Facing Places in <em>The Weeding of Covent Garden</em>


  • Mimi Yiu Georgetown University




At the beginning of The Weeding of Covent Garden, a builder and a potential homebuyer wax eloquent about the ongoing construction of Covent Garden, a piazza designed to rival any in Venice. Not only do these characters praise the Surveyor’s aesthetic purity, but they also speculate how social and economic betterment should ensue from such a massive urban project. Immediately following this exchange, they observe a woman dressed as a Venetian courtesan stepping onto her balcony, a woman who boldly proclaims her economic and sexual independence in pursuing a profession much prized in Italy. In this clash of values between Italian ‘high’ culture and its ‘low’ sexual mores, between masculine building and feminine selling, the body of architecture becomes curiously conflated with the female body as the garish spectacle of a painted courtesan is juxtaposed against a classical architectural façade. Drawing on the gender scheme ascribed to architecture by Inigo Jones, the Surveyor who planned the square, this paper explores how the crucible of Covent Garden, historical and imagined, reveals the tension between the importation of Continental architectural principles and the assimilation of ‘foreignness’ in gender roles, particularly within the new public sphere created by the piazza itself.






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