Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Sarah Munson Deats, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joanne Waugh, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William Morris, Ph.D.


Transvestism, Modern motivation theory, Holistic psychology, Third force psychology, Early modern England


"Motivation" is the force that drives an individual to perform a certain action. Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), an American psychologist profoundly influenced by the existential and teleological paradigms, expounded a motivation theory that remains precise and replicable, as well as applicable to other spheres of study, including the humanities. Indeed, psychology experts and non-specialists are by and large familiar with Maslow's Pyramid of Human Needs. Moreover, despite the abundance of literary criticism that utilizes Freudian-based theory to analyze the motivations of literary characters, critics have largely neglected the use of other paradigms, including Maslow's. In this thesis, I use Maslow's texts as support for identifying the motivations of women characters who dress as men in Shakespeare's dramas. I also simultaneously employ Maslow's theory to illuminate the parallels in these characters' motivations and the varying need levels that Maslow develops in his hierarchy. After a comprehensive review of the literary criticism that addresses the dramatic motif of cross-dressing in early modern England and an extensive explanation of the history of motivation theory up to and including that of Abraham Maslow, I treat the following plays by William Shakespeare: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, As You Like It, and The Merchant of Venice in conjunction with Maslow's Pyramid of Human Needs. Through this analysis, I demonstrate that Julia cross-dresses to satisfy needs on the level of Love/Belonging; Rosalind cross-dresses for reasons that correspond to the Safety level, then to the Esteem level; and Portia demonstrates motivations that correspond to Maslow's Love/Belonging and Esteem levels.