Visualizing Speakers in Drama by Gender

This page demonstrates visualizations that classify speakers in two seventeenth-century dramatic texts—Margaret Cavendish's The Convent of Pleasure (1668) and Aphra Behn's The Amorous Prince, or, the Curious Husband (1671)—according to their gender. In both visualizations, wedge-shaped sectors represent the acts of the play and are further subdivided into smaller wedges that represent each scene. Scenes are then divided according to the percentage of total speeches by female and male characters.

Such visual representations of basic textual features and make it possible quickly to compare texts according to simple criteria—in this case, the ratio of female to male speakers. By making visible at a glance observations about the predominance of male speakers in Behn's comedy versus the greater gender balance in Cavendish's play, these at-a-glance comparisons can serve as the starting point for further investigation of a text or texts, perhaps prompting questions about the different motives, audiences, and dramatic conventions shaping the two works.

Margaret Cavendish, The Convent of Pleasure, 1668

This visualization illustrates the percentage of female and male speakers in each scene of Margaret Cavendish's The Convent of Pleasure (1668). In ten out of a total of twenty scenes, female characters are the sole speakers.

Aphra Behn, The Amorous Prince, 1671

This visualization illustrates the percentage of male and female speakers in every scene in Aphra Behn's comedy, The Amorous Prince, or, the Curious Husband (1671). In contrast to Cavendish's play, male speakers predominate overall—but nonetheless are the sole speakers in only four of twenty scenes.

About the visualizations

These visualizations are created using the free, open-source Protovis visualization framework developed at Stanford University. For prototyping purposes, both are generated at present from static data files derived from the WWP's XML files for the two plays in question. Should we choose at a later date to make visualizations like these part of standard the Women Writers Online interface, however, they would be rewritten to take advantage of dynamic XML-based querying into our full textbase, enabling a wider range of interactive possibilities.