Page 26. " It is only for the last forty-eight years that Mrs Seton has had a penny of her own "
'The Proposal' (1860) - a painting by Alfred W. Elmore (1815-1881)
Public Domain'The Proposal' (1860) - a painting by Alfred W. Elmore (1815-1881) - Credit: Alfred W. Elmore

This is a reference to the Married Women's Property Act of 1882 which reformed the law regarding married women's property rights. Prior to this date, women's property had passed automatically to their husbands when they married.  


Page 26. " to endow a fellowship in Balliol or Kings "
Balliol College, Oxford
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBalliol College, Oxford - Credit: Andrew Telfer, Wikimedia Commons

Balliol is a college of the University of Oxford, founded in 1263.

King's College, Cambridge
GNU Free Documentation LicenseKing's College, Cambridge - Credit: Oxyman, Wikimedia Commons

Its alumni include three British prime ministers: Herbert Asquith; Harold Macmillan; and Edward Heath.

Kings is a college of the University of Cambridge, founded in 1441. Its alumni include Rupert Brooke, E.M Forster and Salman Rushdie

To 'endow a fellowship' is to provide the financial wherewithal for a graduate student to pursue post-graduate studies and obtain a doctorate.



Page 29. " a visit to the British Museum "

The British Museum in London is a museum of human history and culture, founded in 1753.

British Museum, London
GNU Free Documentation LicenseBritish Museum, London - Credit: Steff, Wikimedia Commons

Amongst its most famous exhibits are the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin marbles, and the Sutton Hoo treasure.

An item from the Sutton Hoo treasure collection
Creative Commons AttributionAn item from the Sutton Hoo treasure collection - Credit: Rachel Scott Halls, Flickr

When Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of one's own, the 'national collection' of books was housed at the British Museum, and it was possible for researchers (like the 'narrator') to consult them in 'the Reading Room'. The collection was subsequently moved to the British Library at St. Pancras, London.

Page 30. " the boarding houses of Bloomsbury in the winter "

Bloomsbury is an area of central London, situated in the London borough of Camden, which  is home to many important academic institutions and hospitals.

It gave its name to the 'Bloomsbury group', a circle of writers, intellectuals, and artists amongst which Virginia Woolf and her sister, Vanessa Bell, were prominent figures. Other members of the group included Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes and E.M. Forster.

Vanessa Bell by Roger Fry, 1916
Public DomainVanessa Bell by Roger Fry, 1916 - Credit: Roger Fry
Lytton Strachey by Dora Carrington
Public DomainLytton Strachey by Dora Carrington - Credit: Dora Carrington
E.M. Forster by Dora Carrington (1924/5)
Public DomainE.M. Forster by Dora Carrington (1924/5) - Credit: Dora Carrington


Page 31. " the aloe that flowers once in a hundred years "
Agave americana
GNU Free Documentation LicenseAgave americana - Credit: Digigalos, Wikimedia Commons
The true Aloe (Aloe Perryi or Aloe vera) flowers throughout
Aloe vera
GNU Free Documentation LicenseAloe vera - Credit: Sten Porse, Wikimedia Commons
most of the year. It is another variety of Aloe, the American Aloe (Agave americana), which is noted for the infrequency of its flowering.



Page 33. " Lord Birkenhead's opinion of "
Caricature of F.E.Smith (1st. Earl of Birkenhead)
Public DomainCaricature of F.E.Smith (1st. Earl of Birkenhead) - Credit: Leslie Ward (1851-1922)

Lord Birkenhead (1872-1930), or Frederick Edwin Smith, 1st. Earl of Birkenhead, was a lawyer and Conservative politician who was Lord Chancellor (1919-1922) under the premiership of Lloyd George, and Secretary of State for India (1924-1928) under the premiership  of Stanley Baldwin.

He is dramatised in  the film 'Chariots of Fire' (1981) where he appears as an official of the British Olympic Committee. 

Page 33. " Dean Inge's opinion of "
William Ralph Inge during his period as Dean of St. Pauls
Public DomainWilliam Ralph Inge during his period as Dean of St. Pauls - Credit: author unknown

Dean Inge (1860-1954), whose full name was William Ralph Inge, was an author, Anglican priest, Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, and a Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University.

Page 34. " La Bruyère's opinion of "
Statue of La Bruyère by Gabriel Jules Thomas (1824-1905) at the Château de Chantilly
Creative Commons AttributionStatue of La Bruyère by Gabriel Jules Thomas (1824-1905) at the Château de Chantilly - Credit: Mel22, Wikimedia Commons

 Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) was a French moralist and essayist. His best known work is entitled 'Caractères'.

A television film entitled 'Les caractères de La Bruyère', directed by Eric Rohmer, was produced in 1965.

A little later in the text, there is a quotation from the work of  La Bruyère: 'Les femmes sont extrèmes;elles sont meilleures ou pires que les hommes' ('Women are extremes; they are either better or worse than men).

Page 34. " Dr Johnson's opinion of "
Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds (1885)
Public DomainSamuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds (1885) - Credit: Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), usually referred to as Dr Johnson, was a prolific author who published widely as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, and lexicographer (creator of dictionaries).

A literary party at Sir Joshua Reynolds' house including Johnson and Boswell (1851)
Public DomainA literary party at Sir Joshua Reynolds' house including Johnson and Boswell (1851) - Credit: D. George Thomson after James William Edmund Doyle

His Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language (1755) is considered one of his greatest achievements.

A much-admired biography of his life was written by James Boswell (a personal friend of Dr. Johnson) under the title, James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson (1891).

Later on in the text, Virginia Woolf's narrator notes that Dr. Johnson believed that women were 'capable of education'. Indeed, as is pointed out in the footnote to p.34, Johnson suggested that women were in fact superior to men, a comment noted by Boswell in The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides.

Page 34. " Mr Oscar Browning's opinion of "
Caricature of Oscar Browning (1888)
Public DomainCaricature of Oscar Browning (1888) - Credit: "Hay" (unidentified)

Oscar Browning (1837-1923) was a writer, historian and educational reformer. He is partly remembered because of the references to him in A Room of One's Own, particularly the reference later in the text to his saying (in the context of marking examination papers), 'the best woman was intellectually the inferior of the worst man'.


Page 34. " Why does Samuel Butler say, 'Wise men never say what they think of women?' "
Samuel Butler
Public DomainSamuel Butler - Credit: unknown

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) was a free-thinking Victorian author. Amongst his best known works are Erewhon, an Utopian satire published anonymously in 1872, and the semi-autobiographical novel The Way of All Flesh which was published posthumously in 1903.


Page 34. " Here is Pope: Most women have no character at all "
Alexander Pope (c.1742) by Jean-Baptiste Van Loo (1684-1745)
Public DomainAlexander Pope (c.1742) by Jean-Baptiste Van Loo (1684-1745) - Credit: J-Baptiste Van Loo

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) was a satirical poet, famous for his use of the poetic form known as the heroic couplet. The example below, from one of his best-known poems The Rape of the Lock, satirises Queen Anne:

'Here thou, great Anna, whom three realms obey

Dost sometimes counsel take, and sometimes tea.'  

Page 34. " Are they capable of education or incapable? Napoleon thought them incapable. "
Napoleon in his study (1812) by Jacques-Louis David
Public DomainNapoleon in his study (1812) by Jacques-Louis David - Credit: Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) was a French political and military leader who was Emperor of France between 1804 and 1815 (apart from 1 year spent in exile on the Isle of Elba). During this period he engaged in war with all of the main European powers. He was defeated by the British in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, after which he was exiled again, this time to St. Helena.

He was responsible for establishing a legal structure in France known as the 'Napoleonic Code'. One aspect of the Code was the enshrinement in law of the supremacy of a husband over his wife and children.

Page 35. " *'The ancient Germans believed that there was something holy in women, and accordingly consulted them as oracles.' - Frazer, Golden Bough "
Sir James George Frazer (1933)
Public DomainSir James George Frazer (1933) - Credit: unknown

Sir James George Frazer (1854-1941) was a social anthropologist with a particular interest in the study of comparative religion and mythology.

His most well-known work is The Golden Bough which looked at the similarities in magical and religious belief-systems in different cultures throughout the world.


Page 35. " Goethe honoured them "
Detail of a portrait of Goethe (1787) by Tischbein
Public DomainDetail of a portrait of Goethe (1787) by Tischbein - Credit: Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (1751-1829)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was an eclectic German writer whose work spanned the fields of literature, poetry, drama, philosophy and science.

Amongst his best known works are the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, and the drama Faust, both of which idealise women.


Page 35. " Mussolini despises them "
Benito Mussolini by de László (1923)
Public DomainBenito Mussolini by de László (1923) - Credit: Philip Alexius de László (1869-1937)

In discussing the attitudes of various famous men towards women, the narrator in A Room of One's Own has tended to draw heavily on the opinions of historical literary and political figures. However, in the case of Mussolini she is referring to an important contemporary figure.

Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) was an Italian politician who played a key role in the rise of fascism in Europe. In 1922 he became Prime Minister of Italy where he operated a fascist dictatorship. He began using the title Il Duce (It. The Leader) in 1925.

Part of Mussolini's plan for the development of Italy was to increase the population, and this meant that he placed great emphasis on the role of women as wives and mothers.



Page 36. " the face and the figure of Professor von X engaged in writing his monumental work entitled The Mental, Moral, and Physical Inferiority of the Female Sex "

The narrator facetiously creates an imaginary author and an imaginary book title. They are meant to convey the type of male author, and the type of negative material about women that she is coming across in her research.

The debate continues ...

Page 36. " Had he been laughed at, to adopt the Freudian theory, in his cradle by a pretty girl? "
Sigmund Freud (1922)
Public DomainSigmund Freud (1922) - Credit: Max Halberstadt (1882-1940)

Here the narrator indicates that knowledge about the theories of Sigmund Freud, the Austrian physician who founded psychoanalysis, was part of the cultural climate of the period.

Specifically, this is a reference to Freud's belief that very early experiences in the life of an infant are highly influential in his/her emotional development.

Freud's work was available in English from 1913 onwards when his Die Traumdeutung (1899) was published in English translation under the title The Interpretation of Dreams. Interestingly, from 1924 onwards, the Hogarth Press, which was owned by Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard Woolf, became the authorised publishers of the work of Sigmund Freud in England.

Hogarth Press commemorative plaque, Richmond, Surrey
GNU Free Documentation LicenseHogarth Press commemorative plaque, Richmond, Surrey - Credit: taken by Mark Barker - original uploader:MaxHund at en.wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons
Page 38. " Lesser ribbons announced that Sir Austen Chamberlain was at Geneva "
Joseph Austen Chamberlain (1924)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeJoseph Austen Chamberlain (1924) - Credit: Deutsches Bundesarchiv, Wikimedia Commons

Sir Joseph Austen Chamberlain (1863-1937) was a highly-regarded British statesmen who served as Foreign Secretary from 1924-1929 under the premiership of Stanley Baldwin. During this period he achieved significant successes in the field of international diplomacy, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1925.

(for 'ribbon',  see: glossary)

Page 40. " the portrait of a grandfather by Romney "

George Romney (1734-1802) was an English portrait painter who set up  business  in London in 1762. He became well-known for his portraits of the local aristocracy and of well known figures of the period. He painted numerous potraits of Lady Hamilton (the mistress of Lord Nelson) for whom he developed something of an obsession.

Emma, Lady Hamilton, by George Romney
Public DomainEmma, Lady Hamilton, by George Romney - Credit: George Romney
Self portrait by George Romney
Public DomainSelf portrait by George Romney - Credit: George Romney
George Spencer, 4th. Duke of Marlborough by George Romney
Public DomainGeorge Spencer, 4th. Duke of Marlborough by George Romney - Credit: George Romney
Page 41. " taking up some book by Rebecca West "

Rebecca West was the pen name of Cicely Isabel Fairfield (1892-1983), an author, journalist, literary critic and travel writer, renowned for her liberal and feminist views.


Page 41. " Supermen and Fingers of Destiny would never have existed "
Friedrich Nietzsche drawn by Hans Olde
Public DomainFriedrich Nietzsche drawn by Hans Olde - Credit: Hans Olde

The concept of the 'superman' or 'overman' (ger. übermensch) was created by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) in his work Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

George Bernard Shaw made use of this  Nietzschian concept in his play Man and Superman.

In Nietzsche's philosophy the 'superman' broadly represents a human being who strives in his personal existence for the enhancement of all mankind (although the precise meaning of the term, as used by Nietzsche, is open to debate).


The meaning of 'Fingers of Destiny' in this context is not clear:

In palmistry, the middle finger, also known as 'Saturn's finger' is sometimes given the name 'the Finger of Destiny';

'Finger of Destiny'  was also the title of  a 1915 film directed by Charles Raymond.

However, neither of these ideas explains Virginia Woolf's use of 'Fingers of Destiny'.

Can anybody help?

Page 43. " Such were the occupations that were open to women before 1918 "
Government Poster, 1915
Public DomainGovernment Poster, 1915 - Credit: Robert Baden-Powell

The First World War had been a turning point in the employment of women as circumstances obliged them to take over many jobs which had traditionally been the sole preserve of men. However, progress made during this period was not sustained in the aftermath of the war, and did not affect the continuing paucity of women employed at higher levels in public and business life.

As the narrator dates the changes in women's employment to the end of the First World War, she may also be referring to differences brought about by their being partially granted the franchise in 1918.

Page 44. " an eagle, a vulture, for ever tearing the liver out "
Prometheus - from a painting by Moreau (1868)
Public DomainPrometheus - from a painting by Moreau (1868) - Credit: Gustave Moreau (1826-1898)
This is a reference to the story  in Greek mythology of Prometheus, one of the Titans (powerful gods), who brought fire to the mortals. Zeus (King of the gods) punished him by having him bound to a rock where his liver was eaten daily by an eagle.  
Page 45. " Walk through the Admiralty Arch "
Admiralty Arch, London
GNU Free Documentation LicenseAdmiralty Arch, London - Credit: Mister Weiss, Wikimedia Commons

 Admiralty Arch is part of a large office building in London which adjoins the Old Admiralty Building. It is situated at the point where The Mall meets Trafalgar Square.

Google Map
Page 45. " the statue of the Duke of Cambridge "

Statue of the Duke of Cambridge on Whitehall
Public DomainStatue of the Duke of Cambridge on Whitehall - Credit: Man vyi, Wikimedia Commons

Prince George, Duke of Cambridge (1819-1904)

Page 45. " the large and imposing figure of a gentleman which Milton recommended for my perpetual adoration "

John Milton, Temple of British Worthies, Stowe
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeJohn Milton, Temple of British Worthies, Stowe - Credit: Philip Halling, Wikimedia Commons
John Milton (1608-1674) was an English poet and author. He served as a Civil Servant under Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth Government.

It is not clear what 'large and imposing figure of a gentleman' was recommended for 'perpetual adoration' by Milton, although it has been suggested that it might be God, or Milton himself, representing a patriarchal society.


Page 49. " Professor Trevelyan's History of England "
G.M. Trevelyan
Public DomainG.M. Trevelyan - Credit: unknown
George Macaulay Trevelyan (1876-1962) was a well-known historian, the author of many works on English history including History of England (1926). It is now generally recognised that his version of history is coloured by his political beliefs. 
Page 49. " soon after Chaucer's time "
Geoffrey Chaucer (1380)
Public DomainGeoffrey Chaucer (1380) - Credit: unknown

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) was an English writer and poet, best remembered for his narrative The Canterbury Tales. He is sometimes known as 'the father of English literature', and is considered as having broken new ground in his literary use of the native English of his period.






Listen to the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales in Middle English on Spotify.

Page 49. " in the time of the Stuarts "
King James lst. of England (c.1620)
Public DomainKing James lst. of England (c.1620) - Credit: Paul van Somer (1576-1621/22)

The House of Stuart was founded by Robert II of Scotland, and nine Stuart monarchs ruled Scotland between 1371 and 1603. In 1603, following the union of the English and Scottish crowns, the ninth monarch, James VI of Scotland became James I, King of Great Britain. Subsequently, a further 5 Stuart monarchs* held the joint crown, the last of the Stuart dynasty being Queen Anne, who succeeded to the throne in 1702.

*William and Mary are considered as 'one monarch'.

Page 49. " authentic seventeenth-century memoirs like the Verneys and the Hutchinsons "
Claydon House:ancestral seat of the Verney family owned by the National Trust
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeClaydon House:ancestral seat of the Verney family owned by the National Trust - Credit: mym, modified by Sir Gawain, Wikimedia Commons

Frances Parthenope Verney (1819-1890), the elder sister of Florence Nightingale, was a Victorian writer and journalist. Using papers kept at her husband's family home, Claydon House, she produced Memoirs of the Verney Family during the 17th century. These were corrected and abridged by Margaret M. Verney, and published in two volumes in 1904.  





Lucy Hutchinson
Public DomainLucy Hutchinson - Credit: unknown

Lucy Hutchinson (1620-1681) was the author of a memoir of her husband entitled Memoirs Of The Life of Colonel Hutchinson. John Hutchinson was one of the signatories of the death warrant of Charles 1st, and after the Restoration he was imprisoned, and died in captivity. The  memoirs written by his wife were printed by a descendant in 1806.

Page 49. " Cleopatra must have had a way with her; "

'Anthony and Cleopatra' by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1885)
Public Domain'Anthony and Cleopatra' by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1885) - Credit: Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912)
 Cleopatra VII Philopator was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. Following her death Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire.

She is remembered for her love affair with Mark Anthony, with whom she had two children. Both Cleopatra and Mark Anthony committed suicide following Mark Anthony's defeat at the Battle of Actium.

Shakespeare wrote a play based on these events entitled Anthony and Cleopatra.

Page 49. " Lady Macbeth, one would suppose, had a will of her own "
Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth
Public DomainEllen Terry as Lady Macbeth (1889) - Credit: John Singer Sargent

Lady Macbeth is a character in Shakespeare's play Macbeth in which she persuades her husband to murder King Duncan so that he may become king.

Macbeth was a real historical figure who ascended the throne of Scotland in 1040, but the events of the play are not historically correct. Similarly, although Macbeth had a wife, Queen Gruoch, the events of her life do not match those of Lady Macbeth. 



Page 49. " Rosalind, one might conclude, was an attractive girl "
'Rosalind' by Robert Walker Macbeth (1888)
Public Domain'Rosalind' by Robert Walker Macbeth (1888) - Credit: Robert Walker Macbeth (1848-1910)

Rosalind is the name of the heroine in Shakespeare's romantic comedy As You Like It who has a flair for witty repartee.

During the course of the play, she disguises herself as a young man and takes the name, Ganymede. This allows her to challenge Orlando (who is in love with her) as to whether his appearance is really that of a love-sick suitor:

'Then, your hose should be ungartered, your bonnet unbanded, your sleeve unbuttoned, your shoe untied, and everything about you demonstrating a careless desolation'.

Page 50. " women have burnt like beacons in all the works of all the poets from the beginning of time - Clytemnestra, Antigone, Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth, Phèdre, Cressida, Rosalind, Desdemona, the Duchess of Malfi "
'Clytemnestra after the murder' by John Maler Collier (1882)
Public Domain'Clytemnestra after the murder' (1882) - Credit: John Maler Collier (1850-1934)

CLYTEMNESTRA is a figure in Greek mythology, and one of the main characters in Aeschylus' Oresteia, a drama in three parts. In the first part she murders her husband, Agamemnon, and in the second, she herself is murdered.









Bust of the Greek playwright, Sophocles
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBust of the Greek playwright, Sophocles - Credit: user:shakko, Wikimedia Commons

ANTIGONE is the name given to two figures in Greek mythology: the daughter of Oedipus, and the daughter of Eurytion.

Antigone is also the title of a play by Sophocles written before or during 442 BC.









'Phèdre' (Phaedra) by Cabanel (1880)
Public Domain'Phèdre' (Phaedra) by Cabanel (1880) - Credit: Alexandre Cabanel (1823-1889)

PHAEDRA (PHÈDRE) was the wife of Theseus. She fell in love with his son by a previous marriage and then falsely accused him of rape, leading to his death. 

She was the subject of works by the Greek playwright Euripedes, the Roman playwright Seneca, and the French playwright Jean Racine (1639-1699).




CRESSIDA is the lover of Troilus in one of Shakespeare's tragedies, Troilus and Cressida, which is set during the period of the Trojan War. It has been described by Joyce Carol Oates as one the most 'vexing and ambiguous of Shakespeare's plays'.

Geoffrey Chaucer also wrote a poem entitled Troilus and Criseyde which was partly the source for Shakespeare's play.








'Othello and Desdemona' by Alexandre-Marie Colin (1829)
Public Domain'Othello and Desdemona' by Alexandre-Marie Colin (1829) - Credit: Alexandre-Marie Colin (1798-1875)

DESDEMONA is Othello's wife in Shakespeare's tragedy Othello. She is murdered by her husband after he is misled by his malicious servant, Iago, into thinking that she has been unfaithful to him.







Title page of 'The Duchess of Malfi' (1612-13)
Public DomainTitle page of 'The Duchess of Malfi' (1612-13) - Credit: John Webster

THE DUCHESS OF MALFI is the main character in a tragedy by the English playwright John Webster (1580-1634). It is based partly on true events recorded in William Painter's The Palace of Pleasure (1567.

The Duchess of Malfi

Page 50. " then among the prose writers: Millamant, Clarissa, Becky Sharpe, Anna Karenina, Emma Bovary, Madame de Guermantes "
Portrait of William Congreve by Godfrey Kneller
Public DomainPortrait of William Congreve by Godfrey Kneller - Credit: Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723)

MILLAMANT is a character in a play entitled The Way of the World by William Congreve (1670-1729). It was first performed in 1700, and is considered one of the foremost Restoration comedies.



CLARISSA is a character in The Fair Maid of the Inn, an early 17th. century comedy whose authorship is uncertain. It falls into the category of English Renaissance drama.


BECKY SHARP is one of the main characters in Vanity Fair, a satirical novel by William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863). It was published in 1847/8 and remains popular today.



ANNA KARENINA  is the heroine of a novel by Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) entitled Anna Karenina which is considered one of the most important examples of realist fiction.


Illustration for frontispiece of 'Madame Bovary' by Charles Léandre (1931)
Public DomainIllustration for frontispiece of 'Madame Bovary' by Charles Léandre (1931) - Credit: Charles Léandre (1862-1934)

EMMA BOVARY is the main character in a novel by Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) entitled Madame Bovary. At the time of its first publication (in serial form in 1856), it caused quite a stir in French society, and was the subject of an obscenity trial in 1857.



MADAME DE GUERMANTES is a character in Vol. 3 of an autobiographical novel in 7 volumes by Marcel Proust (1871-1922) entitled À la recherche du temps perdu (sometimes translated as Remembrance of Things Past and sometimes as In Search of Lost Time). The third volume is entitled Le Côte de Guermantes, translated as The Guermantes Way.

In Search of Lost Time on Book Drum

Page 50. " in Athena's city where women were kept in almost Oriental suppression as odalisques or drudges "
Copy of Phidias' statue of Athena (130-150 A.D.) Prado Museum, Madrid
Public DomainCopy of Phidias' statue of Athena (130-150 A.D.) Prado Museum, Madrid - Credit: Shakko, Wikimedia Commons

Athena is a goddess in Greek mythology after whom the city of Athens, the capital of Greece, is named.

Odalisque is the term used for a female harem* slave during the period of the Ottoman Empire.

(*women-only quarters).

Women in Athens, and in ancient Greece generally (with the exception of Sparta), are believed to have been extremely subservient to men and to have lived highly restricted lives.


Page 50. " Cassandra "
'Cassandra' by Evelyn de Morgan (1898)
Public Domain'Cassandra' by Evelyn de Morgan (1898) - Credit: Evelyn de Morgan (1855-1919)

CASSANDRA (meaning 'she who entangles men') is a figure in Greek mythology: the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. She was reputed to be able to 'hear the future', a common theme in Greek mythology. However, when she failed to return the love of the god Apollo, he put a curse on her so that her predictions were never believed.

Cassandra appears as a character in the drama Agamemnon by Aeschylus (525/4 BC - 456/5 BC).

Page 50. " Atossa "
Historic Map of the Achaemenid Empire (1923)
Public DomainHistoric Map of the Achaemenid Empire (1923) - Credit: William R. Shepherd (1871-1934)

ATOSSA was a Queen of the Achaemenid (Persian) Empire (550-330 BC) who lived from 550 BC to 475 BC.

She is one of the main characters in Aeschylus' drama The Persians.

Persian wall relief from Persepolis (522/465BC)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikePersian wall relief from Persepolis (522/465BC) - Credit: Mary Harrsch, Flickr





Page 50. " Medea "

MEDEA is an ancient Greek tragedy by Euripides (480BC-406BC) based on the myth of the married couple Jason and Medea.


Page 50. " and all the heroines who dominate play after play of the misogynist Euripides "

These are the words of F.L Lucas, the author of the quotation which is the footnote to this page.

F.L. Lucas is Frank Laurence Lucas (1894-1967). He was a literary critic, poet, novelist and playwright who was a Fellow of Kings's College, Cambridge. He is well known for having criticised the poetry of T.S. Eliot during the 1920s.

The footnote quotation comes from one of his works entitled Tragedy which was published in 1927. In his text, the fact that "misogynist" is in inverted commas suggests that the author does not necessarily agree with this view of Euripides. Lucas was, in fact,  the author of a book about the Greek playwright, entitled Euripides and His Influence (1924) 

Many of Euripides' plays portray powerful and individualistic women, but whether he was a 'misogynist' (a hater of women) remains a subject of debate


Depiction of Andromache (one of Euripides' heroines) as a slave (c.1887)
Public DomainDepiction of Andromache (one of Euripides' heroines) as a slave (c.1887) - Credit: Frederic Leighton
Page 50. " a very cursory survey of Shakespeare's work (similarly with Webster, though not with Marlowe or Jonson) "

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (1564-1616), the Elizabethan poet and dramatist, is generally considered to be one of the world's greatest playwrights.

JOHN WEBSTER (c.1580-c.1634) was a contemporary of William Shakespeare. He was a dramatist whose plays The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi are considered masterpieces of early 17th century theatre.




Ben Jonson - Vertue after van Honthorst
Public DomainBen Jonson - Vertue after van Honthorst - Credit: George Vertue(1684-1756) after Gerard van Honthorst (1590-1656)

CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE (1564-1593) was also a contemporary of Shakespeare. He was a playwright, poet, and translator whose works include The Jew of Malta and The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus.

BENJAMIN (BEN) JOHNSON (1572-1637), yet another contemporary of Shakespeare, was a dramatist, poet and actor. He is particularly well-known for his plays The Alchemist and Bartholomew Fair.

Page 50. " So too in Racine "

Jean Racine (1639-1699) was a  playwright who ranks with Molière and Corneille as one of the most important of the French dramatists. He is best known for his tragedies.

Page 50. " Hermione and Andromaque "

Hermione and Andromaque are female characters in Racine's play Andromaque which was first performed in 1667.

Andromaque is based on Euripides' play Andromache and on the third book of Virgil's Aeneid.


Page 50. " Bérénice and Roxane "

BÉRÉNICE is the main female character in Racine's tragedy Bérénice, first performed in 1670.

ROXANE is one of the main female characters in Racine's tragedy Bajazet first performed in 1672.


Page 50. " Phèdre and Athalie "

The French actress, Rachel, in the title role in Racine's 'Phèdre', McClure's Magazine (1906)
Public DomainThe French actress, Rachel, in the title role in Racine's 'Phèdre', McClure's Magazine (1906) - Credit: unknown
PHÈDRE is one of the main female characters in Racine's tragedy Phèdre (originally Phèdre and Hippolyte) first performed in 1677.

ATHALIE is the main female character in Racine's tragedy Athalie, published in 1691.

Page 50. " So again with Ibsen "
Henrik Ibsen by Eilif Peterssen (1895)
Public DomainHenrik Ibsen by Eilif Peterssen (1895) - Credit: Eilif Peterssen (1852-1928)

Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) was an important Norwegian dramatist whose work challenged many established aspects of Victorian society.

Amongst his best-known works are Peer Gynt (1867), A Doll's House (1879) and Hedda Gabler (1890).


Page 50. " Solveig and Nora "

SOLVEIG is an important female character in Ibsen's play Peer Gynt which was published in 1867.

Edvard Grieg, the Norwegian composer, wrote incidental music for the play which was later revised and published in the form of the two Peer Gynt suites.

Listen to Solveig's song on Spotify

NORA is the main female character in Ibsen's play A Doll's House (1879). The play's questioning of a woman's traditional role in marriage meant that it caused some controversy when first performed.



Page 50. " Hedda and Hilda Wangel "
Poster of Alla Nazimova as Hedda Gabler (1907)
Public DomainPoster of Alla Nazimova as Hedda Gabler (1907) - Credit: unknown

HEDDA  is the main female character in Ibsen's Play Hedda Gabler first published in 1890. The complexity of the character Hedda means that she has been portrayed in different ways by different actresses, and that interpretations of the play overall have varied considerably.



HILDA WANGEL is one of the main female characters in Ibsen's play The Master Builder which was first performed in 1893.