What is it about?

This article analyzes the main character of Momma Rose from the musical Gypsy. The article argues that she is an Aristotelian tragic figure; that is, a complex character who despite her faults and failings elicits empathy from the audience, in part because she fights so strenuously to maintain her own sense of dignity.

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Why is it important?

Momma Rose has been compared with many tragic figures, such as Medea, Lady Macbeth, and King Lear. This article, however, is the first to analyze Rose using specific dramatic theories from Aristotle and Arthur Miller that explain the construction of the character as a tragic heroine.


Writing this article was a joy because it allowed me to combine great interests in dramatic theory and musical comedy. Rose is a fascinating character and looking at how Arthur Laurents, Jule Styne, and Stephen Sondheim constructed the character through the dialogue and story, the music, and the lyrics has been fascinating.

Denise Walen
Vassar College

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This page is a summary of: Momma Rose: An Aristotelian heroine in the mother of all musicals, Studies in Musical Theatre, December 2020, Intellect, DOI: 10.1386/smt_00042_1.
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