Professor of Shakespeare, late 16th and early 17th century English Drama, and Women’s and Gender studies at Hunter College, CUNY.  Author of Fantasies of Female Evil: The Dynamics of Gender and Power in Shakespearean Tragedy. U of Delaware P, 2003; Women and Shakespeare’s Cuckoldry Plays:  Shifting Narratives of Marital Betrayal, Routledge, 2017; and Co-editor, with Emily G. Sherwood, of Reading Mistress Elizabeth Bourne: Marriage, Separation, and Legal Controversies, Routledge 2021.  Series Editor, with Helen Ostovich, of “Late Tudor and Stuart Drama: Gender, Performance, and Material Culture,” for Medieval Institute Publications. Research and teaching interests include, Shakespeare, Early Modern English drama, gender studies, sexuality, political history, history of women, marriage law, parrhesia, and feminist ethics.

For more about my work, please visit my website.



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, Routledge, 2021.  “The Early Modern Englishwoman in Print, 1500-1750:  Contemporary Editions,” edited by Anne Prescott and Betty Travitsky. Preview the Introduction at Taylor & Francis. 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.

Blog Posts

  • Blog (Cristina León Alfar, 2021-06-25)
  • Welcome to our Web Site! (Society for the Study of Women in the Renaissance, New York, CUNY, 2017-05-02)
  • SSWR NYC (Society for the Study of Women in the Renaissance, New York, CUNY, 2017-05-02)


“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

Shakespeare Association of America Annual Meeting, 2022

ROUNDTABLE, 9 April 2022
Feminist Debates and Early Modern Studies
Session Chair and Organizer: Lara Dodds
(Mississippi State University)

“Feminist Ethics and Early Modern Studies”
Cristina León Alfar (Hunter College, CUNY)

“Loud Feminism”
Valerie Billing (Central College)

“Un(re)marked, or, Feminism’s No-Man’s-Land”
Vanessa M. Braganza (Harvard University)

“‘Bear Your Body More Seemly’: Performing Indecorous Femininity in
Shakespeare’s Plays”
Jean Elizabeth Howard (Columbia University)

“Feminist Pedagogy from Early Modern Women Writers to Introductory First-
Year courses”
Niamh J. O’Leary (Xavier University)


“Masculinist Perversions of Feminist Ethical Responsibility in The Two Noble Kinsmen,” on the panel, “Ethical Responsibility in Early Modern English Drama.” RSA Virtual 2021, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. 10:00-11:30am EDT.

The Two Noble Kinsmen stages an ethics of responsibility demanded by women of men. The three queens who beg Theseus to wage war against Creon to allow their husbands a proper burial do more than obey the customs for honoring the dead. They call attention to masculinist tyranny, to the costs of war for the women who remain alive, and to the power of women to speak back, to demand a higher form of responsibility to others. In this essay I want to think about the ethics of responsibility these three queens invoke and which Hippolyta and Emilia champion and make their own. Forcing Theseus to set aside his own interests and to challenge Creon’s tyranny, Hippolyta and Emilia initiate a form of care, of ethical responsibility which, I will argue, Theseus repeats in a perverted and masculinist form. When he forces Emilia to marry the winner of Arcite and Palamon’s battle for her, one which he predicates on a sudden awakening of compassion, he parodies and corrupts the ethics established by the women who sought a cessation of violence and competition in favor of bonds forged by the distress of others, by their tears and need for aid.


“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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