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Astraea (Leonard Willan)

17th century English play, based on d’Urfé’s “L’Astrée” in which a man and woman both court the goddess Diana in a competition for who is the better lover. There is also a conventional gender-disguise same-sex attraction plot.

LHMP entry

Female same-sex desire is generally presented in early modern drama in fictitious constructions: the desire is either mistaken or misdirected. Only in this last chapter do we see examples where knowing desire from one woman to another is presented positively, and may even be celebrated as an ideal over heterosexual desire. Things aren’t always straightforward, even so. Although the desiring woman may believe the object of her desire is a woman, not uncommonly the scenario is defused by involving a gender-disguised man.

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