Firstly, I'm aware this picture is of a horrendous quality, however, as England appears to be entering some kind of Dark Age (and not of the literary variety), our lights have to be on from about 4pm onwards. The sheen makes me want to cry, but hey ho, summer's only seven months away ....
Anyway, as you're all probably aware, I read quite a number of 16th and 17th plays and poems as part of my uni course (have a look at what I think about this period in literature generally here). The Bird In a Cage is a play about a girl named Eugenia whose father, a Duke, imprisons her in a tower in order to preserve her chastity. He wants her to marry a Prince in Florence and doesn't want the potential for this to happen to be destroyed by a wayward suitor getting his wicked way with her. Unfortunately, all of Eugenia's ladies, some of whom already have suitors, are locked away in the tower with her. Philenzo, Eugenia's lover, hatches a plan to secure her hand in marriage. Disguised as Rolliardo, he challenges the Duke: he gets to marry Eugenia if he manages to get past the Duke's defenses surrounding Eugenia. The quotation above encapsulates the Duke's response.
This play is filled with many conventions of 17th Century humour that is still relevant and funny today. My personal favourite is the scene during which Morello attempts to get access to the tower by dressing up as a woman. This reminded me of the introduction of the Dame in many modern pantomimes. You can almost envision Morello giving the audience a cheeky wink as he swishes his skirts across the stage to try and entrap the guards. Although the following scene in which the guards attempt to "check" his gender appears a bit rapacious, it is clearly intended to be delivered with a great deal of humour.
The Duke's decision to lock Eugenia up in the castle offers an interesting insight into the role of women, and the relationship between women and money. Just as one would lock up one's money in a modern bank, the Duke locks up his most prized possession so that no thieves can access her. It appears as though Eugenia is the Duke's only child. In this respect, his entire wealth rests on her shoulders. In order to create a successful marriage in monetary terms, the Duke needs her to marry whilst she is a virgin. Thus, a daughter's virginity assumes an almost physical value. Without it, a woman is subject to marrying a much poorer man, as no man high up in society is likely to agree to marrying a woman who has been "used". I think every woman or girl reading this play can feel a sense of accomplishment when Philenzo manages to breach the tower and Eugenia can be united with the man she loves, rather than the man her father wants her to love.
Any comments/questions are always welcome
Love and Light