Document Type

Honors Project

Publication Date



This project addresses existing historical arguments about the role of performance in eighteenth-century English plebeian infidelity cases, identifying some of the cultural scripts available to married men and women from popular texts in order to better understand cases of infidelity in contemporary plebeian marriages. The thesis seeks to clarify the effect of infidelity on a plebeian individual’s social standing and relationships, and to draw conclusions about the nature of plebeian infidelity, marriage, and gender in England through the long eighteenth century.

While examining contemporary public texts of cuckoldry, I address how homosocial behavior appears in narratives of cuckoldry, how the foundation of that behavior was misogynistic, and how cuckolded men found agency through performative rejection of these narratives. Turning to husbandly abandonment, I argue that abandoned plebeian wives deployed cultural scripts of subordination and dependence to their advantage, gaining some financial and social agency through performance.

Level of Honors

cum laude




Professor Edmund Kern