The IUP Journal of English Studies
Redefining the Signs of Femininity: A Study of Selected Plays of Rabindranath Tagore

Article Details
Pub. Date : September, 2021
Product Name : The IUP Journal of English Studies
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJES50921
Author Name : Deboshree Bhattacharjee
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : Arts & Humanities
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 9



Femininity is defined as the quality of acting in a typically feminine way. However, this typical feminine way is not universally identical and varies from society to society. In traditional Indian society, femininity was associated with qualities of tolerance and obedience, but in the modern context, qualities like strength, intelligence, and revolutionary spirit define femininity. These notions of femininity are represented in theatre through different signs of gender formation like costume, motor behavior, body language, and nature of speech. The Indian book of dramaturgy, the Natya Sastra, also classifies specific styles of acting for male and female characters that can be read as the conventional signs of femininity and masculinity. However, Rabindranath Tagore emerges as a pioneer in redefining these conventional signs of femininity to create a progressive and alternate image of woman through his dramas. He is considered the "pathfinder of modern Indian drama" for being instrumental in introducing women performers respectfully on the public stage. His dramas are replete with images of strong female personalities who possess the ability to fight against injustice and thereby introduce new signs of femininity. This paper reads Tagore's drama/theatre from a semiotic point of view to reveal the mechanism behind the representation of such strong female characters. The female characters are addressed as signs to see whether, and how, they push their limits in representing an alternative aspect of womanhood and femininity.


Femininity is a set of attributes and behaviors that are considered typical of women. These typical qualities of being a woman are not universally identical and vary from society to society. In traditional Indian society, femininity was identified with qualities like gentleness, caring, nurturing, compassion, tolerance, sensitivity, obedience, and self-sacrifice. Any defaulter would be considered wicked and outrageous. However,