its prurient force by opting instead for innuendo or suggestive situations. Rotrou's most striking originality lies in his third strategy: presenting sexuality as a theatrical performance, generally with the assistance of cross-dressing and other forms of disguise.

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Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

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Orbis Litterarum