The Paradox of Womanhood: Gender Roles and The Representation of Women in Puccini’s Tosca (Honors)

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Faculty Advisor: Dr. Adriana Ponce

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Opera holds the downfall of women as an important component. Musicologist Catherine Clément has examined exactly how important death or the “undoing” of women is in opera and has suggested that a heroine’s downfall is a form of punishment for something she has done. Nineteenth century Italian dramatic opera clearly exemplifies this genre staple, and Giacomo Puccini’s works are no exception. I suggest that in the opera Tosca, Puccini and his librettists, Illica and Giacosa, punish the titular character because of her gender and gender attributes. In this essay, I will explore the character of Tosca through the lens of Catherine Clément’s Opera, or the Undoing of Women, John Ruskin’s Of Queens’ Gardens, and Kate Soper’s What is Nature? I will examine how Puccini and his librettists trace all the negative events of the opera back to Tosca through a number of “feminine traits” clearly connected to her. Ultimately, I will argue that she is trapped in a gender-related paradox.



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