I am Professor of Shakespeare, late 16th and early 17th century English Drama, and Women’s and Gender studies at Hunter College, CUNY.  My most recent book is Women and Shakespeare’s Cuckoldry Plays:  Shifting Narratives of Marital Betrayal, Routledge, 2017.  I am also an Editor, with Helen Ostovich, of the series “Late Tudor and Stuart Drama: Gender, Performance, and Material Culture,” for Medieval Institute Publications. My research and teaching interests include, Shakespeare, Early Modern English drama, gender studies, sexuality, political history, history of women, marriage law, parrhesia, feminist ethics.



PhD, English, University of Washington, 1997

BA, MA, English, California State University, Fresno, 1987, 1991

— Acting, Theater Production, Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts, 1981-83

Other Publications


Alfar, Cristina León and Emily Sherwood, eds. Reading Mistress Elizabeth Bourne: Marriage, Separation, and Legal Controversies, (forthcoming 2021, Routledge).  “The Early Modern Englishwoman in Print, 1500-1750:  Contemporary Editions,” edited by Anne Prescott and Betty Travitsky. Available for pre-order.  Follow @MistressBourne on Twitter!

Women and Shakespeare’s Cuckoldry Plays: Shifting Narratives of Marital Betrayal, Routledge, 2017.  “Women and Gender in the Early Modern World.” Now available in paperback!

Preview the introduction, available from Taylor and Francis.  Chapter one, “Early Modern Women’s Narratives of Marital Betrayal,” is available in Routledge’s Shakespeare Studies Chapter Sampler.

Fantasies of Female Evil: The Dynamics of Gender and Power in Shakespearean Tragedy.  Newark:  U of Delaware P, 2003.  (Available on Google Play Books and Questia, a library subscription service.)


“Speaking Truth to Power as Feminist Ethics in Richard III.”  Social Research: An International Quarterly, vol. 86, no. 3, Nov 2019, pp. 789-819.

“‘Let’s Consult together’: Women’s Agency and the Gossip Network in The Merry Wives of Windsor.”  Solicited for publication in The Merry Wives of Windsor:  New Critical Essays. Eds.  Phyllis Rackin and Evelyn Gajowski.  New York:  Routledge, 2015. 38-50.

“‘Proceed in Justice’: Narratives of Marital Betrayal in The Winter’s Tale.”  Solicited for publication in Justice, Women and Power in English Renaissance Drama, Edited by Andrew J. Majeske and Emily Detmer-Goebel.  Madison and Teaneck, N.J.:  Farleigh Dickinson UP, 2009.  46-65.

“Elizabeth Cary’s Female Trinity: Breaking Custom with Mosaic Law in The Tragedy of Mariam.”   Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 3, (2008):  61-103.

“Looking for Goneril and Regan.”  Privacy, Domesticity and Women in Early Modern England, ed. Corinne Abate. Aldershot, Hampshire, UK:  Ashgate, 2003.  167-198.

“‘Blood Will Have Blood’:  Power, Performance, and Lady Macbeth’s Gender Trouble.”  Jx: A Journal in Culture and Criticism.  2.2 (1998): 179-207.

“King Lear’s ‘Immoral’ Daughters and the Politics of Kingship.”  Exemplaria:  A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies.  8.2 (1996):  375-400.

“Staging the Feminine Performance of Desire:  Masochism in The Maid’s Tragedy.”   Papers on Language and Literature.  31.3  (1995):  313-333.


Series Editor, with Helen Ostovich, “Late Tudor and Stuart Drama:  Gender, Performance, and Material Culture.” Medieval Institute Publications — MIP — The University Press at Kalamazoo.


“Feminist Authorship Studies.” The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Authorship. Edited by Rory Loughnane and Will Sharpe.

“Isabella’s Feminist Ethics in Measure for Measure,” Article MS in progress.

Upcoming Talks and Conferences

“Isabella’s Feminist Ethics in Measure for Measure

May 14 @ 7:15 – 8:30pm

Columbia Shakespeare Seminar, Bernard Beckerman Memorial Lecture

In Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, Isabella occupies an ethical space in Vienna’s culture of female exploitation, a practice she critiques throughout the play. As a parrhēsiast, in Foucault’s terms, she exercises a rhetorical expression of the truth, a right of all to speak that truth to power, and especially, the right of the citizen to correct the sovereign. Isabella’s silence in response to the Duke’s proposal acts as a parrhēsiatic withdrawal of consent to his power and a revolutionary form dissent, in Butler’s terms; she rejects the sovereign’s desire for “bad parrēsia” (what Foucault describes as a sycophantic form of flattery), installs a politicized form of silence, and removes her body from the Duke’s regulatory control.  Measure for Measure stages a parrhēsiatic form of citizenship performed by Isabella who emerges as an active citizen speaking from a dramatic and political ethical center which, I argue, is feminist.





Cristina León Alfar

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