Private Matters and Public Culture in Post-Reformation England
... Quoted in Luzio 1915, 737. 29 For an analysis of the interrelationship between domestic and public spaces as opposed to any firm separation between the two, see Orlin (1994). the work of soap and water, Lucrezia's insistence upon her daily bath seemed shocking and almost immoral." ...
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of California, Los Angeles, 2002. Vita. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 210-248).
This dissertation examines women’s talk in seventeenth-century Massachusetts through the lens of holy watchfulness, investigating the gendered politics of speech by focusing on gossip—the oral exchange of information that was personal rather than political and concerned affairs of the household and neighborhood rather than the state. It considers when and why women’s speech crossed the line from authorized watchfulness to stigmatized gossip and argues that women’s lives in early Massachusetts can be better understood by examining their participation in holy watching. Focusing on women’s authorized speech and examining the talk of goodwives and servants rather than Antinomians and witches reveals women’s words being heard and accepted in public forums. Breaking down distinctions not only between speech and writing but also between sight and sound shows that a material and spatial history of women’s lives, work, and speech expands our understanding of how watchfulness operated and of who was actively participating in the transmission of information. Rather than focusing on illicit speech, this dissertation approaches gossip as a form of information to show that women’s talk was instrumental in the formation, adaptation, and maintenance of early New England’s religious culture. In a face-to-face culture that prioritized community watchfulness, women’s words were vital to the maintenance of order but could easily be viewed as disorderly when deployed in ways considered inappropriate. Authorities tried to rein in threatening aspects of women’s speech not just by limiting it but also by putting it in the service of social order, moral policing, and surveillance. Watchfulness harnessed what would otherwise have been illicit speech in the service of church and state as a way of containing disorder. This dissertation first surveys the ways that surveillance was embedded in church and state efforts to contain disorder. Puritan ideas combined with older structures to make family government and moral enforcement reliant on ordinary people’s observations. It then examines how community surveillance functioned in the daily lives of women in Boston and how gossip helped shape the patriarchal family and household. Focusing on female domestic servants, wives, and neighbors, it shows how official surveillance could be inoperative or ineffective when disorder took place behind closed doors, how women’s access to intimate spaces countered hierarchical relationships, and the contradictory messages women received about keeping and revealing men’s secrets. It then considers the consequences of gossip for ministers who were accused of sexual indiscretions, showing how political considerations and the historical record have determined whether women’s words have been remembered or forgotten. A short epilogue describes the conditions at the turn of the eighteenth century when prominent men formed associations for overseeing the morals of their neighbors and tried to circumvent the role that women had previously held as carriers of information about order and disorder in their communities. Examining women’s gossip allows a reassessment of women’s roles in New England puritanism and in Protestantism more broadly. Reconceptualizing women’s public roles to include their everyday lives and their conversations restores their significance in early Massachusetts society and the development of American religious practice. Redefining gossip as a form of information not only reveals a range of actors helping shape puritan religious culture but also underscores the importance of historicizing distinctions between public and private in early America in ways that make women’s lives visible.
In Behn’s works the house affords no security for women, as men may force their way in, or relatives collude in the sexual violation of women. However, men, too, are threatened and cuckolded in their own houses. Not even convents are safe spaces for either sex. Outdoor spaces promise freedom from supervision but harbor threats to both women’s and men’s honor. The Whig inhabitants of the City of London are ridiculed, but female characters dabbling in politics are no more likeable, though Behn sympathizes with women claiming a right to public visibility. The racialized colonial space offers upward social mobility to Englishmen and –women, and to the latter also the freedom to partake in pastimes and occupations traditionally connoted as male.
Early modern domestic tragedy presents a familiar, recognisable, everyday world in which things go terribly wrong—that is, the plays labour to stage a version of normality which they envision as central to their moral applicability and tragic impression on the spectator. However, despite a longstanding critical focus on the family in the sub-genre, the role of children in this process has been overlooked. Through an analysis of Thomas Middleton’s A Yorkshire Tragedy, this chapter reveals the centrality of the child characters to the play’s representation of disrupted normality, and how this relates to the broader ethical and aesthetic project of domestic tragedy.
This chapter looks at domestic life in The Duchess of Malfi and Arden of Faversham. Each of these plays is dominated by a female character and each has as its core a private domestic space. In each play, this space is ultimately destroyed by murderous impulses. In most other respects, the two plays are very different, but looking at them together permits a consideration of the relationship between women and the domestic sphere to which they were often relegated and of the different forms that feminine transgression may take.
Early modern conduct literature forges a link between the home and female virtue. This chapter suggests that the genre of domestic tragedy places this idealised association under pressure, by demonstrating the extent to which prescribed household ‘normality’ contains within its hierarchical structures, spatial logic, and gendered work, the potential for extraordinary and uncanny violation. Domestic tragedies like Arden of Faversham (1592), A Warning for Fair Women (1599), Two Lamentable Tragedies (1601), and A Woman Killed with Kindness (first performed c. 1603) stage how domestic objects, tasks, and spaces are perverted through their involvement in the act and aftermath of household murder. This chapter argues that in Othello and Macbeth, Shakespeare draws on the genre of domestic tragedy in staging uncanny versions of everyday domestic experiences.
This chapter examines the cultural forces that surrounded the early modern staging of domestic conflict. It examines the historiography of the genre, which was hardly studied until the early twentieth century. In a growing body of scholarship, domestic tragedy has since proved itself to be a site in which historicist, feminist, and materialist approaches are profitably practiced. The chapter close-reads three prominent domestic tragedies, the anonymous Arden of Faversham (1592), Thomas Heywood's A Woman Killed with Kindness (1607), and Thomas Dekker, John Ford, and William Rowley's Witch of Edmonton (c.1621), to illustrate the telling features of the genre, and what we can learn from them about early modern attitudes toward gender roles, social class, and the tension between domestic disputes and public life.
This chapter seeks to encapsulate what historians have discovered about family life in renaissance England in the research of the last fifty years. Topics discussed include the contemporary significance of the family household and its relationship to the wider community; the place of servants within the household; houses and their furnishings; courtship, marriage negotiations, "spousals" and weddings; separation and divorce; marital relations, including changing attitudes to wife beating; adultery, cuckoldry, and "riding skimmington"; and relations between parents and children. The chapter concludes with some remarks on the changing focus of the historiography, especially toward gender issues, and on developments in the use of sources. Growing interest in representations of family life and gender relations has led to increasing attempts to integrate literary sources, including ephemeral materials (ballads, pamphlets, jestbooks) but also the drama.
Relying on architectural imagery and turning a private matter into public concern, The Winter’s Tale echoes many early modern anxieties about privacy. Constantly questioning what is seen, heard and said, it finally leaves many of its secrets untold and appears to be built around a blank. It creates an intricate relation between architectural space, presence and absence as fictional domestic space and actual theatrical space interact in a complex public/private dialectic.
Elizabethan describers of the social order remarked upon the volatility of the relations between genders and that among degrees, ranks, or classes. Elizabeth's long reign and her refusal to marry had already called into question the patriarchal subordination of women. Worries about rebellious wives were represented on stage in anonymous domestic tragedies, such as Arden of Faversham and A Warning for Fair Women. In these plays, insubordinate wives accomplish the murder of their husbands by allying themselves with ambitious males who refuse to acquiesce to their classed position in the social order. Unlike these tragedies that baldly dramatize the consequences of the rebellion of wives and social upstarts, the comic form of plays such as Much Ado about Nothing and Twelfth Night enables William Shakespeare to manage these disruptions rather than allowing them to be destructive of the social order, as necessitated by the tragic form of Othello.
This chapter focuses on modern and early modern assumptions regarding the position and extent of woman-woman eroticism in early modern texts. It begins by looking at that anomalous space in The Winter's Tale, the space that allows Hermione to be both dead and yet available for resurrection, seemingly at a moment's notice. This void space of invisibility exists both within Shakespeare's play and seemingly also within the early modern aristocratic residence. The author sees this space as coinciding metaphorically with the even greater void space of invisibility within early modern society and early modern literary texts, the space occupied by the lesbian. The chapter also looks at two different spaces, each a kind of female realm, where erotic relationships between women could occur: within the newly created private spaces of the early modern aristocratic home and within the mistress-servant relationship.
Beginning in the early 1990s, a materialism that neither Karl Marx nor Fredric Jameson would be likely to recognize achieved an important place in early modern studies. Indeed, I call this a “new” materialism not only because of its momentum as a critical genre but because it comes as a disciplinary answer to a question that the epigraph asks us to ask: What future can materialist criticism of early modern texts have after Marx? I mean the “after” in this sentence to be attached not to Karl Marx or even to the literary criticism that followed in the wake of his theories. By “after,” instead, I mean after a constellation of events during the late twentieth century that worked to lessen the attraction of materialist political theory, events familiar to anyone who has read the newspaper during the past several decades.
‘Home is where the heart is.’ Nineteenth-century ideals of homeliness left a large proportion of society occupying dwellings that, by virtue of their poverty, were seen as heartless and unhomely. Historians’ acceptance, however, that homeliness was the preserve of the middle classes may risk perpetuating assumptions of the desensitising force of material deprivation. It would be unfeeling to underestimate hardship and distress, but it requires an equal lack of empathy to assume that poorer people were unable to find consolation in their own home. In the absence of detailed investigation into the material reality of poor households, historians have emphasised the testimony of reformers that housing conditions were both bad and squalid. While accounts of squalor and cramped conditions reflect, in part, a real deterioration in housing conditions in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, these emotive descriptions are problematic because they also reflect a new set of concerns over the home. Alternative sources for the materiality of poorer households do not quite accord with remorseless misery, and archaeologists have recently found that the excavated evidence for nineteenth-century cities contradicts ‘slum’ conditions.1
An interest in news is probably a feature of all societies since it constitutes a basic element in communication between individuals and groups and a footing for social intercourse. But news is not a neutral or objective concept, through whatever medium transmitted; it is a construction which exists in oblique relation to actual events. A modern sociologist refers to news as ‘the end-product of a complex process which begins with a systematic sorting and selecting of events and topics according to a socially constructed set of categories’,1 and this is a process which operates even in the most primitive form of news, that of orally transmitted gossip. In contemporary societies, the news media play an important, and often highly contested, ideological role in the existing structures of power. Raymond Williams calls newspapers ‘a signifying system through which necessarily (though among other means) a social order is communicated, reproduced, experienced and explored’.2 The accounts of reality which newspapers put forward are shaped and constrained by the interests they represent. In the early modern period, before the systematic and professional production of news in the form of newsbooks, corantos and official newsletters, news writing, both scribal and printed, circulated in a variety of forms, many of them no longer in existence, in which the interaction of oral and written cultures was highly significant.
The sixteenth century was a time of great change. Inflation, expansion and new forms of mobility were challenging and displacing centuries-old patterns of social order, religious belief, political structure and economic value. The population of England and Wales grew by more than 45 per cent to over four million people in 1600. Land was enclosed, workers displaced and real wages for the poor declined; at the same time, more men had access to education, the state took control of religion without causing a full-scale civil war, and luxury goods poured in from newly accessible foreign lands. Interpreting the place of theatre within this flurry of activity is a complex task. To invoke an analogy popular among cultural critics, looking at sixteenth-century theatre is like looking at an anamorphic perspective painting such as Holbein’s The Ambassadors: the first impression is one of profit and delight, but another image gradually emerges to complicate the picture. Viewed the more direct and obvious way, the last three decades of Elizabeth’s reign inaugurated the great era of English drama. Professional theatre companies flourished and a remarkable variety of performance genres and styles came into being, producing great and memorable play scripts that have come to dominate the classical repertory of English-language theatre. But buried within this picture of artistic energy, productivity and innovation lies the skull, the reminder of what was dying and the sign of future problems that the rich surface could not entirely obscure. © Cambridge University Press 2004 and Cambridge University Press 2008.
The present study, while necessarily lacking the historical breadth and thoroughness of Keith thomas's magisterial Religion and the Decline of Magic, seeks to invert his central claim about the early modern decline defined by the inroads that rational and experimental thinking made on occult and, by extension, religious thought. In effect, I shift the topic beneath the shell of the term magic, observing that Thomas's study constitutively excludes a magic unmentioned. His attention to supernatural magic, designated here as magic1, produces historiography more for a history of ideas than for one of embodied practices. I stipulate a counterconcept, magic2, or stage magic, and related forms of legerdemain exploiting attention, to demonstrate that sleights of hand, body, mind, language, and thought inform the distinctive tragedy of Shakespeare's Othello. Dramatizing characters' perceptions more than their self-knowledge, tragedy after this analysis looks less like an "epistemological problem" (Cavell 126) and more like a perceptual one.
In staging the personal histories of transgressive early modern women alongside Shakespeare's history plays, the RSC 2014 season presented an alternative version of history. Although the narratives portrayed in both Arden of Faversham (1592) and Webster's The White Devil (1612) can be found in chronicle sources, neither belongs to the conventional register of history; indeed, Holinshed apologised for the inclusion in his Chronicles (1577, 1587) of such ‘private’ matter as Arden's murder by his wife. Dekker and Middleton's The Roaring Girl (1611) and The Witch of Edmonton (1621) are likewise rooted in the world of popular culture: the “Roaring Girl” Moll Cutpurse was chronicled in John Day's chapbook The Mad Pranks of Merry Moll of the Bankside (1610), now lost, while Ford, Dekker and Rowley borrow from Henry Goodcole's trial account A Wonderful Discoverie of Elizabeth Sawyer (1621). This article explores how the “Roaring Girls” season challenged traditional generic divisions between ‘high’ Shakespeare histories and the popular genres of domestic tragedy and city comedy. I discuss how the RSC directors used these early modern plays and their subversive female protagonists to respond to gender inequality in contemporary society, engaging with the concerns of Fourth Wave feminism by staging “roaring girls” who challenge societal strictures and unsettle conservative images of gender. I argue that in staging plays which privilege the portrayal of criminal women, the 2014 “Roaring Girls” season restored the hidden histories of both the popular source material that informed the drama of the early modern stage, and the women who become visible to history only through their transgressions.
This article examines the politics of privacy and the public drama of the English Renaissance commercial stage. It surveys some recent critical approaches towards the study of privacy and politics including analyses of a supposed early modern public sphere. The article then attends to studies focusing on Renaissance drama and urges that the study of political privacy be extended beyond domesticity. The essay contends that a wider examination of the corpus of public drama in the English Renaissance is necessary. Shakespeare's plays often take centre stage in critical discussions, but complex concepts like privacy and publicity ought to be explored in reference to the diverse range of plays written for the Renaissance theatres. To illustrate the benefits of exploring the wider Renaissance corpus, the article ends by discussing politics and privacy in the neglected tragedy Soliman and Perseda.
The financial experience of mid-sixteenth-century Englishmen and women was dominated by an inflation so sustained, so unprecedented, and so traumatic as to be known to modern historians as ‘the price revolution’. Contemporary writers addressing ‘this dearth which in such plenty comes, contrary to his kind’, recognized the inflation as a crisis disrupting received systems of value, one in which prices had somehow become detached from the cyclical variations of agricultural plenty and scarcity. But they did not express this crisis as we would, as an economic crisis, proper to the totality we know as ‘the economy’. Rather, the ‘dearth’ was a crisis of the ‘common-wealth’, the political totality that inscribed material goods as continuous with social and even religious goods. For these writers, the crux between the normative administration of common-wealth and the disastrous aberration of ‘dearth’ was the Crown's new policy of debasement of the silver coinage. The material alloy of brass in the sterling made visible the political corruption of the masters of policy, manifesting the close interdependence of material and political values in the making of the debased coin. The ideological freight of debasement and purification articulated these objects not only in the local, daily registers of getting and spending, nor only in the registers of fiscal policy, but into the sacral register of Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Together, these convergent discourses of debasement help to define the difference between the sixteenth-century experience of ‘common-wealth’ and modern economic experience.
How can we recover domestic practices from the past? Tackling this question takes us to the very heart of the historical task of reconstructing events from past time, and in a particularly acute way. For historians of domestic practice, the perennial methodological questions concerning the availability of sources and the limits of our knowledge are only too familiar. The problem goes deeper, however. History as a discipline is fundamentally empiricist, yet the linguistic turn has generated a debate about the discipline's materialist underpinnings, about how “experience” is formed and how past experience is best investigated. The problem appears particularly clear when focusing on .“practices.” Focusing on middling-sort men and the eighteenth-century house, this article suggests a way to move past a too-common distinction between “prescription” and “practice.” The article argues that combining discourse analysis with careful readings of manuscript sources allow us to come to a better understanding of experience, a state of being that is always both material and discursive.
Family values are not derived from nature, but have a history in western culture, beginning in the 16th century. The sources of this history are cultural documents of all kinds, including fiction. But documents are not transparent. In order to read them attentively as a basis for interpreting the past, we need to define a relationship between the interpreting subject, the object of knowledge, and language in its broadest sense. Cultural history is history at the level of the signifier.
Research Article The Quest for a King: Gender, Marriage, and Succession in Elizabethan England • Article author query • mclaren a [Google Scholar] Anne McLaren Some translation and joining of realms may turn to much good, and the wealth and tranquillity of many. As if we had a King for your Queen, or you [Scotland] a King for ours, it had been a goodly translation: to have united both realms in dominion, regiment and law, as they be in nature, language, and manners…. If you and we had joined together: it had made no great matter, on which side the King had been, so he had been religious…. It is religion and likeness of manners, that join men together … Where there is one faith, one baptism, and one Christ: there is narrower fraternity then, if they came out of one womb. (John Aylmer, An Harborowe for Faithful and Trew Subjectes, 1559) Me-thinketh it were to be wished of all wise men and her Majesty's good subjects, that the one of those two Queens of the isle of Britain were transformed into the shape of a man, to make so happy a marriage, as thereby there might be an unity of the whole isle. (Henry Killigrew to Robert Dudley, 31 December 1560) In 1559, John Aylmer responded to John Knox's First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women in order to win support for Elizabeth I's accession to the English throne. According to Aylmer, Knox identified as the “greatest inconvenience” of female rule the fact that the realm would be transferred to “strangers” when the queen married, ceding to her husband, as her superior, the power that had been invested in her.
This essay correlates changes in early modern astrological almanacs with broad changes in early modern English Protestant culture over the sixteenth and seventeenth century. These almanacs show an increasing tendency to be highly specific as to place and time and to suggest that precise times and precise places are given a larger meaning by their relationship to the stars and planets wheeling overhead. By lending a vertical significance to place and time, almanacs run counter to early modern Protestantism, which suggested that place and time have no inherent sacred significance. Thus the rise of the early modern astrological almanac may have been impelled by a desire on the part of early modern men and women to have time and place mean something.
Various kinds of recuperation that both traditionalist critics as well as some feminist and psychoanalytic critics discover in The Winter's Tale elides the structuring in the play of an emergent sense of class difference. The liminal space of the pastoral, the return to the court and then to Paulina's home facilitate hierarchical structurations that aristocratize the play's so-called regenerative discoveries, excluding from them the 'pastoral'/country/agricultural figures. While such elisions may be convenient for and encouraged by relatively homogenous constituencies in the 'metropolitan' academy, the increasingly heterogeneous population within the South African academy problematizes such readings.
feminist historiography;vicissitudes;civilization of the renaissance in Italy;aristocratic females;kissing the rod
This essay reviews the ways in which recent studies of early modern women’s writing have both extended the geographical scope of that canon, and have increasingly sought to situate it in relation to expansive, detailed and complex cultural geographies of the period. This broadening of the canon requires scholars to confront unfamiliar genres, new scholarly challenges and novel critical concerns, and thus demands that we think about fresh ways of reading these texts. How can paying new attention to the metaphorical and literal places and journeys of early modern women’s writing help the field to respond to this demand for growth, in terms of both content and methodology? To address this question, I review the body of work that is already taking up these challenges, and suggest some directions for further exploration that would enable us to develop a properly internationalist, Atlantic and comparative approach to early modern British women’s writing.
Let us begin with two scenes of intimate violence. First, consider a man, a woman, and three male “guests” in a well-furnished locked room. Suddenly one of the men strikes the host, and another stabs him, and he falls to the floor. At this moment the woman steps forward (she had previously tried to poison him), seizes the knife, and plunges it home, crying, “Take this for hind'ring Mosby's love and mine.” Alice Arden, with the help of her new lover, a servant, and his avaricious accomplices, has murdered her landowner husband. So climaxes Arden of Feversham , a powerful play (frequently attributed to Shakespeare) first performed in 1592 and based upon an actual murder that took place in 1551. This murder “assumed an almost totemic significance in early modern culture,” reappearing in a great variety of forms over the following century (even as a puppet show), with Alice, among other things, ranked with the classical uxoricides Clytemnestra and Livia. Consider another scene, set several centuries later: this is a starker setting, only two figures in a bare and shabby room. A ragged woman is pleading with her lover for her life, and she is urging him that it is not too late for both to repent of their former lives. Her lover, a fierce and powerful man, stands over her, nostrils dilated, grasping a pistol. Fearful of being heard, he does not fire, but instead strikes her twice with the handle, then seizes a heavy club and beats her down.
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