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Abstract

This article examines the burgeoning field of Shakespeare and Girls’ Studies, highlighting some of the exciting developments that have taken place in the past 5–10 years. Inspired by the growing interest in early modern children and childhood, scholars have begun to ask where girls fit into the equation. Although Shakespeare uses the word “girl” nearly seventy times, only four of his characters are what we would identify as pre-adolescent female children: Clarence’s daughter in RichardIII, the infant Perdita in The Winter’s Tale, the infant Marina in Pericles, and the infant Elizabeth I in HenryVIIII. More difficult to categorize are young characters like Juliet, who is only thirteen but poised on the cusp of womanhood, and young women like Miranda in The Tempest, who are romantic heroines but still under the authority of their fathers. The category of the girl is slippery and contested in Shakespeare’s time as well as our own, and since constructions of girlhood have changed over time, it can be even more difficult to pin down exactly what is meant by Shakespeare’s girls. These problems of definition have required scholars of Shakespeare’s girls to carefully define what they mean by the term, but those challenges have also helped them produce nuanced accounts of how his plays produce female characters as girls and how his plays have been used to produce ideas about girlhood over time.