Felicia Hemans’s History in Drama: Gender Subjectivities Revisited in The Vespers of Palermo


  • Lilla Maria Crisafulli University of Bologna




Within the framework of a transnational discourse and a new vision of Europe, that focused on the attention of Great Britain towards the South and towards Mediterranean countries, Felicia Hemans (1793-1835) fashioned a historical discourse that addressed some of the fundamental issues of the time. These issues include the new role played by women in the public sphere; the relationship, no longer just between mothers and daughters, but also between fathers and sons; the long European wars and Colonial expansion; the feminization of heroism and citizenship and the problematic presence of women warriors. All these issues, which are at the same time global and transnational, are engaged with and staged in Felicia Hemans’s plays, such as The Siege of Valencia (1823) and The Vespers of Palermo (1823). In the latter play, central to the investigation of this essay, Hemans also discusses the question of Italian freedom that Lady Morgan had already publically addressed in her volume Italy. This essay will attempt to demonstrate how Hemans reshapes gender subjectivities, in the context of national and transnational history.