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Electronic Theses, Treatises and Dissertations The Graduate School
Blasting Binaries and Humanizing Humans: Thomas Middleton's Feminism
Amy L Stahl
Florida State University
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Stahl, Amy L, "Blasting Binaries and Humanizing Humans: Thomas Middleton's Feminism" (2007). Electronic Theses, Treatises and Dissertations. Paper 1590.
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THE FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
BLASTING BINARIES AND HUMANIZING HUMANS: THOMAS MIDDLETON’S FEMINISM
By AMY L. STAHL
A thesis submitted to the Department of English in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts
Degree Awarded: Spring Semester, 2007
The members of the Committee approve the thesis of Amy L. Stahl defended on March 28, 2007. Celia R. Daileader Professor Directing Thesis Gary Taylor Committee Member Nancy Bradley Warren Committee Member
Approved: Nancy Bradley Warren, Director of Graduate Studies, Department of English
The Office of Graduate Studies has verified and approved the above named committee members.
............. and Disfigurement in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and Middleton’s The Lady’s Tragedy ...... Odd Couplings: Women and Marriage in Middleton’s No Wit......... 7 Figuring the Female on Stage ................ The Womanless Circle..................................................................................................................................................................... 10 19 24 30 2..................................................................... 58 Casting Roles ........................................................ BIBLIOGRAPHY…………….... The Patriarchal Figure ........................................................................... 59 68 71 75 78 81 96 104 iii ...... Reflection upon the Early Modern Literary Corpus ....................................TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract……............................................... Embodiment....................... INTRODUCTION………….................................................................................. Impossible Parts ..................................................................... 31 47 55 3.......... CONCLUSION…………............................................................................... Female Embodiment and (Dis)figuring the Binary ..................... 31 Characterization: Women and Types...................................................................................................... ENDNOTES…………....................................................................................... ............................... Hell’s Theatre ..... ..................................................................... iv 1 Making Sense of the Early Modern Literary Corpus: Women.......................................... BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .................................................................................................................................... .. 1....................................... Female Circumscription: Theatricality and Hell in Middleton’s The Changeling ........................................................... Coupling Women: Expectations and Reality............................................................................................................................ No Help Like a Woman’s and The Roaring Girl................. Coherence: The Strong Woman and Marriage ...
No Wit. In tortured characters like Hamlet and King Lear. Focusing on Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and Middleton’s The Lady’s Tragedy. Thomas Middleton does not presume to define the human but rather explores humanity in an imitative form. William Shakespeare invented the human. grappling with its real circumstances. iv . A contemporary playwright to Shakespeare. more inclusive. and being true to one’s own personality. then this line of thought must be reexamined. No Help like a Woman’s. this paper demonstrates that Middleton breaks away from the school of thought in which Shakespeare operates and provides his audience with a more complex. I intend to show that the plays of Thomas Middleton are a decidedly more “ideal” source for understanding what it means to be human than those of William Shakespeare. and—in many ways—more admirable depiction of life. But if being human means living in a material world. and aspirations. then Shakespeare did indeed imbue life into man. preferences. fitting into an age-old ideal and perpetually soliloquizing in angst about actualizing this ideal. In this paper.ABSTRACT Harold Bloom has insisted that during the English Renaissance. I pay particular attention to how Middleton represents women and how he plays with (and thus overturns) the ideological binaries of his day. and The Changeling. The Roaring Girl. we find the definition of humanity. if being human means that we all must wax noble and operate within a universe of types and extremities. Now.
a performative accomplishment which the mundane social audience. 1 …[S]ome perhaps do flout The plot. many readers and theatre-goers will encounter Thomas Middleton’s writings either for the first time or from a fresh perspective. Indeed. Because initial interpretations on paper and stage create future critical expectations of his writings. 2 After the Oxford Collected Works of Thomas Middleton is made available to the public in a matter of months. performance. Some for the person will revile the scene. saying. The epilogue to The Roaring Girl is important because it is sympathetic towards—even approving of—a woman contemporary society loved to talk about and cast judgment upon. a constructed identity. Instead of altering these women from beings “[l]imned to the life” to better fit societal demands. In the world’s eye.—Epilogue to The Roaring Girl. it is especially timely to now evaluate the work his writings perform. too mean. then the appearance of substance is precisely that. —Judith Butler. come to believe and to perform in the mode of belief. which is this study’s focus) and a glimpse of one of Middleton’s most intriguing subjects: women in early modern society. Gender Trouble (1990). as the collection sets forth the most complete set of his extant work and contextualizes its composition. Middleton compares his own dramatic presentations to those that women must make 1 . The verse selection with which this study opens is particularly apt in that it addresses both the reception of newly encountered work (and in particular. the play’s roaring girl stands as a representative of innumerable early modern women unfairly critiqued. Middleton presents his female characters as real and unique persons (2). and critical interpretation. the theatrical genre. ’tis too thin.INTRODUCTION [I]f gender is instituted through acts which are internally discontinuous. In the epilogue. including the actors themselves. labeled whores or monsters for simply living as they must or as they choose. too weak. as other artists do. seeing. none weighs so light…. And wonder that a creature of her being Should be the subject of a poet.
Numerous critics have highlighted Middleton’s references to and reworkings of contemporary writers. Middleton specifically depicts his own culture not simply as “a passive reflection of the world” but as “purposeful and critical. beneath the lifelike portrayal of early modern life. like The Changeling (1622). like Jonson. Middleton’s comedies and tragedies have often been described as “realistic. 3 Informed by Ben Jonson’s own resentment of the “debasement” of writing for popular entertainment rather than operating as a lofty “poet. he carefully positions his works within written discourse and levies his own critique of the culture and ideals these writings represent. and that he finds them worth portrayal and commentary. and running through to his latest works. While Middleton recognizes that his own presentations are but representations of reality. he also shows. critics have found it difficult to find Middleton’s own perspective on the society he represents. Eliot to his conclusion that Middleton “has no message”. such as The Ghost of Lucrece (1600) and The Black Book (1604). As in this epilogue. he renders both forms effective modes of cultural representation and critique. “emphasized the traditional idea of tragedy as a serious and culturally weighty dramatic form as one way of legitimating the activity of playwriting. Middleton is a self-conscious writer. Middleton suggests that when audiences unfairly judge his writings. especially concerning gender. including Shakespeare. they subject women to comparison with an artificial ideal. just as the painting loses its vitality and beauty as societal demands render it a life-less monstrosity. more importantly. like the painter’s portrait of a woman. Middleton’s work characteristically not only sympathizes with women but also insists that their persons are more complex than the categories in which they are too often placed. a woman that cannot exist in reality.of themselves to a disapproving society. beginning with some of his earliest works.” 6 Indeed.” 4 But as this study will demonstrate. Jonson. examining two tragedies and two comedies.S. 5 But as Margot Heineman suggests. Paul Yachinin’s assertion that Middleton’s tragedies are specifically “sociopolitical” applies very well to Middleton’s analysis of gender. that women themselves are but representations—representations that often do not reflect reality at all.” Yachinin argues that Middleton.” It is this realism that leads T. Nashe. Middleton’s comedies are equally as “culturally weighty” as his tragedies. and Marlowe. Middleton’s comparison of his own work to that of unjustly critized women is also characteristic of his writings in that he is both highly observant of social details. 7 That is not to say that Middleton’s works are “unoriginal” but rather that he consciously enters into a discourse with 2 .
” so these writings’ adorned bulk merely shrouds a shabby intent (2. Like the Fat Bishop of Spalato.” a hypocrite who “cares not what he writes against others”.90-92). the plainer Latin serves then” (2. whose “[f]at cathedral bod[y]/ ha[s]…but [a] lean little soul. I strike deep in And leave the orifex gushing where I come. delivers his latest book to the White House: “here’s my recantation in the last leaf. Middleton distinguishes himself from the generation of writers before him: The fashion of play-making I can properly compare to nothing so naturally as the alteration in apparel: for in the time of the great-crop doublet./ writ like a Ciceronian in pure Latin. In his epistle to The Roaring Girl. quilted with mighty words to lean purpose. But where is my advancement all this while I ha’ gaped for’t? I’d have some round preferment. It has lost many an ounce of reputation Since I came of this side. As Middleton points out in his epistle to The Roaring Girl.2. the Fat Bishop of Spalato also employs his flamboyant words to cover his own faults (whoring and gluttony the most readily visible): I know my pen draws blood of the Black House. 28). (1-10) Middleton again critiques his play-writing predecessors in A Game at Chess when the author character. quaint conceits.” to which the White Bishop of Canterbury replies. the Fat Bishop of Spalato. There’s ne’er a book I write but their cause bleeds. Now is the time of spruceness.4-5). corpulent dignity That bears some breadth and compass in the gift on’t. neater inventions began to set up. 29-30. (3. our plays follow the niceness of our garments: single plots. he “rip[s] up the most nasty vice that ever hell belched forth.other writings of his day. and as the doublet fell. But Middleton does not simply distinguish his writings in terms of style but also in substance.2. He points out that other writers’ purposes are often “lean. “Pure honesty.” even while using his profits to entertain his own “private” vices (25.1-9) 3 . was only then in fashion. In order to build his own honor and reputation.” their plenty of language compensating for their lack of substance. too often a writer is but an “obscene fellow. lecherous jests dressed up in hanging sleeves…. your huge bombasted plays.1.
As he notes when the Black Knight enters the stage. he “rather wish[es] in such discoveries where reputation lies bleeding. are nothing but “inventions”. expect a wonder ere’t be long. just as the Fat Bishop is aware that he is a piece playing in a game of chess. As Middleton demonstrates that women are more than their unfounded reputations in The Roaring Girl. In The Roaring Girl epistle.1. These men prey upon women in order to create an honorable disguise for their own rotten characters. I must need confess. a slackness of truth. of withholding slander and supporting the reality of character. though presented as the relation of religious and political truths. 4 . Middleton. the following play focuses on the necessity of truthful language.52-57) His written words. insisting that he writes for the good of the slandered. 31-32). “I must look to my play then” (3.” and in contrast to other “obscene” writers.It is significant that immediately following the Fat Bishop of Spalato’s delivery of his first writing for the White House. indeed. than fulness of slander” (21-23. the innocent Virgin White Queen’s Pawn. approaches the assembled White House leaders to plead for justice. and Sir Alexander makes Moll a common city prostitute. he reveals in A Game at Chess that men in powerful positions cast these women into such roles—the Black House turns the Virgin White Queen’s Pawn into a lying whore. so he also realizes that all he does is a performance. The Fat Bishop of Spalato seizes his opportunity for worldly advancement among the Black House: It is but penning Another recantation and inventing Two or three bitter books against the White House And then I’m in o’ t’other side again As firm as e’er I was. the play’s most vulnerable character. the world has taxed her for than has been written of her.1. however.24). truth is denied utterance. (3. but ’tis the excellency of a writer to leave things better than he finds ’em. While empty reputations are continually propelled through attractive but false language. relating the Jesuit Black Bishop’s Pawn’s attempt to rape her—and no one believes her. as fat and flourishing. he claims to rewrite Moll’s reputation: “Worse things.— Black Knight. places himself in juxtaposition to this practice. While he here admits that his Moll may actually be an improvement upon the real Moll Cutpurse.
Jonathan Dollimore writes that the relatively new idea of subjectivity in the early modern period gave rise to a “growing complexity in characterisation,” leading to “the realisation that identity itself is a fiction or construct. Theatrical disguise and play were not merely a representation of this, but in part the very means of its discovery.” 8 If Middleton does one thing with his writings, it is highlight the reality of identity as a construct—a construct shaped by powerful men to better themselves and to place women in roles most conducive to their own social advancement. As we shall see in this study’s three chapters, Middleton has a mind to existing written discourse and consciously represents his culture’s dominant values and practices, not simply mirroring its contradictions but unapologetically exposing them for what they are. Chapter one examines Middleton’s The Lady’s Tragedy, showing how it retells the popular rape legend of Lucrece, specifically reworking one of Shakespeare’s renditions of it: Titus Andronicus. Instead of victimizing a silent stage symbol, Middleton gives his heroine voice, agency, and her own individual personality. And while Shakespeare typically presents the dichotomy of emblematic virgin and paradigmatic whore, Middleton’s representation of women renders neither of the two main female characters types—neither is Mary or Eve, symbol of purity or embodied monstrosity. This chapter focuses on how Middleton employs the tale of the highly prized woman within a masculine political realm, exposing the system’s ideological and structural indecencies—in both cultural writing and performance. Turning to comedy, chapter two explores the portrayals of three strong female characters in The Roaring Girl and No Wit, No Help Like a Woman’s. In these tragedies, Middleton again consciously works with set character types for his women, but the types into which they ostensibly fall clearly do not fit them. From the chaste Moll, who roars in the streets with roaming gallants, to Mistress Low-water, who rules both her husband’s and her brother’s fortunes, Middleton presents very plausible human beings, psychologically realistic women who are full of complex desires and wills and exhibit a competent and admirable agency. Chapter three analyzes the disturbing but popular tragedy of The Changeling. While most criticism readily acknowledges the characters’ psychological plausibility, it generally misinterprets the psychological reality of the situation. This chapter explores the alarmingly human nature of Beatrice-Joanna and the horror of her spiral towards death and hell’s flames not as a representation of her unconscious sexual drive but of the unseen yet ever-felt cultural
imperative that she play her role as ideal woman, a part that she, as a plausibly faulty human being, cannot possibly fulfill in both substance and performance. Swapan Chakravorty describes Middleton as an individual thinker and voice in his society. 9 This study seeks to demonstrate that he promotes that same ability to think and speak in his realistic female characters. It is not his male auctoritas that condescendingly or manipulatively lends his female “puppets” the agency and words that are in actuality his alone, but rather his insight, his observant eye and his critical pen, that portrays what he perceives as reality. 10
CHAPTER ONE WOMEN, EMBODIMENT, AND DISFIGUREMENT IN SHAKEPSEARE’S TITUS ANDRONICUS AND MIDDLETON’S THE LADY’S TRAGEDY
In Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, the statesman Marcus breathes beautiful lines of poetry to his freshly ravished and mutilated niece: Alas, a crimson river of warm blood, Like to a bubbling fountain stirred with wind, Doth rise and fall between thy rosèd lips, Coming and going with thy honeyed breath…. Oh, had the monster seen those lily hands Tremble like aspen leaves upon a lute And make the silken strings delight to kiss them, He would not then have touched them for his life! Or had he heard the heavenly harmony Which that sweet tongue hath made, He would have dropped his knife and fell asleep, As Cerberus at the Thracian poet’s feet. (2.4.22-25, 44-51) 11 In a play littered with severed body parts, gruesome delights, and foul lusts, Marcus is an oddly gentle and seemingly just man. Unfamiliar with the physicality of the battlefield, Marcus is notably detached from the other characters’ brutal actions, and on page, such poetic words seem a perfectly natural response for this philosophical character. Yet, as a number of critics have noticed, when one hears this poetry coupled with the sight of Lavinia’s torn and oozing body, his “heavenly harmony” takes on grotesque overtones. 12 There is nothing of Lavinia’s horrific physical pain or emotional agony in his images of dancing fountains, dewy roses, and honeyed sweetness, nothing of her danger of death or sense of loss. He does not see Lavinia or her trauma. Marcus is either oblivious to or unfeeling toward Lavinia’s reception of his words, which do not offer comfort but remind of what she has lost and suffered; he seems more consumed with his personal grief and his brother Titus’ grief to come than with Lavinia’s (if indeed it even occurs to him that she might have great sorrow herself). In transferring her reality
a number of plays inspired by the legend were written and performed in the latter part of the sixteenth century and 8 . As Harold Bloom insists. mutilated. then forced to watch her husband stabbed to death. forced to re-enact her rape on numerous occasions. mocked by her rapists. the psychological realism of his characters is what makes Shakespeare so memorable. autonomy. the King’s Men purchased and performed a tragic play by a playwright named Thomas Middleton: The Lady’s Tragedy. master craftsman that he is. Both written and visual art in medieval and early modern times were fascinated with the tale of Lucrece. But in Shakespeare’s own time. forming quite a corpus of representations of the tragic Roman character (and her likeminded offspring). the bulk of criticism on Titus Andronicus follows in this vein of analyzing the characters as plausible human beings. Is there no other way for questions about the condition of women in a patriarchy to be raised? It is argued that Shakespeare. most evocative way. and finally killed by her own father in a public spectacle.130]). on top her husband’s corpse. This play. Questions about objectification. value. Marcus reduces Lavinia to a mere symbol. a revision of Shakespeare’s own revision of the ancient legend of chaste Lucrece.3. Even so. did so in the most effective. though written at least seventeen years later than Shakespeare’s. his depictions of human nature were brought into question—even in his own acting company. commanded to carry her father’s severed hand in her wounded mouth.to metaphor. thus exploring the depths of what it means to be human. her first legal “rape”). Shakespeare “invented…the representation of the human”. The play’s treatment of Lavinia is horrifying: she is first torn from her betrothed and given to another (as a number of critics have pointed out. In 1611. what makes his works so profound. gentle and passive as she is. must suffer from the hands of her rapists and also from her family’s supposedly wellmeaning treatment and finally from the ever-watching audience. as her rapists suggest. verbally tormented by her family. we must wonder why Lavinia. critics (including ones of the feminist persuasion) feel compelled to praise this play and the questions it raises about the human condition. is more than likely an answer to Titus Andronicus. But in our close reading of the text. which serves as a bloody “pillow” [2. As Julia Briggs points out in her introduction to the play in the forthcoming Oxford edition of Middleton’s complete works. then gang raped (quite possibly. 13 As with a number of Shakespeare’s other plays. An honest response to this scene unearths troubling observations about the play’s view of women. and personhood arise.
but Titus Andronicus is not listed among the possibilities. 16 While early modern theatre performances were no doubt less “realistic” than modern productions. while Middleton’s is clearly Christian (and more specifically. Earl of Huntingdon (1598). Shakespeare’s religious framework is pagan. it thus becomes an active part of that society and a shaping aspect of its culture. elements of realism. Middleton’s own The Revenger’s Tragedy (1606). In order to capture human interest. it is not improbable that he would have had access to at least some print version of the play. it is this essential imitation of our own existence that gives drama its appeal. it may seem implausible that Middleton’s play specifically revises Shakespeare’s. performances must reflect reality in some way. at least. at least. as I have argued in my introduction. Middleton “re-told” Shakespeare’s 1594 Rape of Lucrece with his own extended poem of the story. Shakespeare’s play went through several publications in the seventeenth century. 15 Even if Middleton did not read one of the 1611 editions of his predecessor’s play. The Ghost of Lucrece. there are no direct correlatives. and John Fletcher’s Tragedy of Valentinian (1610-11). it is nonetheless appropriate to examine dramas of the period as possessing. especially Fletcher’s. due in part to technological capabilities and theatrical conventions. while Middleton’s is an unspecified contemporary kingdom. including one in 1600 and one in 1611. all of these plays were also enacted. Briggs suggests that Middleton’s play was perhaps influenced by each of these tales. Because theatre is both a reflection of culture and an actual part of society. Thomas Heywood’s The Rape of Lucrece (1607). Regardless. settings. John Marston’s Sophonisba. But more significant than plays’ simple capture of elements from life is the reciprocal mimesis theatre and life engage in. Furthermore. such as character names. other human beings) played out on the stage is what gives humor to comedy and incites empathy and horror in response to tragedy. After all.the first decade of the seventeenth century. The raging early modern debate 9 . the Wonder of Women (1605). the year of Middleton’s own work. including Antony Munday’s The Death of Robert. this was not the first time Middleton revised a Shakespearean rendition of Lucrece. Indeed. eleven years earlier. In other words. while still a youth. He would have been familiar with Titus Andronicus both because of its popularity on stage. Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure (1604). Protestant). the audience’s ability to see something of themselves (or. 14 Additionally. since Titus Andronicus made its London debut over a decade and a half before The Lady’s Tragedy and in the intervening years. or quotations: Shakespeare’s play is set in ancient Rome. Middleton was a writer conscious of the literary culture into which he was born.
and… believable to those who were not—could not have been—there to witness. fond of her father” and the gruesome details of her rape are presented (complete with a “skirt ripped open to reveal her naked crotch from which blood was still dripping down along her legs”). “father and daughter were 10 . John Rainoldes. For instance.” 18 Indeed. “The processes of confession and the processes of fictional representation—the conventions of standardized mimesis—are mutually reinforcing and determining: theatre makes rape knowable. in which Lavinia is rendered “a present-day woman— lively. After all. but Aebischer believes she should rather appear as a real woman. both critics show how proving rape in medieval and early modern Europe was necessarily a performance on the part of the victim. and where can ideals better become reality than on the stage? It is precisely for this reason that we critically examine these works.” 19 Indeed. despite its limitations in depicting what we consider the real world. our definitions of reality are often grounded in ideals. 17 One example of this symbiotic relationship—and one directly pertinent to this paper in particular—is found in recent articles by Jody Enders and Kim Solga. in this production.over the (im)morality of theatre that involved polemicists like Philip Stubbes. visibly suffering. and Stephen Gossen was primarily in response to theatre’s presumed ability to affect the behavior and personalities. Figuring the Female on Stage One of the strongest trends in feminist criticism of Titus Andronicus is to insist that Lavinia should have more centrality in the tragedy than productions have traditionally given her. Examining the shockingly realistic 2001-2002 Kaos Theatre stage production directed by Xavier Leret. understandable. John Greene. Aebischer concludes that Shakespeare does not “necessarily privilege the male over the female hero. writes Aebischer. a performance that followed the model of the “reappearance” scenes of ravished women on stage. As Solga observes. theatre does in fact both imitate reality and serve as an exemplar for it. even. assertive. of individuals and society at large. Pascale Aebischer explores various stage and screen productions of Titus Andronicus and advocates greater realism in Lavinia’s portrayal—Lavinia is almost always performed as a stylized object without voice.
21 Rather than earning a spotlight for herself. When the Andronici are presented with Lavinia’s ravished body. quoting Anna Clark. But that which gives my soul the greatest spurn Is dear Lavinia. It was my dear. trying to make sense of her bleeding. 101-102.united in their fellow-suffering. we truly do pity the man. dearer than my soul. it is more than that. it is a social act of violence and defamation directed against the male proprietor of the stolen belonging. it is not to determine what has happened to her or how they might help or comfort her but how they might understand its effects upon themselves. “between men. critics have pointed out that rape is sometimes seen not in terms of Williams’ definition but as a kind of theft. a definition that remained in operation into the early modern period. even though he declares that Lavinia is “dearer than my soul. Solga highlights the fact that Lavinia’s family appears to miss the fact that Lavinia has indeed been raped until she literally spells out her fate before their watching eyes. Yet this speech is not for Lavinia at all. Essentially. to quote from Sedgwick’s title. as Rubin concludes: “If it is women who are being transacted. then it is the men who give and take them who are linked. Carolyn D. and he that wounded her Hath hurt me more than had he killed me dead…. most loving words for Lavinia. and at this moment.” 22 But I would argue that it is less about hurting and humiliating the woman than it is about hurting and humiliating the man or men in the woman’s life. the two “partners” (to apply Rubin’s term) in rape are both male.” That is. mutilated flesh. However. or betrothed. my emphasis) These are Titus’ most compassionate. women are simply used to form bonds between men.” 23 As a result of a later medieval definition of rape as the abduction of a woman from her father.” In analyzing rape in Shakespeare. her pain and grief is not her own but rather an emblem of her father’s much greater suffering. Titus explains. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Gayle Rubin both argue in their studies on the homosocial nature of heterosexual “relations” that every aspect of such relations is actually. husband. Williams proposes that rape is. emotions. In her persuasive article on the early modern standard for rape’s performance. Solga argues that in 11 . essentially “a violent act aimed at humiliating women. the woman being a conduit of a relationship rather than a partner to it. and will is satisfying. I cannot find justification in the original text for such a performance.91-92. Lavinia’s function is to enhance the brightness of her father’s.1. (3.” 20 And while the thought of a Lavinia with personality.
actuality “the problem is not that the Andronicii do not understand that Lavinia has been raped, but rather that because they do not yet know who is responsible they are unable to conceive of the rape as a homosocial assault—an assault on their own bodies (or their family body) by another man—and hence they are unable to conceive of the rape as rape at all.” 24 In this context, it is not surprising that Marcus perceives Lavinia’s condition only in terms of its effect on her father (his first address to the ravished Lavinia concludes with sympathy not for her but for her father—“Come, let us go and make thy father blind,/ For such a sight will blind a father’s eye” (2.4.52-53). Neither is it surprising that Titus understands Lavinia’s miserable condition as chiefly a hurt to himself, the enemy attacking and injuring him. The greatest pain in this scene— indeed, the greatest pain resulting from Lavinia’s rape and mutilation—is not her own but the pain inflicted upon Titus through her, precisely as it was intended to be (3.1.52-53). Titus further identifies Lavinia as an extension of himself when Lucius tries to wipe her tears—significantly, the first action that anyone has made towards recognizing Lavinia’s own grief and seeking to offer her comfort—and Titus thwarts him. Titus declares: Mark, Marcus, mark! I understand her signs. Had she a tongue to speak, now would she say That to her brother which I said to thee. His napkin, with his true tears all bewet, Can do no service on her sorrowful cheeks. (3.1.142-147) Because Titus has already determined that he wants no such comfort in the extremity of his suffering and has said so to Marcus, it is a redundant scenario for Lucius to try to comfort Lavinia; Titus sees comfort as impossible for himself, and if Titus wishes for no comfort, then Lavinia, too, can neither have nor desire comfort. Titus speaks for the voiceless Lavinia as for himself. But if we were to truly evaluate Lavinia’s situation, assuming her character to be a portrayal of a human being, we must realize, as many feminist critics have, what Lavinia has experienced. Lavinia has just witnessed her husband’s murder and undergone an extremely violent rape. After her rape (or even during her rape), these men also cut her hands and tongue from her—thus violating, tearing, and exposing the most sensitive and personal parts of the female body (those seen and unseen). Then, not satisfied with the external tortures they have inflicted upon her, they specifically torment the sensitive interior of her mind by mocking her and laughing at her helpless, violated condition; her rapists brutally penetrate her entire self,
leaving nothing to her, save her will. And that will was clearly never Lavinia’s in the first place; her will is subsumed into Titus’s own from the first. A woman in just such a condition is bound to crave kindness, gentleness, and comfort, despite her father’s preference that he himself (and hence her) remain inconsolable. 25 But in this scene, we are not made to see Lavinia as a real woman but as a symbol. In his gruesome meditations, Titus asks Lavinia to “make some sign how I may do thee ease” and offers, “shall we cut away our hands, like thine?/ Or shall we bite our tongues, and in dumb shows/ Pass the remainder of our hateful days?” (3.1.121, 130-132). By such offerings, he clearly does not seek to do Lavinia “ease” but to dwell upon his wrongs and his life, which consists of nothing but “hateful days”; Lavinia is the visual representation of the torment that it is for him to live. She is the symbol of Titus’ sufferings, the ever-present reminder that Titus is justified in his horrific deeds of revenge. But even as a symbol, Lavinia cannot figure centrally in the play as we might like her to. Cynthia Marshall explores the dilemma of sympathizing with Lavinia when we do not see or get to encounter (through her speech) her actual rape and subsequent suffering. And while Marshall does not argue that Lavinia is a powerful character with personhood, she does insist that Lavinia is much more of a presence on stage, for “[t]he silent woman [does] become[…] invisible in the text, but not on the stage.” 26 Like the Kaos Theatre production’s portrayal of a realistically mutilated Lavinia, bleeding and torn, exposed to the audience, Marshall’s Lavinia also commands a powerfully disturbing stage presence, one that continually draws the audience’s attention whenever she is on stage (nearly all the scenes in which Titus features). But when constructing a stage presence for Lavinia that mimics physical reality, we find that the story takes place over the course of at least nine months (since Tamora gives birth to Aaron’s child without anyone suspecting that the child is anyone but Saturninus’), and in that amount of time, Lavinia’s wounds should have healed. Though she would still have stumps instead of hands, Lavinia should realistically no longer appear bloody and “ravished” as the play instructs for her first appearance after the rape. But we know that Shakespeare liked to telescope events that would have unfolded over the course of actual months or years into a brief period of stage time; this compression of time forces Lavinia to remain simply a bloody symbol rather than an acting person on the stage until the very end. Despite her perpetual gruesome appearance, however, Lavinia is still only a present symbol, not an active person, and as such, not the powerful gruesome spectacle Marshall suggests but a silent victim. 27
As is characteristic of silent victims, Lavinia submits to—and even endorses—the actions of the males who surround her, thus causing their actions towards her and hers towards them to appear as her own desire, her own will. Lavinia’s death scene is perhaps the most apparent demonstration of her characteristic submission and conformity. Aebischer, however, argues that Lavinia actually has a very powerful voice, and her silencing is not only a result of rapists’ cutting but also—more disturbingly—of our own oppressive interpretations of her, especially in her death scene. Aebischer laments this repeated, active silencing of Lavinia: “In one production, she even ‘handed’ her father the knife with which he then stabbed her in a loving embrace. Obviously, Lavinia’s voice is silenced and ignored not only within the play, but the character is even today subjected to an unwarranted and unwanted critical and theatrical euthanasia.” 28 Certainly feminist critics would not wish for a woman’s death by her father’s hand in the name of “honor” to be interpreted as a “loving” act that conforms to her personal will, but such an interpretation of Titus Andronicus is far from “unwarranted.” Aebischer contends that since Lavinia chooses to identify with Philomela’s rape tale (rather than with Lucrece’s), Lavinia expresses a desire to live because Philomela survives her revenge and “acquire[s] a new voice” in the form of a nightingale; thus Titus becomes Lavinia’s unwanted killer rather than her loving assistant. 29 But Shakespeare does not paint Lavinia as a full character with her own voice and desires; her death is clearly meant to be an event that she very literally embraces. Lavinia explicitly enters the banquet scene for the purpose of dying; she is neither unaware of Titus’ intentions nor opposed to them. Lavinia appears, according to Shakespeare’s stage directions, “with a veil over her face,” decked in the attire of a virgin bride taking the oath to become the bride of heaven, conjuring up images of the virgin martyrs, figures quite popular in late medieval and early modern literature—the glorified violated woman, who can only achieve this glory for her chastity through her purging death, the willing sacrifice. 30 In Julie Taymor’s 1999 film production, Titus, Lavinia also wears a veil during her first entrance in the play. While Shakespeare does not give explicit directions for Lavinia to wear a veil in this first scene as he does in her final scene, as the loving daughter and sister, she would plausibly be dressed in mourning for her twenty-one brothers who return from the war to be buried. Taymor has Lavinia enter through a door to the Andronici tomb, the light surrounding her alone in the dark room as she gently enters, the veil featuring prominently as she stands in the threshold and then when she kneels for Titus’ blessing. The scene is reminiscent of visual representations of
though he takes the ancient legend a step further by killing Lavinia with the literal hand of the patriarch. is triumphant. a symbol. like the Tyrant and the Wife. endorse her killing at her father’s hand because she is. since a symbol only has meaning if it is seen. and Widow all do). if Lavinia were meant to represent a real person. however. Maid. the paradigmatic chaste woman and daughter gladly obedient to her Father’s will. Titus’ appendage. though bloody and wronged.the Annunciation. 31 It is also important to note. as Aebischer asserts. the Tyrant announcing as he summons her to the court that his chief aim in usurping the throne was using 15 . Notably. this label is not. no doubt. Titus does not kill her in private. 33 The Lady. thus linking Lavinia with Christ’s mother.” Lavinia’s death is a public spectacle. This tragedy is clearly not the story of equal sufferings of a father and daughter. except by extension). is not named but rather given a label. death entails no such symbolism. In the play’s opening scene. 34 Rather than defined by her relationship to another or her sexual status (as the customary dramatic titles. 32 But for the Lady in Middleton’s The Lady’s Tragedy. Wife. then. Virgin. Because Lavinia is depicted as a dutiful daughter. however. but the story of a father whose afflictions are depicted in the person-less body of his daughter. Titus’ killing of her before all of Rome (figured in the emperor and other Roman and Scythian officials) is reminiscent of Lucrece who does likewise after her rape. As Titus’ symbol. of the kind that limits. she would have certainly preferred a private execution. for she was so anxious to hide her body and shame from men directly before and after her rape. that Lavinia’s death should not be portrayed simply as “loving euthanasia. Because Lavinia is the symbol of Titus’ sufferings. she is defined by her relationships to others and her emblematic role. and symbols do not reflect the psychological complexities of real people. the female protagonist is intentionally named “Lady. neither is there any question as to whether or not she endorses her death. Shakespeare’s Lavinia does. a coherent character. He reclaims his most-prized honor and purges himself and the empire of unjust suffering forever.” connoting nobility and honor and an ambiguous sexuality. is never defined as Daughter or Virgin. we see her as a much-sought-after woman. But Lavinia is a symbol. and indeed. like the Virgin Mary. the Lady. a part of himself that he is at liberty to dispose of as he likes. Daughter. she must be killed publicly. to use Robin Bott’s term. whereas Lucrece stabs herself. just as he does with his hand—Lavinia’s “will” is by definition her father’s will. Moreover. as euthanasia must be done. as a mere extension of Titus himself— or. the meaning of Lavinia’s death is that Titus (not Lavinia.
though she is unmarried.” and the only explicit references to virginity are Govianus’ encomiums of the Lady after her death. valiant woman. is what drives men to sit upon the kingdom’s throne and once there steer it in whichever direction will win her. her desirability. the Lady herself he refers to as a “valiant woman” rather than a “valiant maid.that power to win the Lady from her beloved. 36 Upon finding her dead.” and while he may refer to the Lady as a virgin in his enthusiastic—almost deifying—praise. the Lady does what Lavinia. overcome Thy honour’s enemies with thine own white hand. the deposed king.176-178) 37 Govianus calls her victory “virgin. the focus seems to be more upon the victory itself as a pure one. “I am not here” (4. 35 Lavinia serves as the means by which the men of her world situate themselves in relation to other men.4. Govianus.37-40) Govianus is still flowing forth with the Lady’s praise when she cuts him short with her declaration.” The other instance in which Govianus possibly references virginity is in a rapturous prayer he makes at her tomb: Eternal maid of honour. as Govianus sits praying to his dead lover’s tomb as if she were a saint. Unlike Lavinia. 38 Assertive even after death.40). the Lady herself. but she is sought after because she is the emblematic virgin—an enhancement and symbol of an essentially masculine notion of honor—while the Lady is desired simply because she is desirable. whose chaste body Lies here. To spring forth glorious to eternity At the everlasting harvest— (4. In Titus Andronicus. all without help? Eternal praise go with thee! (3. And hast thou. the Lady is never actually labeled a virgin. The title and stage directions refer to her as “the Lady. he exclaims. Where virgin-victory sits. the Lady points out the absurdity—even 16 . who is repeatedly called a maid. like virtue’s close and hidden seed.1. cannot do to Marcus’ troublesome and long-winded praise (with which this chapter opened): the Lady regulates—and edits—what is said about her. while the Lady actually defines the kingdom. silent in life.4. Lavinia is likewise the contested prize between two men who struggle for power. Indeed. a feat the Lady accomplished without help and without ill intention or faltering step.
for instance.foolishness—of what he does: he not only prays to an empty grave but also sits spouting forth clichés about womanhood. 41 Moreover. there are indications that she has chosen to sexually consummate her relationship with Govianus (as many early modern betrothed couples did): the boy who sings at her grave calls her Govianus’ “wife”. Overlooking such textual indicators in favor of early modern dramatic traditions. unlike Lavinia. does not make a show of her death but requests its swift execution in the privacy of her quarters (and since Govianus succumbs to a swoon at the moment she must 17 . the Lady’s death.1. and in death.142). interprets the play as a saint’s life. the Lady. the Lady assuming the position of a virgin martyr. the Lady herself assures Govianus that the only way for her to remain faithful to him is to kill herself. While the Lady is never classified as a virgin. the Lady is not (and cannot be) a pure. Anne Lancashire. while sexually faithful. the Lady is “chastity’s martyr. chastity. or.” By leaving her sexual status ambiguous and by having the Lady cast Govianus’ characterization of her as a kind of virgin saint as somewhat ridiculous. The Lady desires to prevent the horrific experience of being subjected to the Tyrant’s violent and continual rape: “Shall I be taken/ And lost the cruell’st way?” she laments (3.1. The Lady’s rebuke highlights Govianus’ detachment from reality. elevated symbol. remaining inactive while her dead body is being molested by a man whose attentions were so unwelcome that she killed herself. Govianus buries her beside his father in the family tomb. the Lady’s sexual status really has no bearing upon the worth of her character. Middleton seems to suggest that. he will “enjoy” her “still” (3.78-79). in contrast to the popular legends of pagan and Christian women proving their worth by protecting their chastity with their lives. significantly.” 40 But while it is true that the Lady kills herself in order to prevent the Tyrant from raping her and to remain Govianus’ alone. or male “ownership. as Barbara Baines disgustedly asserts. most critics who have written about the Lady do not even consider the possibility that the Lady could be anything but the iconic virgin. holds no interest for the Lady. Because she chooses death not to prove herself virtuous but to prevent what she does not wish to happen. while preserving her sexual fidelity to Govianus. indicating his hyperbolic characterization of her as the emblematic virtuous “maid. is not a sacrifice to virginity. is not an action simply to maintain her “purity” for Govianus. the fact remains that the Lady. The kiss the Lady gives Govianus in front of her disapproving father and the covetous Tyrant shortly after she arrives on stage immediately paints the Lady’s womanhood as selfdetermined rather than virginal and passive. unlike Titus and Lavinia.” 39 His speech.
The Lady does remember to pray (because. after all. she refuses to let the Tyrant dictate. 44 For Crawford. she chooses death not because she feels a need to prove her virtue but because it is her choice over the Tyrant’s plans of perpetual rape.” 42 Kevin Crawford has written of how this play is about the failure of masculinity. her quick and wise decisions. who silently promotes her father and his doings. but she does not foreground her death in virtue. raving.1. is a commanding assertion: “I am not to be altered” (1. is “an extreme attack on Govianus’ ability to sexually protect and control the Lady. the audience alone witnesses her death). the Lady exercises her own will. the Lady is characterized both in death and life by her control. the Lady has already bid Govianus to kill her when she remembers her shriving work. controlling her actions as well as those of the men who wish to control her.die. Crawford believes the play is meant to reveal how men should not behave. but Crawford argues that the play couches these men’s situations in terms of what they should rather do in order to fulfill a kind of masculine ideal—for instance. Unlike Lavinia. Even as a ghost. eventually wresting the kingdom from him. for she will not be “altared. If the Lady were dying as a martyr. Indeed. Moreover. and while his observations are true—the men do take on certain typical female roles (swooning. The Lady’s first line in the play. especially a martyr to chastity.104). She proves herself the play’s commander throughout: she rebukes her father’s attempts to pander her to the Tyrant. ultimately turning his heart from greed to repentance. the play’s casting of its male characters in a negative light is not a critique of the system that allows them to operate as they do but rather their failure to live up to the ideal that system holds forth. and weeping) and are repeatedly shown as impotent—his interpretation of the play is somewhat misfocused. which is certainly a significant part of the drama. and her solid ability to carry them out effectively. she would make sure that she had prayed before she declared herself ready for the sword. the Lady commands the play. appearing to Govianus and demanding that he spring to action and return her body to the grave and exact justice upon the Tyrant. Also significantly. she is an admirable woman). after all. the Lady’s command of the play’s action and the audience’s attention becomes 18 . the “poisoned lips trick. Crawford sees the Tyrant as “unmanned” by his lust. she insists that Govianus exercise courage and aid her in her death. Govianus’ method of killing the Tyrant. The Lady’s first line has further significance as a pronunciation that she will not fulfill the expected role of the passive sacrificial virgin in the unfolding tragedy.” as Crawford calls it.” 43 Similarly.
obedient Lavinia is Virtue herself. Lavinia is the perfect object for symbolism. it is not an actual young woman they have violated but a symbol they have dirtied: “Here stands the spring whom you have stained with mud…. since. 47 Perhaps her most obvious symbolic function is her role itself. sweet female virtue. loving. 391). an ideal woman is only an ideal and not a real person.” thus reaffirming Marcus’ original assertion and conflating honor and Lavinia into the greater figure of “virtue” (1. and that more dear/ Than hands or tongue. as Titus exacts revenge on her/his rapists.” and only a few lines later. 46 The failures of the men simply cause her example to shine brighter because she is the only one who continually exercises discernment and acts effectually. 45 But the play’s focus is not on the men and their failure to be “real men” but rather on the Lady and her abilities as a person. and desires. the Lady is both the center of events and the center of the stage. Female Embodiment and (Dis)figuring the Binary Lavinia embodies a popular early modern feminine ideal: a pure and will-less body. even in death. when Titus concedes. after all. the play (and kingdom) would not be forced to have a woman at the helm. and in this play. especially when coupled with Tamora. Chaste. she does indeed become a symbol on a number of levels. Both her sweet hands. Marcus praises Mutius as an honorable and courageous man who “died in honor and Lavinia’s cause. her spotless chastity” (5. 48 When Titus’ three sons and Marcus plead that Titus should permit Mutius’ burial among his brothers. Titus’ sons and Marcus proclaim that this noble young man “died in virtue’s cause. always assigned purpose and value. if they were. As such.378. Even in the final act. Yet Lavinia does perfectly promote this role. Lavinia is not described as a particular young woman. ambitions. in effect. but as pure. a unique person with thoughts. The play’s focus is the Lady. readily (and.170. It is for this reason that the Oxford editors have chosen the more appropriate title of The Lady’s Tragedy for this unnamed work.2.simply a default highlighting the fact that the men are not acting as they should. willingly) appropriated. 19 .1. her tongue. 175-176).
but the child of her adultery. her conglomerate evils.” he is no longer beneath but above the emperor to whom he has been enslaved (2. as she demonstrates the next moment when she orders Aemilius to carry a message of her own creation that will determine the fate of the empire (4. and the play’s 20 . It is Tamora’s thirst for power. when he “mount[s] aloft with [his] imperial mistress. As empress. Tamora’s sexual infidelities are especially transgressive in that her sexual crimes are also racial and political crimes. Presented as a powerful female ruler (both queen of the Goths and empress of Rome). Tamora is painted as a most dangerous villain. Tamora. As Aaron himself asserts in his eloquent soliloquy. and blood that leads to Bassianus’ murder. though a very different character from Lavinia. her infant son whom she has sentenced to slaughter. While Tamora is ultimately deposed. Lucius’ banishment. as she openly boasts to Saturninus that Titus will “obey my tongue” (4.99). Ironically. and even. Chiron and Demetrius’ horrific fates and the emperor’s and her own subsequent cannibalism. not the murdered emperor or Titus. 49 Throughout the play. serves a symbolic function. lustful Eve and the deceitful serpent.99). her presence is a very physical one. Lavinia’s rape and mutilation. Titus’ two sons’ beheadings. not Lavinia’s body. And because the child is conveniently a “blackamoor. commanding her own course and pursuing her own desires. Notably. Tamora vows revenge upon Titus’ entire family on her wedding night. which become the ultimate womanly evil.” she becomes the conduit of one man’s usurpation of another man’s position—not only sexually but.4.13). and like Lavinia. the one innocent product of Tamora’s deeds. sex. she is not indicted for her political crimes as an active ruler but for her sexual ones. socially and politically. not the approaching Goths. for selfrule and even for rule over men. Titus’ severed hand and lost sanity. and this vow immediately follows her successful manipulation of her husband and emperor. thus inextricably linking her dangerousness with her sexuality and will.Likewise. Tamora’s words rule Saturninus’ judgment and actions. is the embodiment of her horrific guilt. she is the embodiment of female vice: evil incarnate. in accepting another man’s “seed. Sexual infidelity thus becomes the chief of evils. When Lucius seeks to prove himself the rightful ruler and Tamora an evil one who deserved her punishment.4. not his brothers’ heads. Tamora demonstrates her lust for dominance. she is both the disobedient. more importantly. even. a woman with a will of her own.1. he presents his most compelling evidence: not Titus’ hand. in effect. thus she in truth rules the entire Roman Empire.” he visually unites adultery and the demonic. Aaron thus cuckolds Saturninus and interrupts the royal lineage through the all-too complicit Tamora.
Votarius.two women demonstrate the truth of the female binary—women are either chaste and heavenly like the Virgin Mary or lascivious and of the devil like their mother Eve. Leonela. It must also be observed that the Wife is presented as a very sexual being. her troubles over her husband largely because he has “Forgot the way of wedlock.” she brings “her husband and her lover down with her to degradation and death. Stood in my window. she is distressed at her husband’s unkind behavior. Indeed. and Lancashire dubs the Wife “a Lady Lechery. cold and thinly clad. Yet it must be noted that. she even describes her sexual frustration (and appeal) to a man not her husband: I have watched him [her husband] In silver nights. when all the earth was dressed Up like a virgin in white innocent beams. She begins the play as a faithful wife (“a kind. finding the connection between the two to be the contrast between the Wife and the Lady—because of the Wife’s “moral failure.” while the Lady brings “true peace” and “salvation” to those about her (224.2. The Lady’s Tragedy operates within the early modern dramatic convention of two (sets of) women. And when the morning dew began to fall.22). (1. and she several times reproaches the advances of her husband’s friend. and become/ A stranger to the joys and rites of love” (1. T’observe him through the bounty of the moon That liberally bestowed her graces on me.100-107) 21 . especially of the Wife. even though her husband does not act his required part (1. his distraction and absence from her bed. at first seem to fall into the same category as Shakespeare’s Tamora. worthy lady” and “chaste wife”).” 50 Richard Levin has written an entire article on the relationship of the play’s two plots. David Bergeron sees this plot as one featuring “the faithful husband” and his “unfaithful” friend and wife who deceive him and turn the entire household to destruction. the Wife is a sympathetic character. unlike Tamora.2. painted as a weak human being who has been tried beyond what she can bear. Middleton’s Wife and her maidservant. and with their sexual infidelity and deceit.108-109). Then was my time to weep.2. Like Titus Andronicus. Critics that examine the second plot never fail to note the destruction and damnation of its characters and their actions. 226).
her speech is about and for (since she desires Votarius to convey the message) her husband. and the fact that he swoons has no determining value in her decision to kill herself. by contrast. that the Wife succumbs to Votarius’ advances. eagerly ingratiate herself to the Tyrant. like themselves. but she does not become a monstrosity like Tamora. The Tyrant himself. It is only understandable. crying “I come. but the Lady fills no such position. she is not devoid of virtue for the play’s entirety. neither is she unsympathetic. 51 At the same time.1. is shocked by her faithfulness to him (1. embracing honor. too. By this point in the play. it simply ensures that she will be the hand who commands the sword. The Wife is ultimately painted as an immoral woman. Even the jealous husband. Votarius and the Wife do mistakenly die for each other because their fates cannot allow them to live as lovers.222-224)./ Set all her wrongs before her. decides in a fit of passion to join him. Anselmus.While it is inappropriate for the Wife to speak thus to a man not her husband. we see her continually seeking illicit sexual encounters. contriving elaborate schemes to deceive her husband. and even—albeit accidentally—murdering.” the two things an unfaithful wife (or one who 22 . and the Wife. All the men of the court are shocked when she does not. since she is fully aware that Govianus has swooned.1. for she herself notes that just as her husband has dealt with her unkindly. much like the star-crossed lovers of many a romantic tragedy. the Wife has morally declined. praises her remarkable preference for fidelity and devotion over worldly enticements: “There stands the first/ Of all her kind that ever refused greatness. so has his friend: “’Tis not friendly done. and then tempt her” (1.121). Votarius” (5. Our response to the Wife is further complicated in that she is not so much like Tamora but like Juliet. who cannot trust his own wife. can offer nothing but praise for the Lady. seeing what she has done to her lover. though he wishes her to succumb to him. running upon the swords of her dueling husband and maidservant’s lover. Bergeron and Baines have both concluded that the Lady kills herself in despair when Govianus appears as dead in a swoon. 52 The Wife is not killed in just revenge as Tamora is but rather dies as a result of a fatal mistake and her subsequent grief. is admirable from the moment she first sets foot on the stage to the moment she exits.163-164). The Wife is painted as fully human. sir.2. and wealth. attempting to manipulate her maidservant. even at her life’s end.” and Govianus. Votarius dies by accident at the Wife’s hand in a sabotaged mock-invasion./ To take a lady at advantage thus. knowing her longing and how her husband treats her. who gives Govianus “Peace and pleasure. rank. The Lady.
admitting him to her quarters the moment his presence is announced. it is essentially a re-styled morality play. that you found me kind) To hear your words. After all. and answering his pandering and unfounded slander (accusations of selfishness and bastardy) with kindness and reverence: But. flesh and spirit”. (2. next a husband. for the play itself “presents above all the clash between worldly greatness and moral goodness. gentle manner and stands firm in her own will. she more effectively commands the play than Tamora does in Titus Andronicus. but she simplifies it in ways that the play itself complicates. honoring her father as much as possible. Lancashire (as most other critics of the play) views The Lady’s Tragedy’s two plots as black and white. But while the Lady is undoubtedly the ideal woman of the play—indeed. and wisdom?—she does not conform to a standard cultural ideal of femininity. dearest sir. goodness. 23 . who can help but admire her strength. an actual model to admire and emulate. depicted as a true person rather than a type or symbol. 54 Lancashire is correct in claiming a kind of morality in the play.55-62) Such a response to a man who disowns her because she will not betray herself and her lover and sell herself to the Tyrant for her father’s advancement at court cannot but earn our admiration. is the richest treasure Mortality can show us.is even suspected of infidelity) deprives her husband of (1. and she is neither silent nor obedient.2. in fact. In addition to being a faithful lover. you should pardon me (And yet confess. she is quite possibly no longer a virgin (though unmarried).1. 53 The Lady is a wonderfully complex and realistic woman. an example of wickedness and an example of righteousness. immediately seeking his blessing. the Lady both responds in an undeserved. Middleton works within the convention of oppositional forces—a woman to emulate and a woman to avoid becoming—but he alters that convention significantly by rendering both women as complex persons that do not fit into polarized types.18). too. though I withstood your mind. couching the play’s morality in terms of binaries that the play actually deconstructs. the Lady is also a respectful daughter. A debt which both begins and ends with life… Yet could you be more precious than a father Which. regretting his wait. I owe to you a reverence.
” and Marshall asserts that the play “affirms that this system of gender oppositions produces no winners. Considering their hyper-patriarchal contexts (both governmental and familial). her uncle. the lady’s father tries to ingratiate himself with the ruler by unsuccessfully giving him his daughter. the setting is the royal court of an unjust/incompetent ruler. is always on the perimeter. Lavinia. soldiers. the ruler is deposed via murder. concludes with perhaps the strongest emotional case for reaffirming the patriarchal system: there is real joy. Lavinia and Tamora are the only women (minus the bit part of the murdered nurse and the midwife who is alluded to before her murder) in a fairly large cast. the empresses’ sons.The Patriarchal Figure Both Titus Andronicus and The Lady’s Tragedy are “political” plays. however. Shakespeare does not conclude with hopeless despair. and understanding. Lucius’ boy is initiated into that world. her father. never welcomed into the male realm of honor. Taymor’s film version opens with Lucius’ boy violently playing with toy soldiers and ketchup. hundreds of grim soldiers marching into the Roman coliseum—then. and loss coupled with honor of the dead— stamps of approval and desert. the film then quickly moves into a literal arena of masculinity.” 55 But while this is a tragedy. after all. her nephew. the ruler tries to steal the betrothed lady of his competitor. The play. In each. the Moor. and in each. kinship. In Titus Andronicus. despite the fact that her existence is entirely tied up in that world. it is no accident that these plays raise questions about the position of women in patriarchal societies. Brecken Rose Hancock insists that “[t]his violent assertion of masculinity leaves no room for a positive resolution…. the emperor. The motherless Lavinia (the only true woman of the play) is surrounded by twenty-five brothers. Several critics have pointed out the destructiveness and futility of this exclusive and extreme world of male-rule. in each. sorrow. Indeed. and (male) citizens. in each. particularly because all the women are destroyed and there is no regenerate hope offered by Lucius’ reestablished empire. in a wonderful interpretive move. the entire body of Rome shouts in praise of the establishment of Lucius’ reign—one they have no doubt will fulfill Marcus’ words: 24 . her betrothed. when Lucius and Marcus rise above the carnage of the final scene.
only his survivors. is driven to this action by his 25 . having killed the tyrannical emperor both for his family’s vengeance and the empire’s good. For nature puts me to a heavy task.172-173). The last true duties of thy noble son! (5. and this time he is the worthy father and the mighty warrior.70-72) 56 The people are so supportive of Lucius’ instatement as ruler that they are reminded of Titus’ former (and regained) glory and are only too willing to pause the affairs of the entire empire at a crucial point of transition in order to pay honor to the now-martyred Titus. Lucius. by whose actual hand the emperor dies. Regardless of the fact that Titus could hardly be said to have fulfilled these nurturing and protective roles (even to those to whom he most owed it—his own children: Mutius.1. In quite a patriarchal tribute. Titus’ young grandson passionately cries. are worthy to “draw near”—as if he were a kind of god. draw you near To shed obsequious tears upon his trunk— Oh take this warm kiss on thy pale cold lips.3. so you did live again!” (5. “Oh. These sorrowful drops upon thy bloodstained face.3. and Bassianus).Oh. let me teach you how to knit again This scattered corn into one mutual sheaf. grandsire.148-155) Not only should the entire empire honor Titus but they should do so without presuming to come near to Titus in their mourning for him.3. Lavinia. May I govern so To heal Rome’s harms and wipe away her woe! But. gentle people. give me aim awhile. most admirable characters are depicted as willing to sacrifice themselves for their children. Lucius’ first speech as emperor focuses on his father’s honor: Thanks. a man who (in their view) did not die as the result of revenge and complicated murderous intrigue but rather who died saving his family and the empire. but Titus and the values he represents are so great that the reverse is true here. Titus indeed becomes what Bassianus claimed he was back in the first scene.424). These broken limbs again into one body. gentle Romans. Stand all aloof. (5. but. grandsire! Ev’n with all my heart/ Would I were dead. apparently. Titus is made the empire’s hero once more. “A father and a friend to thee and Rome” (1. uncle.
164-166) We have. sacrificed her eldest son. he cries out just before attacking the emperor. honor. Shakespeare’s Lavinia would have no doubt approved of just such an unfolding of events.161.father’s own death in the pursuit of justice. Lavinia believes that Tamora certainly could not allow Lavinia’s rape. indeed. but no one utters a word of Lavinia. and given her as a gift to the emperor. deeming it worthy to delay the affairs of state. The entire empire supports Titus’ mourning. his fulfillment of duty to the empire. always knew and eagerly advanced his infinite superiority.3.65). no doubt what these “pretty tales” are about—his exploits in battle. “Can the son’s eye behold his father bleed?” (5. Titus has defeated her country. remembering who her father is (and indeed. of course. Lavinia is also killed. (5. Because Titus has avenged his family and “restored” the empire.… Many a story hath he told to thee. his past transgressions (if indeed they may be called such) are forgotten and almost lauded. Lavinia always prized her father over herself. Titus is glorified for having restored his own authority. Horrific events have transpired in the course of the play and in the last scene in particular. and mocked a potential rape victim—is Titus: “For my father’s sake” (2. then. Thy grandsire loved thee well. for Lucius tells him. rather. Shakespeare implies that if Tamora were not evil incarnate. but there is no despair for the patriarchy or subversion of its authority in Titus’ death. the idea for which there must certainly be the utmost regard—even from a woman who has just actively sought adultery. Titus is given a living monument in the person of his now-ruling son. But. Titus becomes a biblical savior.3. and in the very essence of his young grandson who is destined for the throne. that would certainly be the case).3. after all other pleas have failed. in the hearts of the Roman citizens. but it is not her death that spurs Lucius to action or exclamation. deposing the lascivious 26 . but Tamora must surely know that she owes respect and honor to Titus. her death is overlooked entirely once the emperor kills Titus.158). murdered. And bid thee bear his pretty tales in mind And talk of them when he was dead and gone. Titus’ legacy is so honored that it will live on not only in Lucius but also in Lucius’ son (the likely future emperor of Rome). Lavinia invokes the highest name possible. and position as a father of Rome. Just before her rape. his family’s honors. True. In this final scene.
Crawford contends that “The Lady’s. inactive. The Tyrant’s self-appointed position as creator-god and lover is an utter failure as he drives the Lady to suicide and subsequently cannot even hold himself together.” 59 Indeed. and DeFlores and Vermandero in The Changeling— Middleton thoroughly exposes the moral feebleness of the men of The Lady’s Tragedy. if one were not to realize that Middleton works within the typical dramatic conventions (concluding as Shakespeare does with a re-establishment of male rule) only to critique that genre from within (proving its men incapable even of self-rule and demonstrating the Lady’s continual role in guiding the men and the kingdom where it should go). 57 The evils of the patriarchal system lay only in its temporary overthrow in the rule of a woman. Lancashire. The “ruling” men are exposed as ineffectual. “the true king. the patriarchy in The Lady’s Tragedy is almost farcical. especially in his tragedies—men like the Duke of Women Beware Women. suspicious of his faithful Wife. [who] may legitimately undertake an act of justice against the Tyrant for the public good. For Middleton does not reaffirm the patriarchy by setting Govianus back on the throne but rather confirms the Lady’s worth in getting him there and the extreme faultiness (evil. are blinded by dramatic precedent and do not fairly evaluate what the play actually does with its framework. Vindice from The Revenger’s Tragedy. 61 Anselmus.Jezebel-like Tamora and allowing a righteous male to ascend the throne. for instance. Rather than reaffirmed and honored. In contrast to the near-crushing strength with which Middleton endows a number of his other male characters. actual tragedy is that there are no real men to prevent it.” as if Govianus were the ideal man of this play—courageous and righteous—but Govianus is not even the play’s hero. 58 Susan Zimmerman notes that the play’s “supposed resolution seems awkward and formulaic.… the defender of the public right. irreligious. insists on the perfections of Govianus. and vicious. The real tragedy is that the system in place allows men to behave as they do and force dreadful circumstances upon their women that cause loathsome events to take place—women are driven to infidelity and plotting or forced to choose between things like death and continual rape. all the while dissembling. even) of a rule of such men. decides that the best way to prove her chastity will be to deprive her of attention and entice her into infidelity. and childishly pouting that others care more about the state of the kingdom than about his 27 .” 60 But what the play transparently shows is not that these men are unable to “prevent” tragedy but that they actually cause it. the ending certainly could prove confusing rather than enlightening. foolish. Many critics. however. railing at virtuous behavior as unkind. and the play’s.
2). A.” she portrays Govianus as a wise “spiritual” man and the Tyrant as a satanic carnal man. obsequious and eager fool (3. as to take advantage of his own children. beside joy Able to make a latter spring in me In this my fourscore summer. Claiming Govianus is the embodiment of a goodly king. 21). Sophonirus.1. And that is this and every lady’s tragedy. Lancashire believes the play is on one level a rendition of the traditional good king versus tyrant tale.1. controlling. the defender of the public right” who “may” and should “undertake an act of justice against the Tyrant for the public good. abandon and tempt his devoted wife. 64 Basing their argument upon the Classical model of Aristotle’s Politics. though he “should be wise. 62 Unlike Titus. 63 Just as Titus Andronicus ends with what is supposed to be seen as hope for the future in the establishment of Lucius as emperor. she pinpoints the problem with her father and with the patriarchal system: he is “presuming on his power and my obedience” (2. who brings me mine?”) (1.2. his position. “the true king….” Sophonirus is a self-advancing. uncaring for the expense of his daughter: Advancement for thy father. The courtier. my lord” (1. and cruel towards his daughter. by’s years. Kistner and M.213). laments that he cannot pander his wife to the Tyrant and wishes for nothing more than to be a contented cuckold. What kind of a father—indeed. the Lady’s father is openly painted as selfish. which is not only an acquisition of honor but also of intimacy with his male-dominant. and renew me With a reversion yet of heat and youth! (2.1. When the Lady insists that he cannot be her father and act in such a manner towards her. He seeks to exchange his daughter for a currency more valuable to him—position at court. or tyrannize an entire kingdom for his personal benefit? Through exposing these men’s vices.1. Kistner propose that this play’s tragic theme is the 28 .jealousy and discontent (“look not after him that needs thee not…. L. he is bent on material pleasures. At the age of eighty. critics have argued that The Lady’s Tragedy also concludes on a hopeful note. what kind of a man—would so abuse his power.26-29) He foolishly chases after a fountain of youth when he should be wise in his years.95). Middleton reveals that the system allows for and even encourages such abuse and tyranny.17. the Tyrant. even answering the Tyrant’s designs for his daughter with “I like that cruelty passing well. Even the soldiers’ fearful ribaldry at the Lady’s tomb serves to highlight that the males in this play are lost in a world of folly. K.
Now if the play’s conclusion is a return of an ineffective ruler to the throne of a political system Middleton has revealed as tragically oriented. and he identifies with goodness. But this dramatic alteration of Govianus’ character is not enough to justify hope for the kingdom’s future. One almost wonders why the Lady. parent-child. exacting revenge upon the Tyrant. If I do’t. Govianus does seem to undergo a radical conversion or awakening with the spectacular entrance of the Lady’s spirit at her grave and her disturbing revelation that the deprived Tyrant had stolen both her body and her other-worldly “peace” to satiate his raging lust (4.4. His only real flaws are inactivity and naivety. honoring the elderly. While corrupt old lords put Govianus back on the throne— 29 . But when compared to the other men in the play. but it is not Govianus’ reinstatement at all: it is the Lady’s. The man who succumbed to a swoon at the moment his Lady was most at danger now becomes both a clever revenger and a raging warrior. in this light.89-90). Govianus overcomes his paralysis.60). Govianus is not the ideal virtuous ruler. At the play’s opening. chooses him as her lover. husband-wife. Govianus assumes the position of religious knight. 65 Govianus’ reinstatement at the play’s conclusion is thus the triumph of good over evil. being such a strong character. restoring legitimate rule to the kingdom. I shall… spoil all that way” (3. virtue over disorder.1. Incensed.4. For much of the play. Govianus is at least a good man. But neither the play nor its conclusion is quite so simplistic. He does not enact evil. he appears in the Tyrant’s court. Middleton does give us hope in this play’s conclusion. admiring the Lady’s constancy. and honoring the Lady’s wishes for a proper burial.” vowing to see justice done for the Lady “Or in th’ attempt lock death into my breast” (4. and abhorring the unkindness of the Lady’s father and the pandering of Sophonirus. Govianus sighs and swoons and insists that he is incapable of the task given him: “’Tis the hard’st work that ever man was put to…. I shall not have the power to do thee right in’t…. 127. master-servant).inversion of appropriately hierarchical relationships (ruler-subject. beseeching heaven to “put armour on my spirit. as his brother does in his treatment of his Wife or the Tyrant in abducting the Lady. 130-131). can we correctly say that The Lady’s Tragedy provides a glimmer of hope after its intense darkness? We might point to the fact that as a result of the Lady’s foul mistreatment just before her death and then posthumously. Before the Lady kills herself.122. apparently deposed but more sulky than outraged and more focused on the faithfulness of his Lady than the state of his kingdom. the Tyrant’s overthrow by the legitimate king is a return to order.
Reflection upon the Early Modern Literary Corpus Even if we were to side with Bloom in arguing that Titus Andronicus is not. Govianus has pledged to follow the Lady. the Lady is literally placed at the kingdom’s helm as Govianus himself requests in an impressive two-word line that she “Lead on” (5. victimized. 66 Given the reciprocally mimetic nature of theatre and reality. and accused women. a change in order. even with her bloody and mangled corpse still lying on the stage. However. regardless of its aesthetic merits.presumably having had enough of the necrophilic Tyrant and his repulsive practices (or simply careful to be on the winning side of the political rivalry)—the real ceremony of reinstatement is the one Govianus orchestrates for the Lady. his revision of his predecessor’s tale was a playwright’s effort both at distinguishing himself from other dramatists (and Shakespeare in particular) and depicting a new kind of rape narrative. we cannot escape the fact that this play was immensely popular— on public stages and in private homes—for close to a century. “alas. would have the opportunity for significant impact upon early modern English culture.” one of Shakespeare’s better works. Without qualifications. but it is the Lady they crown and place upon the throne. the Lady is glorified. Shakespeare seeks to give the audience hope through a reinstatement of the patriarchy. Though Middleton’s play seems to have escaped the popularity Shakespeare’s enjoyed. lauding their only option for admirable “action”: their deaths. In Titus Andronicus. More significantly. Govianus is reclaimed as king. and respect for fellow human beings. she will not reign in a physical sense. this play.162). While Lavinia is virtually forgotten after her death. Of course. constancy. Middleton not only effectively captured a unique human being in his Lady—perhaps not so much a new kind of woman as a real kind of woman—but also exposes the flaws of the culture that promoted ideals that marginalized. the Lady will be the ruling queen by her foregone example of justice.2. 30 . of the old order more firmly in place than ever before. the Lady is physically dead and makes it quite clear in her spirit’s exit with her body that she intends to remain on the other side of this life. but The Lady’s Tragedy offers the hope of a new system.
211-212.256.” the latter play hardly rivals the former’s reputation. goodman swine’s face!”). No Help Like a Woman’s as a couple. No Help Like a Woman’s has often been compared to a Shakespearean heroine. cross-dressing heroine’s character is likely a large part of what has inspired critical interest in the play during the last few decades.S. Moll?” she replies. 69 Characterization: Women and Types Mistress Low-water of No Wit. he uses them to his own more innovative ends. what doest mean. Even on page. pipe-smoking. It may seem odd. but as this chapter will demonstrate.” a view echoed by later critics like Valerie Forman as “unconventional and lifelike. Moll comes to life as she cants with Tearcat (“‘And there you shall wap with me. which causes a distorted view of Middleton’s characters and of the critical work his own plays perform. unlike The Lady’s Tragedy. that this chapter focuses on The Roaring Girl and No Wit. Middleton’s Lady may serve as 31 . 5. Wapping and niggling is all one”).CHAPTER TWO ODD COUPLINGS: WOMEN AND MARRIAGE IN MIDDLETON’S NO WIT. calls her offenders to task (“You. Eliot concluded that Moll in The Roaring Girl is a “real and unique human being. Of course. With its thin critical history taken up largely with apologies for the work’s “flaws. Middleton here does not specifically revise Shakespearean works.71-72).” 67 This aspect of the sword-wielding. NO HELP LIKE A WOMAN’S AND THE ROARING GIRL T. But as we shall see. 68 But our exploration in this chapter will show that these plays do possess more than a common author and date. 1. “To teach they base thoughts manners!”) (10. and seeks to set wrongs aright (to Laxton’s amazed “Draw upon a woman? Why. Middleton does employ theatrical vehicles like cross-dressing women that are similar to those of Shakespeare and other early modern dramatists. 216. then. critics often read Middleton’s works through a Shakespearean lens. and I’ll niggle with you’…. While it is helpful to understand how Middleton’s writing relates to Shakespeare’s.
the right heir. Mistress Low-water is faced with a choice: she can replace her sexual constancy and “all miseries in their loathèd’st forms…. Disguising herself as a bold younger son and suitor to the recently widowed Lady Goldenfleece to win back the fortune swindled from her impoverished husband by the now-deceased Goldenfleece.a radical revision of Shakespeare’s Lavinia. No comfortable strain. how was conscience./ And all the bastard glories this frame jets in” (2. with her household wealth “fleeced” from her husband. Mistress Low-water does in some ways resemble several distressed Shakespearean heroines.94).1-4. The moment she first appears on stage. asking aloud a string of questions as though seeking justice from unseen gods: Is there no saving means. Like the female protagonist of The Lady’s Tragedy. flattery. A younger sister without portion. no help religious For a distressèd gentlewoman to live by? Has virtue no revènue? … O. that I may kiss it? Must I to whoredom or to beggary lean. left No dowry in the Chamber beside wantonness? O miserable orphan! ’Twixt two extremes runs there no blessèd mean. My mind being sound? Is there no way to miss it? (2. “the virtuous Kate” who is “an almost Shakespearian heroine transported from the world of Arden or Illyria to the corrupt realities of Jacobean London.” 70 As a distressed and chaste woman who resorts to cross-dressing to resolve her situation. but Mistress Low-water stands alone as a unique character more of the mold of Moll than of Viola or Portia.22-24). put by? … Where are our hopes in banks? Was honesty. and advancement. Mistress Low-water seems to despair in her situation.20-21. a visible option as Sir Gilbert Lambstone bombards her with offers to be his mistress and thus have open access to “the widow’s notch” even at the height of Mistress Low-water’s vulnerability (2. Comparing 32 . 9-15) Indeed. Kenneth Muir argues. Mistress Kate Low-water is. thick like a foul mist” with sexual favors that deliver “the bright enticements of the world/ In clearest colours. Mistress Low-water can find no means to save them from their “distressèd” situation but whoredom. 6. 2.
(2.” 71 Her distress and hurt.her two possibilities. and feels distress at having no dowry or inheritance to bring to his relief. while she truly does not wish to shame her husband. Mistress Low-water is thus taken from what Lisa Jardine has called “the vein of the ‘female hero’ of the folk-tale and the saint’s life: the suberotic female figure whose chastity is strongly figured in the combination of faithful page and resolute/obedient/loyal/serving daughter or spouse.” 72 But before we agree that Mistress Low-water indeed follows the traditional early modern cross-dresser’s pattern. 26)..25. Clearly. for the conclusion to her desperate contemplation upon her situation is that such a life would “shame my husband. she refuses earthly advancement and security to keep from shaming her husband. her driving motivation for preserving her chastity and disguising herself as a man. her resolve for holding the “moral high ground” needs revisiting. 73 Mistress Low-water declares that neither threatening “shadows” nor “bright enticements” could “force me shame my husband. Mistress Low-water concludes that nothing—neither “[h]orror nor splendour”—could “force” her to choose whoredom over her life as a chaste wife (2. 22. it seems her greater desire is to ensure that she does not inflict a 33 . are a direct result of her husband’s drastically altered status.. a follow-up to his earlier suits.25. wound my soul” (2.77-80) Continuing with her earlier personification of virtue as earth’s disinherited firstborn. It is likely this declaration that leads David M. Thinks he me mad? ’cause I have no monies on earth That I’ll go forfeit my estate in heaven. That’s my soul’s jointure.26). Mistress Low-water refuses to sell her virtue here on earth and live disinherited in heaven. I’ll starve ere I sell that. Indeed. but is the “wound” to which she refers in reference to her husband as well? Perhaps. Mistress Low-water cries. 26). are for promoting the honor of the men in her family. wound my soul” (2. turning her meditations from sustaining the body to sustaining the soul. then. But Mistress Low-water reveals another motivation for steering clear of adultery when she reads Sir Gilbert’s letter. Holms to conclude that Mistress Low-water “has the strength of character to make a lone stand against corruption” and that “she sympathizes with her husband’s embarrassment. Mistress Low-water’s only apparent concern. And live eternal beggar?. These are the realms of talismanic female virtue. Exasperated and indignant. without reading the letter. She foregrounds the fact that she thinks especially of her husband’s honor.
however.“wound” upon her own soul that proves mortal. Mistress Low-water. But there are some notable differences. her pursuit is of money. Absent 34 . Mistress Low-water is not the passive page. had his incompetence not lost it). nor does she wear men’s clothing or act the man’s part simply because she enjoys it.” 75 Like other early modern heroines.” Mistress Low-water is no Moll. a sex-less young person who passively receives attention and carries out his master’s will.” The word “jointure” can here refer to a union (between her soul and potentially starving body. and her simultaneous success at and occasional uncertainty in her part seem reminiscent of Viola or Portia. as in Viola’s case. But her character and intentions have more in common with Moll than we might initially think. Mistress Low-water disguises herself for neither of these reasons. Mistress Low-water does cross-dress in order to preserve her chastity. taking on an exceptionally active role. something neither Sir Gilbert nor Master Low-water have been able to do. in order to carry out her scheme. Coppélia Kahn argues in her critical introduction to The Roaring Girl that the avowed eternally single and independent Moll is quite “[u]nlike the Shakespearean comic heroines who disguise themselves as boys so that they can covertly pursue the men they love. Jennifer Panek also insists that Mistress Low-water “is the familiar cross-dressed heroine. In her study of early modern widowhood and analysis of four Middletonian widow comedies. or her own material estate (the supposed “competent livelihood” that would support her upon her husband’s death. her chastity is. a dowry (in her soul’s wedding to heaven’s glory). she does not challenge the offending Sir Gilbert with a sword. intentionally assumes the role of a young and assertive gentleman. Moreover. While many early modern cross-dressing women do so largely to protect themselves—to hide the fact that they are vulnerable women—or to follow after the man they wish to marry. Rather. her action is not the pursuit of a man who will marry her and protect her from the outside world—she already has a husband (and he hasn’t proven too successful at protecting her). Mistress Low-water believes that preserving her chastity is key to entering and acquiring a position of honor in heaven. but abandon their assumed identities when obstacles to marriage are overcome. she asserts. joined in marriage). but she also hints here at her ability to manage her estate both in spiritual and material terms. her “soul’s jointure. 76 The typical female disguise is a page. 74 Like many early modern heroines. or possibly between her two souls—her own and her husband’s. she even transforms her husband into her servingman.
but Mistress Low-water sees exactly what their situation is and how they might remedy it. Mistress Low-water replies with urgency and purpose: Wake. (2. a man’s high spirit led to his need to spill his water. Aware of her own superior capabilities.” not rising or thrusting forth into the “opening morning” but instead “falling” and “slumbering.when Sir Gilbert accosts his wife. But Master Low-water—in accordance with his name—is clearly “poor” in “spirit. how now. De Flores cites the raising of his “spirit” as his drive for raping Beatrice-Joanna. he asks simply.167-169) Master Low-water seems plagued with unawareness and lethargy. Master Low-water enters the play after Mistress Low-water finds inspiration for her plan to protect her chastity and take back her family’s lost wealth.” Not only does Master Low-water lack potency but he also 35 . Kate?” (2. an act she identifies as a potent expelling in contrast to the woman’s weak. wake. Will you but second The purpose I intend.110). ’Tis like the sweating sickness: I must keep Your eyes still ’wake. untrustworthy body that incontinently “leaked” its various fluids. 77 In The Changeling. Mistress Low-water assumes the role of virile and effective leader. Rouse up thy spirit from this falling slumber. Mistress Low-water practically reverses the marriage order by taking the position of command and simultaneously reveals that even without donning male clothing and persona. this is no slumbering business.154-157) While her husband cannot comprehend her vision of well-being.4. As Gail Kern Paster has argued. and she cautions: Sleep not on’t. she is more “masculine” than the men who would order her life’s course. early moderns associated “water with male potency”. (2. And this the opening morning of thy comforts. while BeatriceJoanna herself can only spill blood (3. “Why. she is both prepared for and unwavering in her course of action.161-163) Her husband agrees to follow her plan. I’ll be first forward I crave no more of thee but a following spirit.153). and let not patience keep thee poor. (2. you’re gone if once you sleep. Make thy distress seem but a weeping dream. Mistress Low-water does not wait for his leadership but offers.
Once married.293). and any hope of consolation. Intruding upon Weatherwise’s banquet in Lady Goldenfleece’s honor. Mistress Low-water calls together the entire wedding party to expose the scene as she breaks down the door and storms at the poor woman.spills fluid in the manner of non-Middletonian early modern female characters. though it might have been a possible resolution to her financial problem. 78 In a similar manner. She effectively strips Lady Goldenfleece of her money and.” so Mistress Low-water prevents the wounding of her soul by replacing her husband’s watered-down—or rather. Beveril. is found comforting Lady Goldenfleece in her bedroom the wedding night. his body opening and leaking sweat and effeminizing tears.396). Lady Goldenfleece must certainly be in a grateful mood and not unlikely to reconcile herself with the Low-waters. “Out of my house!” (9. watered-out—spirit with her own leading “spirit” (5. sexual rights. Mistress Low-water does become a Shakespearean figure: she plays 36 . void of the semen (and the cultural corollary of wealth) that would render him truly masculine. “What can she speak but woman’s common language:/ She’s sorry and ashamed for’t? That helps nothing” (9. But it is as Lady Goldenfleece’s “husband” that we find Mistress Low-water’s behavior most un-heroinelike. boldly accusing him of being “a rank villain” and producing his letter (4. house and fortune. of her dignity.410-411). Orchestrating it so that her brother. while his wife not only holds her liquids but also “stands” upon her own virility. Sir Gilbert cannot hold his water but seeks multiple channels for it. As Moll declares. Depriving the widow of love. 79 Perhaps Mistress Low-water’s greatest distinction from the traditional early modern cross-dressing female protagonist is the extent to which she plays out her part. When pleaded with to listen to Lady Goldenfleece’s defense. and creates a situation in which she can publicly accuse her of adultery. Mistress Lowwater then pursues—and with bold sexual assertion—her own marriage to the widow. Master Low-water is impotent.140). But Mistress Low-water does not stop here with simple exposure of injustice. calls her lascivious. Mistress Low-water seeks justice against Sir Gilbert (for his wrongs against her and Lady Goldenfleece). Mistress Low-water denies Lady Goldenfleece all affection. Having worked herself into the widow’s affections and ridding the playing field of the most prominent competitor for Lady Goldenfleece’s hand. in part. “My spirit shall be mistress of this house. Mistress Low-water scoffs.
having simplified her character as a creative version of the gallant type in early modern widow comedies. Mistress Low-water may portray a prodigal in her disguise. however. but instead points it up hilariously. whereas some wives would be glad to keep their husbands in awe all days of their lives. For one thing. or she must resign herself to whoredom or die in destitution. defied her family’s wishes (even in pursuing this course of action. the great shrew tamer. the successful but utterly unscrupulous suitor to the widow Valeria in Middleton’s The Widow. that is certainly not all there is to her character. she is a respected gentlewoman who has effectively been robbed of her livelihood and is now presented with an ultimatum: she must find a way to return her family’s wealth to the proper owners. Though his dead father’s firstborn. she instead resembles one of Shakespeare’s most assertive and abusive male figures. She thus concludes that this play “presents a situation in which the widow’s lust cannot compensate for the suitor’s feared masculine inadequacy. only sexual promise. Petruchio is not unlike the prodigal fortune-hunting younger son. but in the actual world of the play. Panek proposes that the real reason early modern widows are portrayed as lusty is because this characterization helps to disguise the suitors’ own fundamental lack of what would have defined them as men. the gallant that typifies comedies involving widow marriages. Mistress Low-water. no land. she first acquires her husband’s permission). Furthermore. 81 But Mistress Low-water can hardly be considered a Ricardo. It is in this category that Elizabeth Hanson assumes that Mistress Low-water falls. Mistress Low-water shows herself a loving wife both in wishing to keep shame from her husband and in treating him kindly and with respect. pursues the widow with the same sexual vitality as typical young suitors and with the same credentials—no fortune.” 82 And while it is possible that Mistress Low-water does serve to highlight this aspect of early modern society. 80 Mistress Low-water is. or proven herself anything but perfectly deserving of a gentlewoman’s portion. for Kate [Lowwater] is not only without the attributes of manhood that a widow’s young suitor typically lacks…but as a woman disguised as an immature male. even when he poses as her servingman: “How few women are of thy mind! She thinks it too much to keep me in subjection for one day. Mistress Low-water has not wasted her fortune.the part of Petruchio. Panek also characterizes Mistress Low-water as the exemplar of gallant fortune-hunters. no title. far more complex than Petruchio. Hardly the familiar heroine. and think it the best bargain that e’er they 37 . she points out. a heightened representation of the type. she fundamentally lacks any manhood at all.
46). too. In revealing herself in this final scene. She is also a loving sister to her scholarly brother.made” (6. sweetly proclaims. duplicitous even. Even Mistress Low-water asserts that “nothing kills a widow’s heart so much/ As a faint bashful wooer.” and so she puts on a “bold 38 . 83 Though she doesn’t seek out an active role as Mistress Low-water does. unique—character than she has generally been given credit for. lost one “head” in exchange for another and now having lost this more powerful one. Indeed. Mistress Low-water also reveals that she is a much more complex—indeed. believe she has been more forward with Sir Gilbert than even the kiss they witness is evidence of. as she gaily thanks the Twighlights for her enjoyable visit. should she gladly entertain all these suitors and enjoy herself abroad? Shouldn’t we expect more from a woman of her maturity and station in life? Quite the contrary. and have no doubt that everyone in the town will believe the slander they spread about supposed sexual escapades with the widow.” 84 Indeed.217-221). all dressed in mourning for her recently deceased husband. cannot help but crave the filling of what she no longer has (4. overcome with joy when she sees him and running to embrace him. A woman who might have once been a modest maiden and a chaste wife. all-too-readily accept Mistress Low-water’s suggestions about her relationship with the widow. Accordingly. Thus she insatiably seeks men to fill the “holes” in her life that the death of her husband has left open. If she is mourning her husband (and she has all the outward show of a newly-made widow). Lady Goldenfleece is perpetually surrounded by a swarm of suitors and is not surprised when a new one joins the ranks unannounced at Weatherwise’s banquet. “Heaven give thee eternal joy.” and reconciles herself to Lady Goldenfleece (9. the lusty widow type reveals the idea that women have an inherent need for headship. her goal accomplished.” Panek has noted the blurred fine line between widowhood and whoredom as a result of their “shared sexual openness. At play’s end. her initial behavior is precisely what we should expect from a woman who is both sexually experienced and “un-mastered. While all of these men try their best to win this widow as their wife.560). my dear sweet brother. Lady Goldenfleece also figures as a strong character in this play. they make sexual jokes in her presence at the banquet. the widow is flanked by suitors. In such an appearance this widow may appear as fickle. every single one of them assumes her nearly insatiable lust and promiscuity. She provides him with sustenance and a wife he adores. As a widow. having as Moll says. Mistress Low-water reveals herself. Appearing on stage for the first time.
(4. like money. “I cannot but in honour see him requited” (4. her affections are not fixed. She immediately sets out to agree to marry Sir Gilbert.” and Hanson argues that she here plays the allegorical role of Fortuna: “The widows in these plays mean money….288-289).92-93. remarking “It rises/ Full in the face of yon fair sign.184). for she cautions herself: Fly from my heart all variable thoughts! She that’s enticed by every pleasing object Shall find small pleasure.” 85 While Lady Goldenfleece’s physical attraction to and longing for Mistress Low-water is apparent. It is only Mistress Low-water’s timely interruption and revelation that saves Lady Goldenfleece from contracting herself to Sir Gilbert. Lady Goldenfleece herself recognizes that her affections here are only very new and possibly passing. Lowell notes in this the “rapidity of her shifting desires. Lady Goldenfleece. though letting Sir Gilbert kiss her only moments before. admits that The more I look on him. but also because. enamored with Mistress Low-water.285-287) She evaluates her thoughts. makes that the upper end.267-269). she changes hands and in so doing changes men’s fortunes.” she concludes. As Weatherwise’s “sun-cup” passes around for common drink. Lady Goldenfleece stares. her fickleness is not so readily observed. the more I thirst for’t. Unlike the young and inexperienced Beatrice-Joanna of The Changeling. Turns the signs back. 88).face and a good spirit” (6. She is changeable not only because. preferring constant and honorable behavior over letting her mind dwell upon its newest attraction and thus possibly wander in devotion. he’s best and worthiest.217-219) And her longing intensifies as the scene unfolds. but she carefully regulates her actions. as a woman. When Mistress Low-water first joins the party at Weatherwise’s banquet.” referring to the sun’s heat as well as her own rising desire (4. who instantly acts upon her new-found sexual attraction to Alsemero by seeking to break her pre-existing marriage contract—and even resorting to murder—Lady Goldenfleece’s response is one of a mature and self-controlled woman. 39 . and as little rest. and she decides that since she has entertained Sir Gilbert’s attentions and he “hath loved me long. (4. and yet/ By course he is the last must feel the heat. Mistress Low-water’s sexual presence does in fact play a role in leading to Lady Goldenfleece’s selection of her as her husband (6. Her desires may vary. Methinks his beauty does so far transcend.
” Moll hears throughout the play. and considering who her previous husband was.157). love more important than instant gratification. “I know you. Mistress Low-water is likely the first suitor she actually loved. possibly the only “man” she has ever loved.393-394). Sebastian. Even so. The true change is in her priorities. She decides to marry for love instead of social and material assets. Panek observes that Lady Goldenfleece chooses Mistress Low-water as a direct result of her promise that “he” has never wooed another woman. Sir Alexander believes that reminding his son. but she is hardly the lusty widow type. Lady Goldenfleece is indeed a true widow. The influence and play of feminine types is no less evident in The Roaring Girl. simply of Moll’s name should give him reason enough to forsake his supposed courting of the roaring girl. “you’re but a whore to hang upon any man” (8. Lady Goldenfleece does not agree to marriage until Mistress Low-water presents her with other strong recommendations of character: devotion. love.220-221). love. she simply insists that she will only look for and accept a man she “loves”—a term not without sexual inference—and who in turn “loves” her. She does not mention any specific suitor. and she calmly and reasonably rules her actions. 162). To ask the Shakespearean question.” Sir Alexander replies with definitive evidence—statistics: there are “[m]ore whores of that name than of any ten other” (4. When Sebastian asks how “the name of Moll” can be “so fatal. loveless marriage. but Lady Goldenfleece does not seem to have ever loved Sir Gilbert but to have entertained his attentions because he seemed the most respectable of her suitors and because he had both money and title. Of course. it is not so much Mistress Low-water’s sexual promise that confirms Lady Goldenfleece’s preference for her as her “more serious and admirable” quality of “purity. and chastity.It is not simply Sir Gilbert’s disqualification from winning Lady Goldenfleece’s affections that leads to her consequent preference for Mistress Low-water. well enough. Lady Goldenfleece declares that she will “marry love hereafter. and sex. not her affections. Clearly feeling a need for companionship.159. I have nothing” (4. as her savior from a ruinous. Mistress Low-water already shows Lady Goldenfleece certain positive qualities. Showing Sir Gilbert the door. what’s in a name? In 40 . “Methinks her very name should fright thee from her” (4. I’ve enough. for she holds character as more important than sexual virility./ And wanting that.” 86 One might counter that Lady Goldenfleece is still a fickle woman because she places her affections on two different suitors in only a matter of hours. he insists. often from men who do not know her at all. despite his monetary recommendations or claims to titles.
This stage maneuver is coupled with strategic nomenclature—these two women share the same name. this is the woman who is unruly. plenty. immediately notices that this is not she. Moll’s name holds great significance in this play and for the audience. 87 Even beyond the denotations and connotations of the adjectival part of her name. Neatfoot’s attributions to Mary also reflect a 41 . As Neatfoot rambles on and on. as she was known. the audience that has been expecting the appearance of a different Mary F.” The prologue prepares the audience for the entrance of this provocative character who has made “the audience look/ For wonders” (1-2). Sebastian also confirms that the “whole city takes/ Note of her name” (1. The specific name that the prologue gives here is also significant—not Moll Cutpurse. her life. the name of the real woman on whom her character was based—but “Mad Moll. 5).” As Kahn points out in her gloss of the passage. to have “nothing else” but a “private word or two” with Sebastian (1. Neatfoot. But instead there is a substitution. disguises herself as a working woman and seeks out Sebastian in hopes of recovering her husband-to-be turned stranger.5). The act of naming in this particular play. This Mary is unassuming. making foolish sexual suggestions.” occupation) or distinction beyond a common first name but also a significance in that name. not unlike the Lady in her first scene (1. This move allows for the delayed entrance of the play’s celebrated character (further heightening audience anticipation) and causes the audience to compare the woman who first figures in the play’s action with the woman they eagerly await to appear.this case.” even “wild” or “eccentric”.29.” acting even this “base” part nobly. or even Mary Frith. Mary Fitzallard. then. an admired young gentlewoman lawfully betrothed to Sebastian but wrongfully spurned by his avaricious father. the fact that we are simply given her first name (and that her nickname) implies not only an individuality that does not require an association with family (or in the case of “Cutpurse. a theatrical slip: another woman appears on stage. our acts proclaim” (29-30). who refuses to play the typical female part. is important for identifying at least its female protagonist. While Mary Fitzallard and the woman who roars share the same given name. this epithet implies “mad in the sense of not conforming to conventions of behaviour for women. the prologue itself teasing audience expectations and leading up to its final questions and proclamation: “But would you know who ’tis? would you hear her name?/ She is called Mad Moll. Mary gives but one-line answers—“I humbly thank you”— and continually addresses her social inferior as “sir. kindly asking permission of Sebastian’s servingman.103-104). “Moll.
11.168. When one Mary/Moll must disappear from the picture. 32. he calls her “emblem of fragility.72-73).” and “worthy gentlewoman” with “honour” and “modest fame” (2. Addressed by nickname here. for the scene is specifically set in Marybone Park. becoming the object of Sebastian’s courtship. 35-36). Moll! Mistress Mary—” (5. not different at all implies (2.96. in my breast a poisoned arrow sticks…. as the fact that their names are. these connotations would have been evident. 169. I must thy company shun. like mine. When Sebastian unfolds his plan to Mary.” “virtuous gentlewoman. a thief’s female companion. 2.” their actual characters are not so juxtaposed. Kahn points out in her gloss of Mary’s name that “Mary connotes chastity. As Kahn 42 . she resembles the ideal woman: the source of her name. Mary quite literally turns into Moll.” “cutpurse drab. The two women’s names provide further interchangeability as Moll is also referred to as “Mistress Mary” numerous times. the Virgin Mary. another must take her place.” first in her typical cross-dressed attire and then again in a bridal gown. in truth./ Bleeds even to death at the least wound it takes” (1. Indeed. 11. But even as Mary is repeatedly labeled “virtuous maiden.” “your modesty.” and “roaring drab.184. and Laxton even calls her both forms of her name in a single line: “Hold. In addition to the initial switch of Mary for Moll. 11.3. and once again in the wedding scene when Moll appears as the “bride. love being truly bred i’th’ soul. and so Moll stands in Mary’s stead.183. or a female thief”). the play repeatedly treats these two women’s names interchangeably and substitutes their persons and bodies for one another.175. only to move aside when Mary enters. especially in conjunction with Moll” (both because of Moll’s well-known character and because Moll was not simply a nickname for Mary but a name that was used for a “whore.” and “your chastity” (1. this exchange is especially evident: “sweet Moll. 15). Her first and only substantial speech (a full nine lines) is reminiscent of the grieving Mother of God: “my bosom/ Is full of bitter sorrows…. It is in this same scene that the unstable nature of the name is especially highlighted. Mary Fitzallard seems an ideal young woman. 88 Even without the unavoidable comparison of Mary with Moll as a result of the stage substitution. 191. dressed as a page.character quite opposite from audience expectations for Moll. This scene of substitution is highlighted in detail twice more—once when Moll poses as Sebastian’s music teacher and (undercover) as Sebastian’s beloved while Mary stands silent.68). 10.306). 18. 185) and Moll nothing but “whore.29-30./ I court another Moll” (1. Meek and mild.” “sweet damsel.
97). an idea Moll also reverses when she challenges Laxton: “There’s the gold/ with which you hired your hackney. Lady Mary Wroth’s employs the same metaphor of the pain her lover’s 43 . The park was known as a centre of prostitution. “And must another bedfellow fill my room?” (1. referencing reproduction. for the eternal Virgin Mary herself. and erotic “feeling” all in their brief exchange about her speaking with his master. an exchange of maidenhead for money. She claims to only wish to speak with Sebastian. kisses. And “Marybone” may also connote another homophone: “merry-bone.notes in her gloss. Moll thus turns the merriness of riding the prostitute into a painful horror-ride at the hands of a Moll who is not a moll. or can we ever know which is which? In addition to the endlessly shifting nature of their names. is not as emblematic of her iconic namesake as it may seem. though he clearly renders the prospective meeting as prostitution. Neatfoot’s language also highlights the sexual nature of her visit. Granted. none of them stable.80). my emphasis). In her sixth sonnet. for instance. pleasure and satisfaction. but what she seeks is. both Moll and Mary Fitzallard are evoked on a number of levels. As the purpose of Mary’s visit steers her away from saintly virginal categorization. Mary’s first scene. but she epitomizes her agony with an inquiry of lament. thus its name evokes the same juxtaposition of whore and virgin as does Moll’s name. Mary and Moll both engage in activities that bring the definability of their characters into question. marrow considered a seat of vitality and an aphrodisiac…. a sexual relationship. a place named for a female saint. Ironically. erection.” 89 This location is the one Laxton proposes for an amorous encounter with Moll—or so he assumes it to be. also playing on ‘marybone’ for marrow-bone. in fact.64-66. is a place of whoring. What woman is what she is thought to be? Which “Mary” is connoted in the names of the women and of the town? Can a whorish Moll be proved a Mary and a chaste Mary proved a Moll. this comment suggests the possibility that Mary and Sebastian have already shared that bed. here’s her pace:/ She racks hard and perhaps your bones will feel it” (5. that a drastically delayed marriage or an annulment of their betrothal would lead to her utter ruin. especially when Moll overturns Laxton’s expectations and challenges him to a sword fight in order to denounce the rape of chastity and the injustice of slandering a woman’s name. But these actions do not construct concrete answers. so does her suggestion of her own “shipwreck” if Sebastian does not marry her (1. either. and in the name. the location is “named for St Mary-le-Bourne (on the brook) or St Mary-leBonne (the good). she speaks of marriage. Following on the heals of her lament over her lost position in bed.” illicit merrymaking.
” is like Mary’s. 9).39-41). striking of the offending gallant who enters the Openworks’ shop. tripping of Trapdoor. 12. and fistfight with Trapdoor during the canting scene. (10. without touch/ Either of sin or shame: our loves are honest. before she 44 . Moll more than once boldly declares that she prefers her independence and self-headship over a relationship with a man. seems more certain: she still owns her maidenhead. drawing on Sebastian. How many are whores in small ruffs and still looks? How many chaste whose names fill slander’s books? Were all men cuckolds. Moll’s reputation—her good name—is tremendously important to her. still smothered in [her] grieved breast. her “pain. or it could imply that she is also “undone” and cannot put crucial parts of herself back together for another man—as Wroth’s repetition of “lost” and description of being “spoiled” imply (7. But it must be noted that each of these encounters are Moll’s reaction to an accusation of being sexually promiscuous.356-359) Moll also continually demonstrates that she prizes the attribute of “honesty” (also a synonym for chastity) the most.desertion inflicts.45-47). When Moll disguises Mary as a page so the two lovers can meet. though. where a maiden loses one head. Moll explicitly states that her reputation as “Moll Cutpurse” is a result of slander and adamantly points out. famously observing that “marriage is but a chopping and changing. Mary’s position is quite ambiguous. Notably. Like the leaky vessels Paster sees in the gossips of Middleton’s A Chaste Maid in Cheapside. “Thou hast done me a kind office. Moll’s condition. full-blown sword fight with Laxton. drawing on the Curtalax. 9). we should not walk for goring horns. Indeed. “I’d scorn to make such shift to bring you together else” (8. of which there are seven: her wished-for encounter with Mistress Openwork. a result of a man’s apparent incontinence (1). 90 Mary’s phrase could simply imply that losing her beloved will “shipwreck” her life because she cannot be with the man she truly loves. Indeed. 10. 9.” leaving her “[n]othing of pleasure” or “hope” (8. and has a worse i’th’place” (4. whose open orifices are most readily identifiable in their greedy mouths. She seems especially independent and man-like in her fights and almost-fights. though the only way she can counter the limitless slander circulating about her is an action that earns her other forms of slander.” and Moll replies with an emphasis on the importance of that honesty. Sebastian declares. the sonnet describes how her lover’s incontinence “devours” and “swallows. whom gallants in their scorns Call so.
and make the poor gentleman work hard for a pension” (4. Indeed. the epistle calls her “Venus. she reprimands these men’s dishonest behavior. “I speak against myself. a fact most evident in the scene in which she escorts the band of gallants through the streets. I would give but too much money to be nibbling with that wench.193-195).85-87). Viviana Comensoli believes that Moll’s “rejection of marriage derives in part from the Christian ascetic tradition” and that she separates “body and spirit. It is again honesty that she puts forth as the most important aspect of one’s character: “You see sir.knows that Sebastian courted her only in hopes of marrying another. Moll tries to dissuade him from his wooing. “I’ll play my part as well as I can: it shall ne’er be said I came into a gentleman’s chamber and let his instrument hang by the walls!” (8. Life. forcing the thieves to return a stolen purse and exposing and chastising Trapdoor: “Soldier?—Thou deservest to be hanged up by that tongue which dishonours so noble a profession.114-116). She is also painted as having sexual appeal. In his book that generally forces Middleton’s plays into too-narrowly defined categories of Christian thought.60-66).” 93 Moll does not wholly exclude herself from the play’s sexual talk—she notably jokes in the viol-playing scene in Sir Alexander’s quarters. like everything else about her character. 92 And while Moll does assert that the only way for her to be free is to remain unmarried—and unmanned—her sexuality.” Mistress Openwork assumes that her husband flirts with Moll simply because Moll is in their shop. 3.—Soldier. and if every woman would deal with their suitor so honestly. warning them about a group of approaching cutpurses and discerning Trapdoor beneath the disguise of a wounded soldier turned beggar. is not so neatly categorized. 91 In light of Moll’s values and her bold declarations and actions to support them.” holding to bodily chastity so that her spirit can be free in this world. you skeldering varlet?” (10. 45 . and Laxton (who is not aroused by Mistress Gallipot or any of the other women) is immediately drawn to devising plans to get Moll to sleep with him: “Heart. poor younger brothers would not be so often gulled with old cozening widows that turn o’er all their wealth in trust to some kinsman. telling him in no uncertain terms exactly what she thinks of marriage and how she would behave if she ever married (though it were an impossibility). sh’as the spirit of four great parishes” (15.” she explains. Moll is also quite apt at seeing the truth of a situation before anyone else does. Herbert Jack Heller more correctly points out that “Moll has an indeterminate sexual status.
46 . This scene is sexual and sexually described. The point is that she is not sexually involved with men. and Moll insists that she would not have played it if he had not given it to her. except that she upholds her chastity for reasons other than the cultish value given hymenal intactness (as we will see Beatrice-Joanna does in The Changeling). whatever they might be. we yet again try to categorize a person whose very nature is intentionally indefinable. 95 Howard believes that Moll’s sexuality is visualized in the viol.122-124). Firstly. noting that the change of Moll’s instrument from her real-life lute to a viol as especially significant because the lute could be “tucked decorously beneath the breast.Jean Howard has pointed out the specifically sexual nature of the viol-playing scene in particular.129). So it seems that Moll’s sexuality is yet another aspect of her character that defies all boundaries. but Moll herself couches this episode in terms of disproving those who slander her by calling her a whore. We may leave open the possibility that Moll is autosexual./ To call whore first. and control that eroticism….92-94). and concludes. Yet Moll never denies her sexuality…. sexuality. for “though the world judge impudently of me. is problematic. but neither is she sexually unaware or put-off. we cannot determine what we should think of her sexually. Her “dreams” are also of the truth being seen for what it is. phallus-oriented. while making clear the cultural imperatives that operate to shape.heterosexual marriage is the only “legitimate” avenue open to Moll for acting on any of her sexual desires.” 96 We might reconcile Moll’s adamant refusal to marry and militant protection of her chastity with her simultaneous sexual embodiment by this categorization of her sexuality. played with legs akimbo. Moll does not choose the viol as her instrument. but the viol. which “suggests her own sexual instrument and her masturbatory playing of it a final defiance of patriarchal. she argues. And marriage she rejects on political grounds as entailing an insupportable subordination and loss of independence…. She proceeds to show her prized honesty once the song is over by not only “keep[ing her] legs together” but also pointing out Sir Alexander’s jewels meant to entice her and making sure no one takes them (8. Sebastian offers it to her. channel. like all my foes. She describes two women who are sexually loose and could be called whores. too. but in trying to show that she is. “Yet she began. insists upon… female erotic desire.” 94 This incident. I ne’er came into that chamber yet where I took down the instrument myself” (8. for so do those—/ A pox of all false tails!” (8. but this reading.
choosing what she likes from all genders and classes and fluidly constructing her own indefinable identity. I’d make you seek out one to hang in my room: I’d give you the slip at gallows and cozen the people. By wearing breeches and carrying a sword. Dawson has said of the actual Mary Frith. 98 Moll does not renounce her expected feminine role and turn instead to the masculine roles forbidden her. She easily moves among different classes of people. Laxton points out Moll’s “slipperiness” in the play’s beginning when he observes in the market that “She slips from one company to another like a fat eel between a Dutchman’s fingers” (3. not only begs that we not try to fit her into pre-existing roles but also defies any kind of label she is given. Rather. rather. doesn’t stop dressing like a man. sir. she visibly slips from the categories into which she is placed. she assumes the social position and prerogatives of a man—without either renouncing her social identity as a woman or conforming to its dictates. as though it were a task that must be done. but she is not simply a non-conformist. or criminals” and that she “never conceals her socially ascribed identity as a woman. (11. as Adrienne L. Eastwood supposes in her article on single women in early modern society. thereby achieving what she needs and desires as a woman who does not fit into a socially acceptable male-dominated position. Kahn notes that Moll is depicted as freely moving between genders and classes.” 97 But it is not as though she simply makes it problematic for us to categorize her. she actively carves out her own character. Moll’s very nature. Indeed. her very existence. Coherence: The Strong Woman and Marriage 47 . Moll becomes the female type who cross-dresses out of a kind of necessity to impersonate a man. Kahn observes that Moll is “equally at home with nobles. and Moll bookends the play with pointing out as much again at its conclusion: Condemn me? troth an you should.213-214). For her. and refuses to marry.” Moll is more than a free-mover.209-211) Just as the actor who plays Moll slips in and out of an ever-changing wardrobe—from frieze jerkin and safeguard to all-male traveling garb to a wedding dress—so Moll’s character slips from definitive identification.As Anthony B. so too Moll “pose[s] a problem of categorization. middle-class artisans.
Whereas the marriages in many early modern comedies’ conclusions tend to imply only a “happy ending. instead spending the ransom on whoring—is “appalled much more by the loss of his wife than by the revelation of treachery to his mother. we know enough about at least two of the marriages to wonder how they might turn out. and same-sex marriage denies the possibility of progeny. harmonious society. Philip. noting that Philip—even when confronted with his living mother whom he carelessly failed to rescue from captivity. disorder and “perversion” lie beneath.” a felicitous return to social order.” But we might also observe that this conclusion is not the play’s real one. how they conclude with the convention of marriages is problematic.” 100 It seems also that 48 . tangible Grace throughout. where the seemingly endless procession of young lovers to the altar at the end of a given play signifies the formation of a new. As Jowett points out. 99 Indeed. George E. “The promise of multiple marriages is reminiscent of Shakespearean comedy. “Marriages have taken place that. notes that in No Wit. Muir highlights the emotionally instability and self-absorption of this young man. the audience knows that the two proposed marriages cannot take place because two of the supposed lovers are already married (and in an incestuous marriage at that). Still. No Help Like a Woman’s. more or less to the audience’s best knowledge. Mistress Low-water both married and a woman (and another boy actor). and Lady Goldenfleece is wedded to a legitimate suitor.Because both these plays do focus on these extraordinary female characters.” Rowe highlights Beveril’s traditional wedding masque and Sir Oliver’s intentions for blessing a double marriage upon the very day of Lady Goldenfleece’s wedding but points out that while elements for the traditional early modern comedic ending are present. though literally given visible. though the partners differ. is not the likeliest candidate to serve as an exemplar of a caring husband and head of household. and sexuality overcome in multiple marriages—the traditional comedic conclusion in No Wit. and the “marriage” that is celebrated on stage is also false. as in Much Ado about Nothing—the chaos of deceit. betrayal. Jr. Incest doubles the family upon itself. Rowe. Thus. No Help Like a Woman’s and The Roaring Girl is not so easily acceptable as truly resolving the plays’ issues. The four young lovers are granted their true loves. thus triply an impossible husband for Lady Goldenfleece. there are still two weddings and a recent wedding celebrated at play’s end. break the very laws on which marriage is founded. for instance. Jane with Sandfield and Grace with Philip (the latter preexisting marriage rendered non-incestuous and thus licit).
Heller believes there is ultimately hope for Philip. This is the gentleman I embrace and choose. and for this he laments.” but Philip’s remorse never goes beyond self-pity. Indeed. it seems quite unlikely. he never once mentions Grace or seeks to comfort or protect her. 101 In light of all this. if Lady Goldenfleece at last marries for love when she “marries” Mistress Low-water. Lady Goldenfleece does marry a poor man. the prodigal is clearly Philip. and—unlike many Middletonian characters—he never displays repentance. Beveril has demonstrated that he does truly love Lady Goldenfleece in the masque he created for her. ’cause thou hast mocked my heart And with such treachery repaid my love.Philip’s real concern is his own happiness.” 102 But she makes a mistake in lumping all of these widow tales together as though they all have the same elements and message. in his discovering of the abusive suitors. The loss of his wife means the loss of his pleasure. (9. but in light of his unrepentant treatment of his mother and sister.4). including him in his list of “[c]onverts and penitents. and his readiness to answer her call. His true sentiments are revealed in his second sentence in the play’s opening scene: “My wife will be forced from me. Hanson argues of this play and other widow wooing comedies that “the prodigals win their rich and attractive widows to bring about the comic conclusions of the plays. should we rejoice in his affirmed marriage. Lady Goldenfleece does choose to marry a man regardless of property or title simply for love. True to her vow when she denounces Sir Gilbert. he marries a penniless tavern girl. only to have her marriage partner exchanged for another. she marries Beveril—“[t]his… gentleman”—in specific (the man who supposedly cuckolded Mistress Low-water) as a just desert for Mistress Low-water’s treatment of her. what kind of marriage will she have? Indeed. my pleasure!” (1. and rather than a rich widow. Lady Goldenfleece claims that her choice of Beveril when released from her marriage to Mistress Low-water is not primarily based upon love: Then in revenge to thee. One could argue that he simply refers to his wife as his true delight. celebrate that his misbehavior is rewarded and a young woman placed in his selfish and unruly embrace? We might also wonder.525-528) But her motivation for revenge over abused trust and affections does not mean Lady Goldenfleece cannot possibly love Beveril. but he is clearly a kind-hearted man who loves her and 49 . when he despairs of his situation. In this instance. To vex thine eyes. she does not marry to spite Mistress Lowwater.
But Grace does (for some unknown reason) love Philip. The most unusual coupling that occurs in this final scene. They also share a common experience of abuse at the hands of men and have both seen a woman set aright the situation men like Goldenfleece. rather than her incompetent husband). Philip.” Like Lady Twighlight’s earlier forgiveness of her unrepentant son. and Lady Goldenfleece turns proprietorship of her wealth over to Mistress Low-water. 104 These women are the play’s two fullest personalities who have demonstrated. Thus. Beveril’s conclusion that this night is one of “general joy” is not far from the mark (9. 50 . however. Mistress Low-water and Lady Goldenfleece vow to love each other as sisters. but the newly formed relationship between Mistress Low-water and Lady Goldenfleece as “sisters” seems one of the most likely of the relationships to succeed. He believes that “this unity [is] as perverted as the proposed marriage of Grace and Weatherwise” and concludes that Middleton tries to expose the fact that “the reconciliation which occurs at the end of traditional comedy [is]…fundamentally unnatural. women who offer another form of help in their strong examples. Rowe argues that the most “grotesquely unnatural” part of this comedic conclusion is the “union of extremes” that occurs with the sudden reconciliation of these two “mortal enemies. and Sir Oliver mangled. Sir Gilbert.” 103 Rowe’s argument that Middleton critiques marriage-ascomic-conclusion as less than perfect certainly has merit.does not care for her money (he gladly watches Mistress Low-water take charge of the widow’s wealth).690). despite their minor imperfections. Mistress Low-water has reclaimed disinherited virtue’s “portion. both their husbands well-pleased with the arrangement.” and both are better off than they originally were (Lady Goldenfleece with a loving husband and Mistress Low-water with command of her family’s means of living. there is no longer reason to remain enemies. solidly admirable character. A large question mark still looms over Philip and Grace’s marriage—not so much in terms of Philip’s happiness as of Grace’s. it is not implausible that the two are truly reconciled. Now that the most capable characters are given command of their community’s future. Master Low-water. is the reconciled Mistress Low-water and Lady Goldenfleece. Lady Goldenfleece has given up claims to her wealth. and she now has hope in the “wit” and “help” of two leading women in the community. Secrets having been brought to light. Rowe finds this resolution difficult to believe.
but at the same time she is happy to promote it for others.39)? Critics have often noted the importance of marriage in this play.” 109 Similarly. and conciliator. mediator.” 108 Noting Moll’s role in the play’s marriages. Yet because Moll has been so outspoken about her rejection of marriage. not radical feminism.” 111 But Moll simultaneously seems to promote order. serving as “the outspoken spokesperson for disorder.” Moll becomes “a matchmaker. but that “a close examination of the final acts reveals that she is gradually contained and incorporated into the prevailing social apparatus of the play…. she certainly does not seek to topple the system.” pointing out that Moll thus clearly cannot fall into the category of social conformer. many critics find her participation in Sebastian and Mary’s wedding a problem that must be reconciled with their reading of Moll. Dawson points out that Moll not only persuasively argues against marriage but also offers “rather conventional views concerning wifely obedience…. you know. an “instrument of the state. Deborah Jacobs proposes that Moll “triumphs in various ways over anyone perceived as disruptive of the social order” and is actually a highly conservative force. and Jardine celebrates Moll as the proto-feminist who subverts the early modern patriarchal system.” Thus. one that gives no indication of unhappiness. 106 And Holms supposes that the plot with the citizen couples “emphasize[s] the dignity of marriage” over the “shabbiness of lechery. what are we to make of the fact that Moll both asserts that “a wife.” 105 Indeed. Heller argues that the play serves as a “reassertion of the preeminence of Christian marriage. even without regard for Moll’s views on the subject. all in the service of venery. Jane Baston argues that the play offers but a “mere gesture towards subversion. “rather than a spokeswoman for a new world order. Viewing Moll as a walking contradiction.” for instance.” Middleton creating a Moll who “does appear to challenge and subvert gender and class norms” in the early part of the play.” 110 Howard highlights Moll’s “utopian aspirations” and Comensoli her “misogamy. Thus Dawson and Comensoli conclude that 51 .” 107 Comensoli also asserts that “the concern at the heart of the play [is] with the degeneration of marriage and the family. She herself wants none of the marriage game. especially in Sebastian and Mary’s wedding. ought to be obedient”—something that she will not be—but at the same time insists that the citizen wives serve their husbands faithfully and gladly helps Mary into a marriage (4.The Roaring Girl similarly ends with a marriage. Moll has become rehabilitated into a society which is neither new nor tolerant.
Moll is not a coherent woman or character but rather a mode of portraying the idea of social image. Indeed. As long as other characters do the same. after all. she accepts them and generally promotes their well-being. One might wonder.” She concludes. that The ending of the play. honesty and personal integrity perhaps the two most prominent. precisely because Moll is not a coherent character who is the source of action. a unified person but reflects a contradictory. as such. or it takes her entire character into account but cannot believe she is.” she actually functions within the play as a site of projection that embodies and intensifies cultural fantasies and contradictions. in perhaps the most thoughtful critical evaluation of this very important part of the play. These contradictions have provided much fuel for a critical debate over whether she supports or subverts the play’s social order—a debate the play itself seems to invite…. though she can neither be categorized as a conforming nor a subversive character. Moll as an individual has several unifying values. thus forcing her into the binary system as either conforming or subversive. Moll’s choice to be utterly independent and her choice of which social values she will uphold and which roles she will practice lead directly to her militant defense of her name as an honest woman. an embodiment of the culture’s contradictions. for instance. 112 Forman likewise insists that though Moll appears… “real. which leaves Moll defiantly outside the marriage fold and Mary submissively within. is a fine example of the significant contradictions of this text’s handling of the “comic” matter of venery. is a perfectly coherent person. [Thus] the question of whether or not Moll is subversive is not a particularly useful one. In its inability to do so it reveals the pressure points in the culture’s ways of making sense of its multivalent and changing practices. but is instead a locus of cultural fantasies. 114 The trouble with the body of existing criticism is that it focuses on certain elements of Moll’s character and ignores others. This drama doesn’t tell a single or simple story about sexuality and its relationship to institutions such as marriage. the young gallant truly is 52 . 113 Howard also agrees that Moll is not “a self-consistent representation of a unified psyche” but rather a “representation… enmeshed in contradictions. But Moll. a “unified psyche” even. changing culture. why Moll protects Jack Dapper from the thugs his father sends after him.
Moll is not wholly opposed to the practice of marriage. drinking. his relationship with Mary is “honest”. Those are the lecher’s food. As Sebastian affirms. Base is that mind that kneels unto her body…. But if Jack does engage in whoring. Thus Moll’s friendship with and protection of Jack is not inconsistent with her values. they intend to marry for love. he both chooses it and owns it. as his father laments. it seems most likely that Jack Dapper has not been whoring in the sense of illicit intercourse with a woman because Moll herself believes that Jack is too enamored with himself to “put…[his] courtship home enough to a wench” (3. how can Moll support him? Isn’t this the same Moll who wounds Laxton as she insists. Fish that needs bite or themselves be bitten— Such hungry things as these may soon be took With a worm fastened on a golden hook. gambling. Similarly. his prey.in debt and has been engaging in activities like dancing. (5. “I scorn to prostitute myself to man.134-138) Moreover. her speeches against marriage are all in opposition to her own marriage: “I have no humour to marry. smoking. fulfilling their vows to each other. I love to 53 . And Mary clearly wants this marriage. Or for apparel. for she also proclaims that …she that has wit and spirit May scorn to live beholding to her body for meat. Moll’s support of Sebastian’s marriage plan is entirely in keeping with her character./ I that can prostitute a man to me” (5.330-331).(5.92-99) Does she not here protect the poor fallen whores? Moll does accuse men who sexually prey upon vulnerable women. this is what she has chosen. and perhaps whoring. nor does she seek to dismantle marriage as an institution. actively seeking it from the very first line of the play. like your common dame That makes shame get her clothes to cover shame. but she also believes there are means of escape for such women.111-112)? This is the same Moll who rages against “all men” who employ their golden witchcrafts …[to] entangle the poor spirits of fools— Distressed needlewomen and trade-fallen wives. Yet Jack Dapper certainly does not deny his behavior.
Vessels older ere they’re broached. Indeed. Moll’s “utopian aspirations. When asked when she will marry after Sebastian and Mary’s wedding. Moll replies in no uncertain terms: …I’ll tell you when i’faith: When you shall hear Gallants void from sergeants’ fear.” Granted. If my mind be then not varied. Next day following. (11. but I fear me I am too headstrong to obey. ought to be obedient. she says she would like to see “Woman manned but never pandered”. are actually quite pragmatic.37-41). and again o’th’other side. therefore I’ll ne’er go about it” (4. though Moll continually shows herself to be the play’s most admirable character. Woman manned but never pandered. But even here. not its complete dismantling.” but she also suggests that she does desire to see an alteration in social practices and values.lie o’ both sides o’th’bed myself. she does not condemn the role of wife but rather women’s unjust treatment by men. a wife. If a woman like Mary chooses to be a wife. though she herself would not choose such a life. She does not assert that marriage is a moral evil or a social injustice but that she simply doesn’t have the “humour to marry. 115 Jardine argues 54 .” as Howard calls them. I’ll be married. a society not so bound to its categories that it must continually slander those who do not fully fit into their conceived types of admirable character. she understands her society’s limitations better than anyone. you know. she is repeatedly slandered as a whore. Cheaters booted but not coached. she recognizes that not all women want to or have the personal capacity to be like her—but for a society that welcomes individual interpretation in whatever honest form it manifests itself.216-223) Moll’s basic statement is equivalent to “I’ll be married when hell freezes over. In regards to marriage in specific. what she seeks is an alteration of society. truly above reproach (especially sexually). Honesty and truth unslandered. Her desire is not for a society in which all women are like herself—indeed. then Moll supports her choice. Moll’s second affirmation of her choice not to marry levels a bit more of a social judgment.
Moll’s independence. But the minute she shows signs of independence (inevitably represented on stage as adultery and sexual rapaciousness) those gifts become responsible for her downfall. she is his supreme ornament…. Forman’s interpretation of Moll as an emblem of the shifting nature of early modern economy. unchanging basis for social differences. She demonstrates that an independent woman is not necessarily helpless or whorish and that an independent man is not necessarily competent or honorable. they not only threaten male governance.that “As long as woman uses her natural intelligence to set off the man’s abilities…. she is material evidence that their social practices of gender and class are not stable. and honesty. silent. Moll’s nature and her very existence shake her society’s notions of class. Moll is never represented as dishonest or given to “sexual rapaciousness. coupled with her intelligence. abilities. Both plays are couched in terms of spectator expectations. so many eyes? 55 . that practices do not equate to essential differences. the men must see Moll as a whore. 118 Coupling Women: Expectations and Reality In both The Roaring Girl and No Wit. they also call masculinity as a fixed essence into question. otherwise. is helpful to highlight the fact that Moll does indeed demonstrate that socially constructed codes cannot possibly embody a material. and virtue. addresses the audience frankly: How is’t possible to suffice So many ears. No Help Like a Woman’s. and dependent. of the uncertainty of the material world and a re-conceptualization of value. The prologue for No Wit. No Help Like a Woman’s. reveals the incompetence and dishonesty of the men around her. Howard notes that Moll’s character and actions reveal that “women are not inherently weak.” 116 Intelligent and competent.” 117 Kahn takes this observation further.” Indeed. but she nonetheless earns the same reputation. the leading female characters demonstrate that convention does not necessarily equal nature.” as Jardine insists independent women on the early modern stage were inevitably depicted. nor men the only ones gifted with the sword. expectation does not necessarily reflect virtue. insisting that “[i]f women costumed as men may become virtual men and perform as men. gender.
The Roaring Girl’s prologue highlights this element of audience participation even more: A play (expected long) makes the audience look For wonders—that each scene should be a book.The sign’s in Gemini too: both hands should meet” (13. They know what they come for. No Help Like a Woman’s concludes with a seemingly conventional epilogue. The audience expects such an epilogue. What is their judgment of this performance? 56 . to take things quickly. and in such terms will they cast judgment upon what they see. “The planet’s Jupiter: you should be jovial…. Composed to all perfection. each one comes And brings a play in’s head with him: up he sums. We shall both make you sad and tickle ye. What he would of a roaring girl have writ— If that he finds not here. Consulting his much-mocked almanac. 9-14) The prologue lists. he mews at it. The audience is left to wonder whether they should simply “be jovial” or reconsider these two female characters they just saw break free from their expected types. Weatherwise once again seeks to control action and cast judgment. but the character speaking the epilogue here is highly unreliable. and apprehension You below. if attention Seize you above.… How it’s possible to please Opinion tossed in such wild seas? Yet I doubt not. (1-2. the various reasons the audience may attend this performance. Weatherwise asking for applause as he proclaims. 17). It is in this context of heightened awareness about expectation and reality that the audience is presented with both plays. with honesty. No Wit. (1-6) The prologue then continues with a description of what the audience may anticipate in this roaring girl but concludes that all are actually wrong: “None of these roaring girls is ours: she flies/ With wings more lofty” (25-26). each expecting something specific from the event.
Following Sir Alexander’s assertion that “common voice” is “the whore.” The Roaring Girl’s epilogue once again visits the relationship between social expectation. but more importantly. Addressing the audience.” finding innumerable imperfections. having drawn with curious art The picture of a woman—every part Limned to the life—hung his piece out to sell. (1-3) And as this life-like woman appears in public. they look forward to women off-stage who might remain unmarred by expectation and fill the streets with beautiful. everyone scrutinizes her and casts a “verdict. While the epilogue immediately operates as a metaphor for the playwrights and their play. judgment. Social conventions do not always reflect reality and can easily destroy beauty and life. the painter ruins his beautiful work: “it was so vile. lively countenances—not painted creations but realities. it simultaneously illustrates what has happened to Moll on stage as well as by the spectators and reflects what likely occurred in the streets just prior to the performance and possibly directly after its conclusion. 57 . and reality (11./ So monstrous and so ugly” (13-14).248). These two plays offer several women to admire onstage. it proposes a scenario of A painter. In consequently matching social expectations.
or the Lady. Beatrice-Joanna begins the play and figures in her world until the final scene as the prized virgin.” Beatrice-Joanna is not of the same mold as Shakespeare’s Tamora either. ’tis impossible thou canst be so wicked. and by the end of the play.4. we do “both love and loathe” this female protagonist (1.125). 58 . While this study has thus far praised several Middletonian women for active pursuit of their will.1. Or shelter such a cunning cruelty. I should but take my recompense with grudging.118-129) 119 What should we make of Beatrice-Joanna? As De Flores characterizes her. As if I had but half my hopes I agreed for. But more importantly. Beatrice-Joanna’s plotting to achieve her desires hardly seems laudable. 120 As De Flores also points out. as Annabel Patterson points out in her critical introduction to the Oxford edition. Mistress Low-water. Our complicated response to Beatrice-Joanna seems to reflect an oft-observed “doubleness” in her character. Beatrice-Joanna is not without audience sympathy. this female protagonist looks decidedly different from Moll. And were I not resolved in my belief That thy virginity were perfect in thee. A woman dipped in blood. De Flores: Push! You forget yourself. Indeed.CHAPTER THREE FEMALE CIRCUMSCRIPTION: THEATRICALITY AND HELL IN MIDDLETON’S THE CHANGELING De Flores: For I place wealth after the heels of pleasure. the audience identifies most with Beatrice-Joanna. Yet even in her blood-bathed skin and clothes and her christening as “whore. Beatrice: Why. her bloodied body becomes a literalization of the trope De Flores introduced. BeatriceJoanna is indeed bathed in crimson. To make his death the murderer of my honour! Thy language is so bold and vicious I cannot see which way I can forgive it With any modesty. She is steeped in intrigue. and talk of modesty? (3.
Sugimura points out. that doubleness depends on a mixture of… sensualism…[and] innocence…: combined. the parts into which she is cast from birth. perhaps better than any other character in the play. As the wealthy aristocratic daughter. Benedict’s description of “monstrosity” to her own characterization of Beatrice-Joanna: she is “both human and inhuman. Beatrice-Joanna intentionally constructs herself as the play’s emblematic virgin and Petrarchan lady. After their relationship is consummated. As N. …[She is] a Beatrice who progresses from repression to expression. 125 Beatrice-Joanna’s purity as this ideal allows the purity of the men’s ties to each other. 124 But the source of Beatrice-Joanna’s “doubleness” is not the struggle between her conscious and unconscious desires but rather her awareness of and desperate attempts to enact the social role she is expected to play.” 121 Judith Haber argues that Beatrice-Joanna should be “seen as the origin of all doubling. even though it ultimately leads this woman who cannot embody the ideal to a hideous life of intrigue and deception. the pervasive sense of Beatrice-Joanna as a representation of doubleness is not as unfounded as Roberta Barker and David Nicol argue in their thoughtful reading of the play. Middleton highlights the performativity of this idealized feminine role the play’s men have created. a role necessary to form the most desired relationships of the play: homosocial bonds between the men. the corrupted Beatrice Joanna becomes aware of the contradiction between her outward persona and her secret life of sin. these qualities allow her to lust after De Flores while remaining unaware of the true nature of her feelings. Beatrice-Joanna’s very name seems to signal a double-nature.” 122 The majority of criticism on the play also sees Beatrice-Joanna’s truest self as a woman with two “sides”: Before her sexual encounter with De Flores.” 123 While this chapter will challenge the conclusions psychoanalytically informed criticism has made about Beatrice-Joanna.K. understands that the world of The Changeling is a cultural theatre in which each character has their given roles to perform.Madeline Bassnett applies Barbara M. 59 . divine and carnal. Casting Roles Beatrice-Joanna.
2. She apparently pauses for effect here because De Flores has time for a confused yet excited aside and an actual prompt to continue in her thought: “You were about to sigh out somewhat. 48. calling him by name.” Beatrice-Joanna accelerates to presenting him with her dilemma (2. “O my De Flores!” (2. In addition to her complete reversal in her interactions with De Flores and the numerous asides both speak in this relatively brief exchange. Must I needs show it? Cannot I keep that secret And serve my turn upon him? (2. madam” (2. As De Flores approaches Beatrice-Joanna.” she says.2. as if perhaps at some point she may have a need of his “employment” of “manhood.” but she quickly breaks into a dramatic. 82.105. 98.2. or morning’s womb. 93. “We shall try you.101). 93.64. complimenting his looks.66-69) She then enacts a great show of kindness and interest. who in a more permanent sense than Eve births Life itself— and giving her highest praise when she passes his virginity test: “Chaste as the breath of heaven. she coaches herself in acting contrary to her feelings: Why.1. “No. causing the anxious De Flores to plead with her to let the “sigh…have utterance. 2. was I? I forgot—O!” (2.2. and Alsemero worships her supposed pristine state. After sufficiently flattering De Flores to earn his pledge of “service. and offering to make a lotion for his skin condition. touching his face. 100). put case I loathed him As much as youth and beauty hates a sepulchre.2.2. remarking.97). 77.13.” as he (and De Flores) expressly calls her in their first two encounters (1.2. She continues: 60 . Alsemero’s idealization of Beatrice-Joanna is also reminiscent of the pining Petrarchan lover writing of his beautiful but unapproachable “lady. 107).99. 46. 52).Her father depends upon her unquestionable virginity in order to marry her to a wealthy and honorable young man who will become his heir.2. 94. Beatrice-Joanna seems to falter here. 126 Beatrice-Joanna’s performance of this role is most apparent in her commission of Alonzo de Piracquo’s murder. She again offers no more. comparing her to a prelapsarian Eve—and perhaps the Virgin Mary.” at which cue she finally breaks forth: “Would creation—” (an exclamation so emphatic that De Flores believes it a thirst for sexual satisfaction) “Had formed me man!” (2.150-151)./ That brings the day forth” (4.102). the artificiality of the scene is highlighted by Beatrice-Joanna’s apparent dramatization of the lady in distress.
these exclamations about manhood and action are simply intended to enlist a man to do the bloody deed she as a woman “cannot” do. he joyously declares.2. especially at this moment. dreaming as she is of marriage to the sexually attractive Alsemero. 127 And while these are important and revelatory lines few critics have commented on.1. “I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest” (4.114. 304305. She has no real desire to be a man. 316). Rather. nay. Beatrice insists that he has proven that he in fact does not love her at all. Thus binding him to her will. With these fierce laments and a critique of weakened manhood. When Benedick tries to back out of his pledge. 115).287).1. that I were a man for his sake!” (4. yet both women employ this strategic elevation of all things masculine in order to achieve their 61 . she employs her infamous tongue: “Oh. As she weeps over Hero’s unjust defamation and Benedick declares his love for her. ’tis the soul of freedom! I should not then be forced to marry one I hate beyond all depths. “Oh. and when Benedick still hesitates to commit to her purpose. Beatrice-Joanna’s enlisting of De Flores actually praises his fulfillment of masculine ideals.2. De Flores does not overshadow Beatrice-Joanna or her true desires here but rather plays into the forthcoming scene she is creating. that I were a man!. you have your wishes” (2. blest occasion!”—in both ridding himself of his rival and ingratiating himself to his lady. (2. I should have power Then to oppose my loathings.288). Beatrice delivers the task: “Kill Claudio” (4. that I were a man!.” “Oh God.302.” and again. Beatrice-Joanna clearly likes being a woman. As opposed to Beatrice’s indictment of effeminized men.110-114) It is here that De Flores believes his hopes will come to fruition—“Oh. declaring. remove ’em Forever from my sight.1. Another famous Beatrice—Shakespeare’s from Much Ado about Nothing—enacts a very similar scene when she commissions Benedick to kill Claudio in a duel. Bassnett argues that this moment conveys Beatrice-Joanna’s true longing to be a man and thus control her destiny and that De Flores suppresses her newly vocalized desires with his own “story” for her life when he becomes the man she wishes to be. Beatrice seizes the moment. “Without change to your sex. 128 Benedick responds—as she knows he will—with his pledge of service to her as evidence of his love: “Come. Beatrice wins Benedick’s pledge to challenge Claudio. bid me do anything for thee” (4.285-286).O.1.
62 . When he declares that she should “Claim so much man in me. Beatrice: Alonzo de Piracquo! (2. for once she has De Flores’ eager pledge. Once she has contracted De Flores. Beatrice-Joanna incites his desire for her betrothed’s blood with theatrical exclamations that paint the commissioning and deed as glorious: Beatrice: Then take him to thy fury! De Flores: I thirst for him. Indeed.will.120-121).2. never thinking that blood and danger were not “things to sue for” when a beautiful lady in distress is involved. De Flores?/ There’s small cause for that” (2.” 130 Beatrice-Joanna certainly is excited.2. while implying that these men fall into this coveted superior. Beatrice-Joanna is significantly more theatrical than Shakespeare’s Beatrice.134-135) Sugimura argues that this exchange is intended to reveal Beatrice-Joanna’s “deep thirst for sex” and “thirst for blood.” Sugimura insists that Beatrice-Joanna’s is “under the surface” but equally as present./ Can those be things to sue for?” (2. the men play into their desires. She may experience a measure of sexual excitement in the thought of achieving her desired marriage to Alsemero. blood and danger. she pretends that she had never thought of having him play the killer for her. To confirm his commitment. but her excitement at this moment is primarily in her belief that she has successfully enacted this scene. Beatrice-Joanna is perfectly confident that De Flores will carry out the deed—and that without any negative repercussions for her—because his role is that of the play’s villain. “I shall rid myself/ Of two inveterate loathings at one time:/ Piracquo and his dog-face” (2.116-117). though.146-148). he kneels before her like a valorous knight. “There’s horror in my service. As she gleefully remarks while walking off the stage. their limitations.” placing evidence of her “sexual excitement in her gasps of fear” and their “exchange of half-lines. leaving De Flores to fulfill his promise.” While De Flores’ “excitement is overt.” which create “a sense of breathlessness. “charged with double delight. admonishing. in claiming a wish for masculinity. and she yet again pretends that she does not wish such a thing upon him. The solemn truth of this remark would certainly be felt in full if she were not so coy in its employment.” she appears surprised by the idea: “In thee. active position. these women concede their inferior status. but her excitement is not an unconscious sexual drive.2. 129 Because of their dramatic performances.2. The two Beatrices thus play with gender ideals in order to commission killings that they themselves will not have to commit.
see Beatrice-Joanna as both afraid of and unconsciously sexually attracted to De Flores. 40). not considering that villains also enjoy other kinds of crime. Joost Daalder and Antony Telford Moore.23.1. 115. their very appearances declare it to be so. Beatrice-Joanna expects that De Flores will enjoy killing merely for the joy of spilling blood and amassing wealth. that when Alsemero proposes that they “Remove the cause” of Beatrice-Joanna’s distress by killing Alonzo. Because he is the villain. not greed. without a thought of favor.” 131 Peter Morrison likewise notes that while Beatrice-Joanna appears “surprised to discover that lust. The dramatists.Convinced from the beginning that De Flores’ ugly face is a reflection of the hideous role he will play. Beatrice-Joanna has requested service of another man only a scene before she commissions De Flores. 2. Beatrice-Joanna immediately realizes why De Flores upsets her so: “Blood-guiltiness becomes a fouler visage” (2. Beatrice-Joanna labels him not only her personal “poison” and “basilisk” but also “[t]he villain” (1. Just as she was born to play the emblematic virgin and desired Petrarchan lady. indeed. wrongly. The first scene of Act 2 opens with Beatrice-Joanna standing above Jasperino as she declares. “O sir. of love and loathing as two quite distinct feelings. I’m ready now for that fair service/ Which makes the name of friend sit glorious on you. On the heels of Jasperino’s service and Alsemero’s offer to duel with Alonzo. “The ugliest creature/ Creation framed for some use. her repressed feelings for De Flores finding voice. It is only fitting.2.112. and delineate that connection as something that we moderns would describe in Freudian terms: while the one feeling is in the conscious mind. 5).2. yet to see/ I could not mark so much where it should be!” (2. all men are supposed do anything for her. Alonzo and Alsemero both are willing to fight even with brothers and friends to protect her and her honor.1-2. has motivated De Flores. for instance.57). however.” giving him a secret letter for Alsemero and earning Jasperino’s appropriate reply of “The joy I shall return rewards my service” as he hurries off to complete the mission (2. She reproaches her blindness in an exclamation. Moreover. As the Petrarchan lady.” the commissioning scene depicts a 63 . BeatriceJoanna enters her commissioning scene expecting that any man would be only too delighted to serve her in any way she might request. she is supposed to be untouchable. asserting that “Beatrice and Alsemero think.1. then. so De Flores was created to play the villain.43-45).1. The dominant critical argument is that this scene and the one in which De Flores returns to claim his reward reveal the deceptive Beatrice-Joanna’s true self. its connected opposite is in the unconscious. After all. draw attention to the connection between the two.
woman who “seems to know…exactly why De Flores will be eager to do her bidding. “Ay. Her explicit offer of reward has not a hint of sexual gratification: “When the deed’s done. at the same time. believing that the “angels’ food” De Flores hungers for is gold rather than sexual elation (3.” 132 Such criticism leads to interpreting Beatrice-Joanna’s defloration as sex that she has unconsciously craved and pursued and that she subsequently.2. as soon as he brushes aside her 64 . BeatriceJoanna thinks of reward only in terms of money and provision for escape. at least not right away. he is set upon any service that will allow him to “put in for one” (2.2. for he has just witnessed her secret meeting with Alsemero. violent sex with De Flores.143-145). and thus the two suffer “tragic incomprehension./ Thou mayst live bravely in another country” (2. allowing her unconscious desires to seek satisfaction even while she believes she does not desire illicit. Consequently. After all.60). One may argue that De Flores in fact believes that Beatrice-Joanna intends to favor him with much greater payment than provisions of wealth. Christopher Ricks offers a framework for the commissioning scene as an honest “misunderstanding. Beatrice-Joanna. flirts against her natural loathing of De Flores in order to excite his desire for her so that he forgets her former abuse of him and wishes to serve her even in murder.2.173).146). comes to “love anon” (3.1. but he is certain that the cause and ultimate direction is sexual. De Flores’ agreement is more equivocal. 133 In an alternative to the typical Freudian reading./ I’ll furnish thee with all things for thy flight. But while Beatrice-Joanna blindly believes that she will remain an unattainable lady to admire from afar even while being served to the fullest.4. De Flores will carry out the deed only to its completion in what he perceives as its ultimate end: the consummation of his desires upon Beatrice-Joanna—though he knows that she does not actually offer such a payment. as De Flores insists. In this context. his requested payment then undeniable (2. her protests only function as preservation of her conscious desires to remain an emblematic virgin until she becomes an honorable wife to Alsemero.” He notes that De Flores does not know what Beatrice-Joanna proposes when he eagerly offers his “manhood” for her service and the two employ language that is both straightforward and laden with sexual connotations.” 134 De Flores cannot know the precise service Beatrice-Joanna seeks from him. ay: we’ll talk of that hereafter”.127). he intends to negotiate the payment after the deed is done.
even desiring a man she once clearly despised. he affirms that Beatrice-Joanna undoubtedly still believes him a hideous creature and notes that she does not actually offer sexual payment. a hundred.1. Indeed. praising this bad face. then she is willingly sexual with all men. Beatrice-Joanna does prove incapable of denying De Flores’ bid for her body.” preferring to “feed heartily” on indisputably “[s]lovenly dishes. my emphasis). Thus. And being pleased. he envisions her role in their sexual encounter as much more active than his own as she “feeds” upon him in her “[h]unger and pleasure” (2. from him she makes a husband.361-362). De Flores believes Beatrice-Joanna will not—and cannot—deny him the pleasure he seeks.96. especially if it is illicit.negotiations for later.2. De Flores returns after the murder as 65 . a woman like Beatrice-Joanna will doubtless eventually change her preferences.2. but she does not exhibit the desires he believes she must have. 154. ten thousand— Proves in time sutler to an army royal.155. 155).2. however. because she has slept with Othello. As Othello believes of Desdemona and her supposed infidelity with Cassio. 135 Women cannot deny sex because they have an intrinsic craving for such pleasure. (2. quite indiscriminately. then she will gladly accept De Flores’ bid for sexual relations as well. aside from her own pleasure: For if a woman Fly from one point. What he is certain of.148-151) But De Flores’ view of women is that they do not conform to reason or act as they pretend to be. she will sleep with any man—even “the general camp. (2. Her wanton fingers combing out this beard.2. describing her as a woman who is able to provide for her physical needs “by selling her desires” (4. if Beatrice-Joanna is sexually interested in Alsemero (even though she has not consummated the relationship). ten. a thousand.60-64). Iago speaks similarly of Bianca. it doesn’t make logical sense (2. “strange”.152): O my blood! Methinks I feel her in mine arms already. but he also sees women as “odd feeders. as he says. She spreads and mounts then like arithmetic: One. Thus. is that which leads Othello to murder the innocent Desdemona: if a woman is sexual at all. had tasted her sweet body” (3./ Pioneers and all.3. And because women’s desires are fickle.” even over attractive men— which is.
And must be eased of you.98) …Think on’t: I’m in pain. kiss me with a zeal now.101-102) …Quickly! (3.157-158) 66 . demanding—with increasing violence—the payment a woman who seeks murder must pay: Come.17). (3. As Barker and Nicol point out. In death and shame my partner she shall be./ I know not what will please him!” (3.96) …Take you heed first. De Flores forces his will upon her. Beatrice-Joanna even wishes she had instead simply married Alonzo rather “than to hear these words”—not to mention having to undergo the deed (3. 106.104. (3.Beatrice-Joanna soliloquizes on her planned marriage to Alsemero and the “refulgent virtue of my love” (3. Upon confirming the deed.77-78).” and “With thee.144) …She that in life and love refuses me. Beatrice-Joanna finds too late that De Flores’ “performance” of his part requires something she does not wish to give (3.58).” “I would not hear so much offence again. and upon understanding that he will only settle for her virginity. but Beatrice herself is silent on the point. she is perplexed: “What will content him? I would fain be rid of him” (3. As De Flores approaches her physically.” “O. she explicitly refuses consent: “I dare not.4. Though De Flores uses the language of love as he leads her off stage. “De Flores is able to read Beatrice’s audible fear as sexual arousal and to offer the kind of encouragement typically given to shy early modern newlyweds.104) …Do you urge me? (3.95) …I will not stand so long to beg ’em shortly.4. The lofty Petrarchan lady falls from her pedestal and even kneels before the man who should kneel before her. it is clearly not Beatrice-Joanna’s repressed will they enact. He then refuses even twice the original amount.132).188.8.131.52. and Beatrice-Joanna worries.4.4. begging to preserve her virginity. (3.4. “I am now in worse plight than I was.4.4. Beatrice-Joanna grows increasingly fearful. (3.4. (3.74). Beatrice-Joanna again offers money as his sole reward. and an actor playing her part could just as easily enact her terror in a manner that contradicted De Flores’ complacent conclusion. 142). Indeed. foul villain?” (3. and when he scoffs at her offer. I never shall!.” 136 So caught up in the creation of her own play as she acts out her role.4.
4. the first line is the same string of words that the Duchess of Malfi puts forth as she and her chosen husband. noting that the real difference is that Beatrice-Joanna and De Flores find that “personal.170-172) Indeed. ecstatic human love. even the “moral force of the play” is “undermined by the compelling force of romance. though most concede it is somewhat perverse.” 142 Professional stage productions by Michael Attenborough and Richard Eyre actually portrayed Beatrice-Joanna and De Flores as a kind of Romeo and Juliet pairing. Michael Neill interprets their relation to each other as one of equality and simultaneous desire and ownership. their fidelity to each other and their isolation from everyone else gives it a romantically asocial and amoral purity”.” her grave. animosity functions as the source of libidinous and romantic attraction. of course. 143 On a less romantic but perhaps more appalling note. proceed to their wedding chamber: “Oh. he argues that in “chang[ing] skins.4. 67 .After these threats and Beatrice-Joanna’s own lament that this is “[v]engeance” upon her for Alonzo’s murder. and shroud your blushes in my bosom.4.” 144 And so the violent sex De Flores continually forces upon Beatrice-Joanna’s body is lauded as the epitome of an egalitarian love relationship. rise. Antonio. rather than family.” BeatriceJoanna and De Flores undergo a “process of mutual penetration and possession.” She also believes that “[t]hough moral condemnation is implicit” in their “relationship…. let me shroud my blushes in your bosom” (1. mutual. 138 The confirmation of Beatrice-Joanna’s “true” desires for De Flores that critics have seen in her later professions of love for De Flores is neither proof of always-present unconscious desires nor evidence of a “change in feelings” resulting from their sexual “union.” 139 Morrison not only claims that Beatrice-Joanna is “wholly aroused” right before De Flores ushers her off stage but also that “only De Flores… genuinely loves her.201). Silence is one of pleasure’s best receipts: Thy peace is wrought for ever in this yielding.3. and so it must be De Flores who destroys her—the alternative of their free. 137 The difference.173).” 141 Kay Stockholder compares the two to Romeo and Juliet. De Flores delivers his potentially romantic “bedding” lines (3. (3. carnal.166): Come.” 140 Haber claims that Beatrice-Joanna and De Flores are a “perfect pairing”: “The ideal union that Alsemero had envisioned is both undermined and fulfilled by the orgasmic union of Beatrice Joanna and De Flores. is that the Duchess utters these words on her own behalf while De Flores commands Beatrice-Joanna to make him her “shroud. while she “pants” in fear (3.
/ ’Cause thou provid’st so carefully for my honour” (5. Beatrice-Joanna was likely raised on the ideals of Vives. which is her chief aim in life. by definition. Indeed. In acting. her transformation originates more from her desperation to maintain a semblance of obedience to the patriarchal code than from the fulfillment of any hidden desire. Beatrice-Joanna is utterly dependent upon De Flores. Not only is this “love” something that is “forced”—and love. aiding her difficult performance.’” They assert. cultivated as she would have been to perform her utmost calling as first the intact virgin bride and then as the chaste wife. After all. since it is the free gift of the heart—but it is entirely based upon the maintenance of her reputation. Beatrice-Joanna is trying both to exert control over her own life.47-48). but it is the woman who can never perform her part as she ought. Douglas Duncan asserts that there is no textual evidence for Beatrice-Joanna actually loving De Flores. despite her brief remarks that critics are fond of citing. and to force herself into the ideals she must embody. then he will expose her crimes. 145 Barker and Nicol point out that Beatrice-Joanna’s praises are “marked [by a] lack of steamy passion” and only praise De Flores as “necessary” rather than “‘desirable’ or ‘admirable. Vives.” Variations of the words “sight” and “honour” are repeated innumerable times throughout the play. Impossible Parts In the world of The Changeling.” 146 Indeed. enacting her own desires. she is acting out of necessity to preserve not merely her position but also her life. For one thing. everyone acts a role. As Duncan points out. “The old adage ‘fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity’ describes exactly the situation in which she finds herself. indicating Beatrice-Joanna’s obsession with being seen as fulfillment of the roles she is expected to play. But she also finds that if she in some measure pleases the man. Duncan observes. cannot be compelled. then he will aid her in continuing the performance of her scripted roles. “subordinates every aspect of a girl’s education to his 68 . Beatrice-Joanna’s most cited sentence speaks to just such a reliance: “I’m forced to love thee now. De Flores functions as a supporting actor and stage manager. he blackmails her.1.Two critical arguments oppose this widely-accepted view. if she doesn’t cooperate with him and cater to his desires. her “honour.
Middleton makes this especially clear with Alsemero’s virginity test. from now on. Beatrice-Joanna’s acceptance of his teaching as her ideal is evident in her desperate plea to De Flores. acting out one role to conceal the act of darkness which has changed her true life into something quite different. the admirable man she both honors and loves. so is the case. a figure whose substance was never that of the iconic virgin or even a biological female. “struggling to maintain the shadow of her honour when the substance is gone. With the death of her virginity outside of the wedding chamber.theme” of virginity above all else. Beatrice-Joanna must still construct her identity as the visual representation and physical realization of her feminine 69 . Beatrice-Joanna learns the signs a “true” virgin will exhibit and thus plays the part of virgin so well that she passes with flying colors. so both she and the audience are aware that substance need not exist behind the act. “performing” on a higher level. Even when the meaninglessness of the ideals is thus anatomized.4. Thus her desperation that results from the double-bind she finds herself in committing murder in order to fulfill her supposed purpose as virgin bride and then discovering that she has also destroyed the one part of her person that matters to all the men involved: her virginity. her character— her desires and beliefs—has essentially been put to death. a quality that defines her existence. Beatrice-Joanna believes it should be given to the man who deserves to have her. Beatrice-Joanna is herself played by a boy. everything she does must be an act in another sense: she must live a lie. and thou hast given her all things” (3. is a more real embodiment of these feminine ideals than the character he portrays. As Lisa Hopkins observes of Beatrice-Joanna’s defloration. operating in the troubling realm of unscripted expectations. following a specific script. Duncan notes that Beatrice-Joanna is.161-162). her dramatic capabilities more heavily relied upon with each stroke against her physical status. but when she loses her virginity./ And I am rich in all things. Yet his performance. is herself capable of. “Let me go poor unto my bed with honour. “the act must be so completely erased from the visible fabric of her life that. 147 Because Beatrice-Joanna’s virginity is such a valued treasure. Fully aware she is no longer physically a virgin. As De Flores characterizes Beatrice-Joanna’s “yielding” of her maidenhead as her burial. her only hope is in becoming an even more successful actress. as a result of her enforced defloration.” 148 Beatrice-Joanna knows from the beginning that she but plays a part. It is all a matter of performance.” 149 But just as Beatrice-Joanna knows that she simply plays roles into which her male world has cast her.” a direct reference to Vives’ advice: “Give her chastitie.
Neither your smiles nor tears Shall move or flatter me from my belief: You are a whore. she will always represent a possible (but physically improvable) whore. But the same stuff. but Alsemero finds the act unsatisfactory. Beatrice-Joanna answers with a laugh that she believes will demonstrate her innocence.” except perhaps in the sex act itself. neither is “provable.” 151 Having successfully performed even through her wedding night with Diaphanta’s help—an act which provides fully tangible “substance” to the show—Beatrice-Joanna as now confirmed non-virgin finds that the “truth” behind her appearance is continually doubted. but the performing of which—the act of actually knowing her—irretrievably renders the woman a whore.31) A woman is only as she is perceived. finally not-alive. 153 70 . As Alsemero himself confirms. (5. The disillusioned Alsemero asks her pointedly. Say I should strain a tear to fill the vault. Beatrice-Joanna’s ultimate tragedy has nothing to do with the “depravity inherent in beautiful women” but is rather found in her inability to successfully live up to the male-defined imperative to both “be” and “seem.24-27). She highlights the fact that regardless of the manner of her answer. an act which will never satisfy the observer. for in the very fact that these are all unknowable presentations with no material certification of their veracity. but she will at last be exposed as what she cannot embody: “a series of negatives: not-virgin. “Are you honest?” (5. and since all men know that Beatrice-Joanna is no longer a virgin. As Sara Eaton proposes. his question is but a set-up. she will always remain suspect. She cannot ever truly fill her part as virgin or chaste wife or even idealized Petrarchan lady.roles. she is necessarily always deceptive. it is but an act. always already the whore.20). the nature and substance of her response do not matter—she can convince him of nothing but that she is whore: ’Twere but hypocrisy of a sadder colour.3. Beatrice-Joanna insists.3.3.” 152 Indeed. and no rough brow Can take away the dimple in her cheek. not-wife. ’Tis innocence that smiles. Haber notes that Middleton here “insist[s]…on the coincidence of…virgin and whore. Which would you give the better faith to? (5.” 150 She may act her part.
98-99). by the play’s end. A few lines later. as Alsemero forces Beatrice-Joanna and De Flores into his closet.” and De Flores declares that “I coupled with your mate/ At barleybreak. The closet into which Alsemero has thrust Beatrice-Joanna and De Flores is most likely the discovery space. which depicts the defining point of Beatrice-Joanna’s life as nothing but a theatrical show—it not only represents her marriage. And but a few lines following that. Where you shall sink to fathoms bottomless. Clip your adultress freely./ I’m sure you know” (1. Beatrice-Joanna hisses at De Flores. Jasperino watches Alsemero kiss BeatriceJoanna and remarks that “he ne’er rehearsed it before” (1.1.Hell’s Theatre Supporting Beatrice-Joanna’s understanding that she must act her part.61). a portion of the theatre typically associated with darkness. but as Hopkins points out. 155 Alsemero highlights this idea: …rehearse again Your scene of lust. Hopkins points out that at the dramatic center of the play is the rather out-dated dumb-show. Alsemero reminds Beatrice-Joanna of her role. In the opening scene. whispering. 162-163). and death and particularly in this play with murder (of Alonzo in the small dark “vault”) and condemnation (of Beatrice-Joanna in the virginity test and her subsequent means to cover up the truth) (3. The play’s final scene has a similar focus. 154 This substantive center of the play’s structure is also held in place by the play’s bookends of rehearsing and playing parts. the characters find themselves in the theatre of hell. “that’s your part.114-120) 71 .1. commanding them to “rehearse again. both in content and structure. also the unstageable act of her defloration. that you may be perfect When you shall come to act it to the black audience Where howls and gnashings shall be music to you.3. (5. ’tis the pilot Will guide you to the Mare Mortuum.1.114.2. “And how welcome for your part you are. secrecy.” a game in which each couple plays a specific role (5. More specifically. asking for her love. lady” (1.21). the play itself frames the world of The Changeling as a cultural theatre.3.82).
if it but lie by. What.21-25) Several scenes before in the madhouse plot. now turned “black” as their own sins paint them. (1. then.” Because De Flores cuts off Alonzo’s ringed finger.2. the emphasis is not so much upon the man’s ability to wear the ring but upon the feminine nature of the ring as loose and easily accepting one man after another. just as she performed her virginity. so fast on? Not part in death? I’ll take a speedy course then: Finger and all shall off.” the couple that loses at barley-break and the couple darkened with deeds of blood. noting: “You must keep it on still. ’tis a diamond He wears upon his finger. 157 De Flores views his inevitable penetration of 72 . It circumscribes us here” (5. which is not only the circle of the theatre but also that of the deceptive woman’s devilish conjuring and of her own whorish ring of “hell. Before disposing of Alonzo. the sexual imagery of fingers wearing rings has often been noticed. (3. one or other will be thrusting into’t” (1. 164).1. the gaping mouth draws in the audience.2. While critics have noted the phallic nature of the finger and De Flores’ severing of Alonzo’s as a form of castration. the discovery space thus becomes the mouth of hell from which we hear the screams of its tortured souls. De Flores pauses in discovery: Ha! what’s that Threw sparkles in my eye? O. do not merely observe De Flores and Beatrice-Joanna’s performance but are also inside the theatre of hell. why wouldn’t she run after younger. the spectators to its ‘black audience. more handsome and wealthy men?).’” 156 De Flores asserts that he and Beatrice-Joanna are “left in hell. while Vermandero replies aghast. Swapan Chakravorty observes that this depiction has a “chilling immediacy. “We are all there. It was well found: This will approve the work.As Beatrice-Joanna enacts her newly assigned role of whore. Lollio supports his suspicions.” as the “[c]astle and theatre turn to hell. And because it is a “bottomless” pit. But his that useth it.163. He asserts: I would wear my ring on my own finger: Whilst it is borrowed it is none of mine. affirming that he is fearful of becoming a cuckold because of his wife’s youth and beauty (and if she married him. like the voyeuristic audience.30-31). These men. in horror. Alibius is explicit in his metaphor as he enlists Lollio as the guard of his wife’s chastity when he is away.26-29).3.
the woman’s bodily entrance that sets men aflame and from which she issues corruption. Of course. making a comparison to Frances Howard’s dropped glove that Prince Charles reportedly refused to retrieve because it 73 .” the play’s “major issues. or “drawn” into this woman’s hell. thus “clear[ing]/ The passages” (3. Alsemero confirms the idea when he comes to suspect BeatriceJoanna of infidelity. and lock together. But then again. no man is safe from… Beatrice-Joanna’s corruption.83).4. were she the sole glory of the earth. “In the nightmare world of the play. or have they put themselves there? Deborah Burkes observes.1. Vermandero is quite right when he observes that each and every one of them was circumscribed. is one of three. the play is quite explicit that they have “thrust” themselves into this ring that they have turned into hell.” the salient verb “thrust” appears at least five times throughout the play. she sleeps not here! (4.” 159 But the fact is that Beatrice-Joanna has hardly drawn any of the men into her flaming corruption. 160 While early modern audiences may have initially seen Beatrice-Joanna’s dropped glove as another kind of loose ring.26-27).” he still lives in danger of entering the circle of her fiery hell because she can penetrate him and thus draw him into the flames with her.” as Lollio calls it.1.3. the first incidence setting the dramatic connotations for subsequent utterances: De Flores fingers Beatrice-Joanna discarded glove that she cannot bear to touch her skin again now that De Flores has touched them. According to this logic. But the circular flames of the woman are not limited to her “ring” alone. has the woman actually circumscribed these men. something she cannot keep to herself.106-108) Whether or not a man penetrates into the woman’s hell as she slips onto his “finger. Had eyes that could shoot fire into kings’ breasts.155-156). Her nether “eye. he insists: O. with so many wearers. the ring becomes the fiery locus of hell.2. And touched.Beatrice-Joanna as more easily done once he has removed the vigilant occupant from her ring.237). and her two other eyes similarly issue fire from their spheres as they penetrate men (3. 158 De Flores describes Beatrice-Joanna’s ocular penetration as a painful burning of his soul: “I live in pain now: that shooting eye/ Will burn my heart to cinders” (3. and he violently forces the tiny glove open: “I should thrust/ My fingers into her sockets here” (1. Though it does not make the cut for Patterson’s list of “keywords that stand for.
De Flores: And I made him send it back again…. he determines the man— “legitimate partner” or not—who will “thrust… into her sockets. 216-224). is that more than killing the whole man? …A greedy hand thrust in a dish at court In a mistake hath had as much as this. my emphasis) Alonzo greedily wears a ring so small it cannot be removed from his finger. just as he determines who will pick up her dropped glove (more than likely meant for the man of her choice. (3. The feminine circle that joins them all is of their own making. Beatrice-Joanna’s father “made” her give him the ring.29-31. but they have in fact created it. sir. 33-36.” who will violently force himself into Vermandero’s daughter. Beatrice: ’Tis the first token my father made me send him. 162 As her proprietor./ As fast as this tie can hold him. Not only have the men forced themselves into the flaming circle of hell. Beatrice: Bless me! What hast thou done? De Flores: Why. 39-40. 161 De Flores himself compares Alonzo’s wearing of BeatriceJoanna’s ring as a forceful thrusting when he delivers the finger and ring to her: De Flores: I could not get the ring without the finger. the circular ties of males bonded to males. After Vermandero boasts to Alsemero that he is acquiring the “proudest” gentleman in Spain as his son.” and Vermandero completes the circle of his thought: “He shall be bound to me. Their very diction speaks it: 74 .” Beatrice-Joanna’s glove and ring are actually too small for the men who thrust into them. In this arrangement. He was as loath to part with’t. mutually fortifying their wealth and honor. a ring that the woman did not willfully give him or leave loosely lying around. and thus in both cases. for it stuck As if the flesh and it were both one substance. Alsemero observes.214.” adding that this is his true “will” (terms with decided sexual connotations) (1. Beatrice-Joanna’s father effectively gives her ring away. Beatrice-Joanna must undergo a rape-like consummation of male desires. “He’s much/ Bound to you.1.4. With or without a husband.was already “stretched by another. the present Alsemero). male is thus tied in a “fast” marriage to another male. Vermandero knows that the unpolluted ring of his daughter is what will link him to an honorable son. what will purchase that tie that he has longed for.
marriage is solidified by the love of the man and his wife’s father. (4. my emphasis) Marrying Alonzo ought to give Beatrice-Joanna “joy” as she performs her daughterly role of virgin bride. The Womanless Circle Duncan notes that Middleton’s favorite dramatic theme is “the exploitation of woman’s sexuality. and especially virginity. highlighting the impossibility of owning such a “treasure. for the commercial and social advantage of herself or her family. Vermandero sorrows like a lover at Alonzo’s disappearance: His breach of faith Has too much marred both my abusèd love— The honourable love I reserved for him— And mocked my daughter’s joy.” but he argues that there is an “almost total absence of this theme” in The Changeling. and inheritance. our son Alonzo. revealing what may happen when the woman’s virginity is too heavily relied upon as the means of family honor. To whose most noble name our love presents The addition of a son. But an especial one belongs to you. connection.97-102.149). this theme is especially present in this play.1. At the same time that she is accused of pulling all the men into her circle of hell. sir.3. my emphasis) Evidently more than between a man and his wife. Alsemero is anxious 75 . and thus it is he who is scorned and deserted by the beloved. sir. Alonzo: The treasury of honour cannot bring forth A title I should more rejoice in. Beatrice-Joanna is seen as the thief. Homosocial relations are thus elevated above heterosexual ones. she is also blamed for breaking that most important circle of male ties. taking away what belongs to her father and thereby dishonoring and “defil[ing]” him (5.” Despite the fact that De Flores has stolen Beatrice-Joanna’s virginity. (2.2. but the real love in the relationship is a very special kind of love that Vermandero has been saving up to especially give the son of his choice.Vermandero: You’re both welcome. Luckily for Vermandero. 163 On the contrary.25-28.
all forgive:/ ’Tis time to die when ’tis a shame to live” (5.202-203). encouraging him to thus “joy again” (5.” thus encouraging anxiety about women and their lack of trustworthiness. But even if Beatrice-Joanna were truly the monstrosity these men make her out to be.” for “the father-son and brother-brother relationship [is] sealed between Alsemero and Vermandero and Alsemero and Tomazo over the dead body of Beatrice-Joanna. Shakespeare. and emptiness in the ideals espoused.3. an all male family” that is clearly “barren” serves to “expose…the falseness of a woman for all to see. Even as Beatrice-Joanna lies in a pool of her own blood at his feet. her end is quite pathetic rather than utterly condemning. the incongruity of this “happy” formation of male ties with the still-bleeding female body in the foreground would be most apparent for the watching audience. Alonzo’s brother Tomazo he clasps in affection: “Your change is come too: from an ignorant wrath/ To knowing friendship. unjust reasoning. The smiling faces of brother-in-law. “more perfect family” is not intended to fortify cultural anxieties or unite the playwrights with misogynistic forebears but to reveal false logic. she is essentially taught a lesson in her brutal death and humiliation and that this corrective act is also an attempt by Middleton and Rowley to “bind…themselves with Marlowe. 165 And while Beatrice-Joanna is certainly not depicted positively. Burkes believes that the “formation of a more perfect family. Middleton “offer[s] a reformation of homosocial bonding after disruption by threatening women.” 164 Similarly. husband. the two men she has sought to please in all of her desperate actions. This “false” presentation of a happy.178-179).3. Alsemero again attempts to control and perfect the world in which he lives by delivering a moral lesson about the story’s changelings and praising the male bonds that have been formed as a result of BeatriceJoanna’s pathetic end.” and Vermandero he cheers with the knowledge that he now has “yet a son’s duty living”—which is naturally considered better than that any daughter could ever give (5. Beatrice-Joanna musters her last breath to beg forgiveness from her father and Alsemero. and she hopes even her death will ultimately please them: “Forgive me. Hopkins argues that in this final scene. Alsemero.enough to be “bound” to such a great man that he overlooks the fact that he has no true tie to Vermandero (since he never did consummate his marriage with Beatrice-Joanna) and declares himself the son Vermandero has always wanted. Groveling and bloody.” She also believes that because Beatrice-Joanna is the woman who tries to “beguile” men.187).3. and Jonson in a controlled demonstration of mastery over the mysteries of performance. and father are hardly believable signs of 76 .
As Alsemero condemns the woman he supposedly loved to hell’s wrath. that fearful flaming circle is where they yet stand. And at play’s end. techniques. By employing culturally familiar stories. and situations. 77 .an improved world in the presence of the mutilated flesh and agonized expression of BeatriceJoanna’s body. he ignorantly stands in the circle that was not Beatrice-Joanna’s creation but the construction of the community of men with which he now proudly identifies himself. their hellish theatre still very much alive and well. Middleton does not here reaffirm the ideals that under-gird them but rather reveals their emptiness and destructiveness. It is they who have created the flames of hell they fear.
dying in defiance. But where the Lady enacts 78 . as he is forced to see the folly and inhumanity of his ways (1. fused as they are through their female conduit). both Beatrice-Joanna and the Lady of The Lady’s Tragedy are circumscribed by decidedly masculine worlds that demand perfect performances of their women. (1. 41). Far from saving her father.62). as though he were an unapproachable god. because she would thus be freer. as I regard his name. Beatrice-Joanna instead fears him.1. Beatrice-Joanna’s will is not in accord with those of her father and the man he has chosen as her husband (men are effectively the same.19-23) Of course. “happier and more peaceful” (1.1. Else it goes from me. Transformed into a curse. As the fathers of these women both make explicit. Like the theatre of masculinity that opens Julie Taymor’s film version of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. While the Lady perceives and stands up against this male-dominated ideological system. Beatrice-Joanna does disagree with her father’s express will— What’s Piracquo My father spends his breath for? And his blessing Is only mine. she truly believes she can and must fulfill her assigned roles. the Lady stands firm against his professed will—“[a]dvancement for thy father”—declaring her preference to be a “shepherd’s” daughter rather than a lady. The Lady’s ability to “withstand” her father’s purposes both preserves her own will and independence and redeems her father. a woman’s sense of identity and agency is at risk in a society that demands that women fulfill an impossibly rigid feminine ideal. In each case.26. her two male masters. the man’s name. and cursing are intentionally ambiguous: they can be either Vermandero’s or Alonzo’s. and turns head against me. blessing. Beatrice-Joanna’s and the Lady’s performances of ideal femininity are required to form bonds between men.CONCLUSION As the hellish arena of theatricality in The Changeling makes visible. The Lady sets herself outside of that system even as Beatrice-Joanna continually performs on its center stage. Beatrice-Joanna is blind to its injustices. refusal to perform this role calls for not merely a withdrawal of “protection” but rather a death-sentence. father and husband.2. When her father tries to turn her over to the Tyrant.
And while BeatriceJoanna is not the typological whore. more importantly.195. But cast it to the ground regardlessly. (5. Beatrice-Joanna herself seeks not to consume men’s blood but to purge her own. lusting for and devouring all men’s blood. seeking her forgiveness. 201).179). her father having proved his unwillingness to listen to his daughter’s desires. preventing their contamination: O come not near me.1. The pardon Beatrice-Joanna seeks is not for murder but for transgressing her father’s will and. And whereas the Lady’s father repents on his knees. Middleton does not so much seek to display innate human depravity as represent plausible human beings. Often called a Puritan primarily because of his depictions of the dark recesses of human nature. Beatrice-Joanna grovels before her father. inadequately playing her part: she has acted so poorly that her performance only earns her “shame” in others’ eyes—and now.3.her own will. I am that of your blood was taken from you For your better health. Middleton makes clear that Beatrice-Joanna is not the embodiment of an unleashed woman—the insatiable whore. Beatrice-Joanna fully upholds the identity the play’s men place upon her and lauds their own worthiness. Beatrice-Joanna continues to operate within the male-scripted bounds of power. I shall defile you. calling her fear of the “violent” loss of her virginity to Alonzo but “a toy” (1.178).3. as she is exposed as an actress with no substance. Let the common sewer take it from distinction. The murderous Beatrice-Joanna and the irreproachable Lady stand as vastly different characters. choosing murder rather than the appearance of disobedience. The 79 . Beatrice-Joanna dares not even approach—let alone contradict or defy— Vermandero or Alonzo. sir. she dies in her own shame of her failure to truly embody the feminine ideal. nor are their portrayals and audience responses mutually exclusive. Look no more upon’t. for “’Tis time to die when ’tis a shame to live” (5. she is always what they make her. but neither one embodies a certain type of woman. firmly believing in the unmatchable value of her virginal intactness—it outweighs a man’s life. characters who form a broad spectrum of admirable traits and personal flaws. begging for his pardon: “all forgive” (5.149-153) Even in her violent death.3. neither is the Lady a pure example of feminine virtue.
He displays this exploitation as both verbal and psychological. extending even further than its potent physical expressions of rape and murder. The Lady. But none of these women is strictly a victim. focusing particularly upon his culture’s most crippling social and political views and practices: those which lead to women’s exploitation. Middleton writes as a self-conscious voice among written discourse and an observant social critic. and thunderous clatter. ready for a chance to perform far beyond their society’s expectations.Lady rather explicitly denies such an embodiment. Mary Fitzallard. or symbols but plausible complex human beings. each of the women this study has examined—the Lady.4. Govianus pays homage to her monument. he has been called a “master. forced into a position that does not suit her. her tombstone “flies open. disallowing herself to be seen as the cold white marble representation of worshipful femininity that adorns her tomb. Moll. however. To each woman. In recent criticism of Middleton’s writings.4). By carefully representing women who are not simply lifeless victims. Middleton gives the ability to act. Middleton reveals not only the cultural flaws that lead to female tragedy but also the potential for social improvement—primarily provided by society’s competent and admirable women. persons just off-stage. To varying extents. And while this study certainly would not argue against such claims. and act. the Wife. in contrast to the lifeless. and Beatrice-Joanna— is a victim of cultural ideology. In a forceful entrance complete with whirlwind. praying to her and praising feminine ideals (4. is displeased. Lady Goldenfleece. passive figure adorning her tomb. what deserves most attention and praise is not his mastery of the written word but his characters’ very human presentation. 80 . types. lightning flashes.” and his reputation as one of the great writers of the English language will no doubt solidify with the Oxford publication of his complete works. viewing her tomb and effigy as a “[t]emple of honour” where he kneels and devoutly worships (complete with prayer book and cantor). as a human representation. but she possesses an intrinsic ability to think. Mistress Low-water. but Middleton does not deny her character agency—her society may cripple her ability to enact her will.” and the Lady displays herself as awesomely active. desire. her society may deny her agency.
3rd ed. Holms. Critics have noted Middleton’s interaction with various other authors. Society and Politics in the Plays of Thomas Middleton (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 2001) 2501. from The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2006).ENDNOTES Notes: Introduction Judith Butler. including Nashe’s Pierce Penniless in The Black Book. Leitch (New York: W. Stage-Wrights: Shakespeare. and the Making of Theatrical Value (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. “Beguiling the Master of the Mystery: Form and Power in The Changeling. See. Lisa Hopkins. ed. The Roaring Girl. ed. (Durham: Duke University Press. 1983) 16. 162. Roma Gill. Re-raping Rites: Shakespeare’s and Middleton’s Lucrece Poems” (unpublished. general editor Gary Taylor. 9 Chakravorty 195. 2004) 176.. Ideology and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries. “The World of Thomas Middleton. 1980) 67.. Puritanism and Theatre: Thomas Middleton and Opposition Drama under the Early Stuarts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Jonson’s Hymenaei in The Changeling.” Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 9 (1997) 158. 42. Jonson. Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece in The Ghost of Lucrece.W. Norton and Company. 1990) 39. ed. 8 7 6 Radical Tragedy: Religion. Heineman 52-57. 1964) 89. 4 3 2 1 Yachinin 100. Daileader. Middleton. 1580-1980. “Rewriting Rape. “‘I(t) Could Not Choose but Follow’: Erotic Logic in The Changeling. Celia R. David M.” Representations 81 (2003) 80. 1970) 7. Kenneth Friedenreich (New York: AMS Press. Coppélia Kahn. 10 Notes: Chapter One 81 . The Art of Thomas Middleton: A Critical Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press. Vincent B. 1997) 95.” “Accompaninge the players”: Essays Celebrating Thomas Middleton. Judith Haber. Elizabethan Essays (New York: Haskell House. Text citations are from Oxford Press’ forthcoming Collected Works of Thomas Middleton. for instance: Swapan Chakravorty. 5 Margot Heineman. and Marlowe’s Faustus in The Changeling. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990).
STC 22329. ungodly spectacles. Harvester New Critical Introductions to Shakespeare. 1998) 77. However.” 77-79. edited by David Bevington (New York: Pearson-Longman. though. or. the Earle of Sussex. 1990). “Sexuality as a Signifier for Power Relations: Using Lavinia. 17 82 . lewde. to republickes. and most pernicious corruptions. his argument is somewhat inconsistent when he simultaneously marvels at Shakespeare’s genius for representing unique personalities of psychological plausibility in plays he had already written.All Titus Andronicus citations are from The Complete Works of Shakespeare. mindes. heathenish. Feminism. 5th ed. of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. 2004). actors tragaedie. as intolerable mischiefes to churches. “The Need for Lavinia’s Voice: Titus Andronicus and the Telling of Rape. Bernice Harris. STC 12095. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (New York: Riverhead Books. Bloom himself avoids serious criticism of this play and whatever questions it may raise—intentionally or inadvertently—about the human condition by writing it off as Shakespeare’s least artistic work. (1633). for instance. and William Prynne’s The players scourge.. Titus Andronicus (New York: Harvester. The 1600 edition was published under the title The most lamentable Romaine tragedie of Titus Andronicus As it hath sundry times beene playde by the Right Honourable the Earle of Pembrooke. Some of the unequivocal titles include ones like the following: Gosson’s Playes confuted in fiue actions prouing that they are not to be suffred in a Christian common weale…(1582). and Emily DetmerGoebel. as well as ones that followed upon Titus Andronicus’ heals. and Edward Ravenscroft revised it for Restoration performances.3 (1996): 383-406. 1991): 193-213. STC 22330. to the manners. an over-the-top parody of Marlowe in a cathartic exorcism of “the ghost of Christopher Marlowe.” Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts 38. See. publishing the new text in 1687 (xiii). and it remained so popular that it was performed for Christmas festivities by London players in the home of Sir John Harington two years later.” Sexuality and Politics in Renaissance Drama. Daileader persuasively argues for Middleton’s poem as a direct revision of Shakespeare’s in her unpublished essay. Carole Levin and Karen Robertson (Lewiston: Mellen. 16 15 14 Celia R. Significantly. “‘I can interpret all her martyr’d signs’: Titus Andronicus. and the Lorde Chamberlaine theyr Seruants. “Re-writing Rape. Re-raping Rites: Shakespeare’s and Middleton’s Lucrece Poems” (2006). and the 1611 edition was published with the title The most lamentable tragedie of Titus Andronicus As it hath sundry times been plaide by the Kings Maiesties Seruants. and the Limits of Interpretation. Wherein it is largely evidenced…That popular stage-playes…are sinfull. Maurice Charney and Hannah Charney note that there are five recorded performances of the play throughout the year of 1594. Cynthia Marshall. divided into two parts. condemned in all ages. 13 12 11 Harold Bloom. Eds. and soules of men…. the Earle of Darbie.” Shakespeare Studies 29 (2001): 75-92.
but we never actually take note of the victims themselves. and seeking that man’s good graces above his family’s own good. which she believes is a result of the male desire to dominate but is in actuality because the play simply cannot allow Lavinia to be such a figure. But Lavinia’s suffering is heaped upon her simply because she is Titus’ daughter. Reiter (New York: Monthly Review Press. “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex. bestowing the empire upon a wicked young man. like a Lucrece knife’: Shakespeare and the Meanings of Rape. Shakespeare’s Violated Bodies: Stage and Screen Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 25 One can psychologically understand Titus’ need to remain without comfort because he has brought these sorrows upon himself through his arrogance and pride. In the fall of 2001.“The Spectacle of the Scaffolding: Rape and the Violent Foundations of Medieval Theatre Studies. ‘or worse’: Transversal Power and Antitheatrical Discourse in Early Modern England. 24 23 22 Solga 65. 2004) 50. Jody Enders. 49.” Theatre Journal 49. Marshall 200. noting that these “actresses in their preparation of the role have resisted the allegorization of Lavinina and attempted to re-emphasise the physicality of her suffering. “The Devil’s House. For more on the nature of the debate and of the theatre’s “transversal” force in society. killing his youngest son. is that they and the crimes against them are unnoticed. such as victims of domestic abuse. Pascale Aebischer. 21 Aebischer examines how modern actresses have interpreted Lavinia as an actual woman. ed. 83 .” “‘Yet I’ll Speak’: Silencing the Female Voice in Titus Andronicus and Othello. (New York: Columbia University Press. the Mortar Board chapter at Converse College. Shakespeare’s Violated Bodies.2 (1997): 143-167. 51. “Rape’s Metatheatrical Return: Rehearsing Sexual Violence among the Early Moderns. Rayna R. 2005). 20 19 18 Aebischer 52.” Toward an Anthropology of Women. 26 27 The very nature of silent victims. “‘Silence. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. and Kim Solga.” Theatre Journal 58 (2006) 56. and Gayle Rubin. see Bryan Reynolds. Aebischer also notes that such Lavinias have come into conflict with their Tituses and directors. a women’s college in South Carolina.” Societe Francaise Shakespeare (1999) 34.” The Yearbook of English Studies 23 (1993) 103. The disturbing part is not their ability to capture our attention and sympathy but rather that we shudder at the crimes committed against them when they are brought to our attention. 1975) 174.” Theatre Journal 56 (2004): 163-181.STC 20464a.
29 30 For instance. but they also saw it specifically as Titus’ tragedy and the tragedy of his sons. “Yet” 33. 1658-1664 (Wing L252A). and the men by whom it is committed. 28 Aebischer. The heading for this publication not only confirms that the early modern audience did indeed view this as a most “lamentable” tragedy. including that of Sophronia who. through the means of a bloody Moor. A mid-seventeenth-century printing of the play gives a much longer title: The lamentable and tragicall history of Titus Andronicus with the fall of his five and twenty sons in the wars of [t]he Goaths. like…her Roman prototype. Christine M. “‘O Keep Me from Their Worse than Killing Lust’: Ideologies of Rape and Mutilation in Chaucer’s Physician’s Tale and Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. 1687 (Wing S2949). 31 It is worth noting that if Shakespeare did view this play about both Titus and Lavinia.” first printed only a couple decades before Shakespeare’s penning of Titus Andronicus (and subsequently reprinted and read all over England for decades thereafter). and Christopher Cannon (New York: Palgrave. Lavinia is not the subject of the title but the specific person against whom a rape is committed. Ravenscroft. Elizabeth Robertson. But even in this version. Baines’ book includes a number of dramas and paintings of virgins/chaste women who must kill themselves after (attempted) rape in order to preserve their virtue and honor. or “Book of Martyrs. Eds.remembered Domestic Violence Awareness Month by placing life-size red silhouettes like those from the scenes of murders of women in South Carolina as a result of domestic abuse. 2003). On a more religious note. in various high-traffic areas about the campus. Representing Rape in the English Early Modern Period (Lewiston: Edwin Mellon Press. with the ravishment of his daughter Lavinia by the empresse [t]wo sons.” Bott 195. The rape of Lavinia…. Lavinia is mentioned only in the context of what happens to her. Edward Ravenscroft’s Restoration adaptation of the play includes Lavinia’s name more prominently: Titus Andronicus. “Yet” 33. Rose. Barbara J.” Representing Rape in Medieval and Early Modern Literature. as Brigg’s points out in her introduction to The Lady’s Tragedy. but he names the play instead after the given name of her father and the family name of which he is head. escaped rape by committing suicide. taken by the swor[d] of Titus in the war. Baines. Encountering these figures was a disturbing experience not simply because they were faceless reminders of death but because they did just what the victims never did—made themselves public. he would have included her name in the title (as he did with Romeo and Juliet. and Troilus and Cressida). or. “recorded the lives of a number of early Christian martyrs. Antony and Cleopatra. John Foxes’ The Acts and Monuments. with his revenge upon them for their cruell an in humane act…. along with a brief verbal profile (“average” neighbors). 2001). Bott also goes into a detailed account of the popularity and permutations of the tale of Virginia and Virginius. 32 84 . whereas Titus’ name not only comes first but also stands alone. against whom it is committed (Titus and his family). 189-211. Virginia…. Aebischer.
” Shakespeare Survey 54 (2001): 13-30. “The Second Maiden’s Tragedy: A Jacobean Saint’s Life.” 40 39 Anne Lancashire. As Daileader notes. I might also note that there is always the possibility that she still is. edited and annotated by Julia Briggs. 94. after all. 38 Gary Taylor has pointed out that the Lady’s statement. Some of the stage directions actually call her “the Lady of Govianus. Crawford 102. Lavinia is depicted as a virgin throughout the play. However.” The Review of English Studies. 37 36 35 34 33 Citations from The Lady’s Tragedy are from Oxford Press’ forthcoming Collected Works of Thomas Middleton. she seems to have a “sexual aura” about her. Introduction (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1998) 94. and the Limits of the Visible (New York: Cambridge University Press. 25. Baines 177. Daileader. this deification is not in the traditional terms Govianus invokes—the deity of the Virgin Mary—but of Christ himself. nor did it indicate individuality of personalities. Crawford likewise asserts that the kiss is a sexual metaphor and a symbol of sexual activity. Middleton frequently leaves his characters “unnamed” within the stage directions and play text. Celia R. My thanks to Nancy Bradley Warren for this astute observation.” which implies that she in some way belongs to him. Daileader also notes that the physicality of the Lady actually kissing Govianus is a clear indicator of her sexuality. what makes the character is the material given for his or her performance on stage. considering she has only been married a matter of hours and under distressing circumstances. 41 42 43 44 85 . The Second Maiden’s Tragedy. Eroticism on the Renaissance Stage: Transcendence. “Divine [ ] Sences. Plays were not. Anne Lancashire.As Marshall points out. Crawford 114. rather. a permutation of the angel’s “He is not here” at Christ’s tomb after the Resurrection. my emphasis. Naming characters was not a dramatic convention. Another possibility is that Govianus is simply calling the Lady an attendant or servant to “honour. a possible indication of sexual attachment. The Lady’s Tragedy. meant to be read but watched. Desire.99 (1974): 267-279. as a annunciation about herself does actually deify the Lady. despite her marriage to Bassianus (195). 106. general editor Gary Taylor. 1978). as do other playwrights of the period (Shakespeare included).
Shakespearean women commonly speak out (and are praised for it) in order to castigate an unruly woman (as Kate does in The Taming of the Shrew). is oddly reminiscent of John Knox’s sixteenth-century proclamations against female rule. a blackamoor (as Emilia does in Othello). Baines 176.45 This interpretation. but Lavinia’s words here do not make her forward or outspoken. dying not for honor but will.” Clifford Chalmer Huffman. 177. simultaneously assuring him that she is quite unlike Tamora. Indeed. she is chaste. This is notably not a play couched in binaries. or a Jew (as Portia does in The Merchant of Venice). living only in his meditations upon her and her fate. 51 52 Baines voices the more conventional interpretation of the Wife’s suicide as the result of having “destroyed” her honor “with her lust.” Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 1 (1984) 174. silent.1 (1998) 22. and Ray asserts that Lavinia is a stand in for the people of Rome. urges Saturninus. and the Wife’s suicide is similarly more sympathetic than one would expect in a play of opposites. be ruled by me” (1. “Art within The Second Maiden’s Tragedy. Bergeron 181. I do think this is an important observation. the Tyrant worshipping and fondling the body at the center of his court. Yet the Lady continually demonstrates that she is unconcerned with how people perceive her. and obedient. who do not give consent to Saturninus’ rule. she would be respectfully compliant. her husband gives her leave to do so and even encourages her to speak out against Tamora. Lavinia is living up to the principle of female silence in giving her husband what he wants to hear when he wants to hear it. while Govianus worships at her tomb. 46 Both the Tyrant and Govianus are obsessed with the Lady’s dead body. Sid Ray.443). Critics such as Aebischer have noted that Lavinia’s silence is forced upon her and that she does open her mouth in the woods against Tamora. Huffman argues that Lavinia is a visual “emblem” of “Rome without justice. 35. we have no doubt that she is not disobedient for defiance’s sake. in her manipulative eloquence. the center of the stage is the Lady—either in body or mock-body effigy. on the contrary. In both scenes. “My lord.” Shakespeare Quarterly 49. since she condemns her un-ladylike behavior. “‘Rape. Lavinia does embody the early modern triad of femininity. Lancashire “Introduction” 46.” while the Lady’s suicide is in order to preserve her honor. I Fear. 50 49 48 47 David M.1. his entire thoughts and actions consumed therein. while not intentionally belittling the Lady or condemning her actions. While the Lady is not submissive. were the requests made of her good and respectful of her person and desires. Tamora.” MLR 67 (1972) 733. Bergeron.“Yet” 29. Was Root of Thy Annoy’: The Politics of Consent in Titus Andronicus. “‘Titus Andronicus’: Metamorphosis and Renewal. just as she does not consent to her rape. 53 86 . For instance.
but in the manifestations of the sin. 173. who ruled her husband Ahab and the kingdom but whose body was eaten by wild animals. For instance. yet Lavinia is completely absent from their final speeches. Lancashire “Introduction” 38. the Old Testament female figure of evil power and sexual impurity. 64 65 66 67 Elizabethan Essays (New York: Haskell House. to exploit a type. Crawford 120. “Introduction” 39.” lacks enthusiasm and interest. “Introduction” 38. 1984). 57 58 59 Susan Zimmerman. Lucius’ sentence for Tamora’s body. 1964). 68 For instance. 55 56 Interestingly enough. the Tyrant desires to be a creator-god. his treatment of incest in the play lacks clarity of intention. Hancock 8.” Renaissance Drama 31 (2002) 227. 63 62 Indeed. 89. He argues that “one has the sense that Middleton was unsure of his purpose” with this play and that Middleton “seems to be satisfied. as an unnamed woman who is simply called “Lady. Regents Renaissance Drama editor E. The play’s final lines.54 Lancashire.4 (2001) 1540. Johnson Lowell’s introduction. to rely on stage tricks. is reminiscent of that given Jezebel.” this admirable female is not the only one of her kind. Middleton’s Tragic Themes (New York: Peter Lang. as Baines insists. Marshall 209. “Animating Matter: The Corpse as Idol in The Second Maiden’s Tragedy. 86.” Renaissance Quarterly 54. this is an explicit reference to the trimmed “branches” of Lavinia. to present a conventional intrigue. He is not interested in the consequences of this sexual transgression (a theme he would not pass up in his tragedies). and The Roaring Girl. though asserting that this is “one of Middleton’s best comedies. Yet the manifestations 87 . there are many “ladies. but their foolishness and ineffectiveness intentionally highlights that of one of their own—the Tyrant himself. Daileader 97. too often in the play. The sigh is Bloom’s own. Commodities.” Lancashire. As a necrophile and a Herod-figure. “Marked Angels: Counterfeits. and to accept a new dramatic genre without adapting it to his own comic vision. 60 61 Crawford believes that the soldiers are simply inappropriate for such a serious scene as the Tyrant’s theft of the Lady’s body. 108.
I will here refer to the play as simply written by Middleton. for the ‘impure art’ of Middleton…causes occasional embarrassment. ed.” Oxford English Dictionary online. “Though she claims the moral high ground…. general editor Gary Taylor. Equally as present is the anatomical sex-role reversal as Master Low-water “opens” while Mistress Low-water is the “first forward.” Erotic Politics: Desire on the Renaissance Stage. 2nd ed. ed. 73 In his critical introduction. The Roaring Girl. ed. 1970) 84. it is the same Moll as the one Middleton fashioned throughout the rest of the play. 71 72 Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare. No Help Like a Woman’s. Scholars agree that the two playwrights worked very closely to produce a unified piece. The Art of Thomas Middleton: A Critical Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press. See Kahn “Canon and Chronology. 1992): 12-26. 74 75 Widows and Suitors in Early Modern English Comedy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1580-1980. Jowett observes.. Coppélia Kahn. Both text citations are from Oxford Press’ forthcoming Collected Works of Thomas Middleton. 1983) 147. Thomas Middleton (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ed. (New York: Columbia University Press.” “Accompaninge the players”: Essays Celebrating Thomas Middleton.” Renaissance Drama 83 (1987) 60. 77 76 “Leaky Vessels: The Incontinent Women of City Comedy. these plays were both written in 1611. No Wit.” he also highlights in only the second paragraph of his essay that it is “not without flaws.. 2004) 172. While Middleton and Thomas Dekker collaborated on The Roaring Girl.” “Two Plays Reconsidered: More Dissemblers Besides Women and No Wit. “The subtexts of The Roaring Girl.” 70 69 Muir 156. Susan Zimmerman (New York: Rutledge. No Help Like a Woman’s. 1989) 26. No Help Like a Woman’s. No Wit. which is attributed to Dekker. her charm has more to do with wit than virtue.” 78 88 . Stephen Orgel notes that the typical cross-dressing woman’s motivation is to provide “protection” and “safety. Because this study focuses on trends in Middleton’s writing and because this play clearly has the influence of his hand throughout. John Jowett. so even in the tenth scene. as all recent productions [of his various plays] have shown.” thus indexing her “virtue” (18). Middleton wrote all but one of the significant scenes depicting Moll. 1976).are washed aside by the device of a death-bed secret” (xx). and intro Kenneth Friedenreich (New York: AMS Press. Like The Lady’s Tragedy. Kenneth Muir’s assessment is more laudatory but not without qualification: while he calls this play “masterly.
ed. Kahn 5. “Sex and Social Conflict” 184-185. 80 79 Like Petruchio. Panek 166. Master Low-water calls his wife “Kate. 1. 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 To “skelder” is specifically to pose as a “wounded or disbanded soldier” in order to live by begging but can also more generally mean to “swindle.” and with its aural resonance with a “gelder. Susan Zimmerman (New York: Rutledge. 94 93 92 “Sex and Social Conflict: The Erotics of The Roaring Girl. Hanson 225.” Studies in English Literature. Kahn 1. and Genre in Thomas Middleton’s City Comedies (Newark: University of Delaware Press. intentionally naming Mistress Low-water after the abused wife of the man she mocks and whose behavior she shows to be that of a man who is no real man at all. Penitent Brothellers: Grace. cheat. Paster 57-58. 1992) 184. 1500-1900.My thanks to Celia R. Kahn 1. or defraud. 2000) 163. Sexuality. Panek 179.” ELH.” Middleton may here consciously critique The Taming of The Shrew.0. but since the focus of his essay is necessarily broad.2 (1987) 258.102. Oxford English Dictionary online. Howard. he leaves many questions unasked and aspects of her character unexamined. “There’s Meat and Money Too: Rich Widows and Allegories of Wealth in Jacobean City Comedy. and the Multiple Plot in the Roaring Girl. 72 (2005): 209-238. Lowell xx. 30.73. Daileader for her direction to the richness of these passages and for her foundational argument in her forthcoming article. Domestic Conduct. “Play-Making.1. 95 89 . 81 82 83 The exception here is Jowett’s critical introduction. 27.” Erotic Politics: Desire on the Renaissance Stage.” it is possible that Moll implies that Trapdoor is in effect stealing manhood in the defrauding of gentleman’s purses.4. Panek 175.
2 (1993) 396. Heller 158. but she does get a dowry…. Baston 320. 323.The play cannot propose woman-to-woman marriage as the basis for a socially inclusive comic ending. the real comic conclusion’s marriage that leads to order: “Mistress Low-water doesn’t get a wife. The Widow not only gives Mistress Low-water access to her wealth but puts her fully in control of it.” Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature 58. Comensoli 251. She thus establishes an alliance between the women that strips her future husband of his potential rights…. “Sex and Social Conflict” 185. 97 “Mistres Hic & Haec: Representations of Moll Frith.Mistress Low-water’s ‘I am her servant for’t’ sets aside Beveril’s theoretical power as husband-to-be and insists on acknowledging deference to the Widow. 15001900. Dale M. Bakhtin.” Dawson 394. but it can and evidently does propose a woman-to-woman financial exchange as the basis for that comic ending.” Studies in English Literature. 1979) 124. Holms 107. 1991) 78.96 Howard. Hanson 227.” Feminism. Rowe 120-121. and the Dialogic.2 (2004) 7-27. 101 102 103 104 Jowett argues that this relationship is the most powerful in the play’s conclusion. Bauer and Susan Jaret McKinstry (Albany: State University of New York Press. 90 . 100 99 98 Muir 155. Heller 36. 105 106 107 108 109 110 “Critical Imperialism and Renaissance Drama: The Case of The Roaring Girl. Thomas Middleton and the New Comedy Tradition (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. eds. 33. “Controversy and the Single Woman in The Maid’s Tragedy and The Roaring Girl.
402. 24. 251. Howard. edited and annotated by Douglas Bruster.” Representations 81 (2003) 92. 124 91 .111 Howard. “Sex and Social Conflict” 185. 123 122 121 Barker and Nicol 15. “Does Beatrice Joanna Have a Subtext?: The Changeling on the London Stage. 113 114 Orgel even describes Moll as “with the exception of Mary Fitzallard. revealing how closely our modern expectations of women on stage have not changed much since the early modern period. Roberta Barker and David Nicol. and Jardine 161.3 (2006) 258.” Early Modern Literary Studies 10. 120 119 Twentieth-century theatre critics have seen Beatrice-Joanna as a character meant to be played as a “dangerous tigress.” which is also how Shakespeare’s Tamora is portrayed (and how Julie Taymor’s film renders her almost literally). general editor Gary Taylor.” Shakespeare Quarterly 39. Forman 1541-1542.” The Dalhousie Review 84.4 (1988) 438. Howard.3 (2004) 394. The Theatre. Monstrosity. but as with The Roaring Girl. esp. this text will refer only to Middleton as author since he was clearly involved in the entire work and since this study focuses on his plays specifically. Comensoli 251. “Changelings and The Changeling. the only unquestionably virtuous woman in the play. That Is All’: Wonder. esp. Comensoli. Rowley also had a hand in this play.” and we might note more exactly that she is the most admirable person in the play.1 (2004) 23. “‘I(t) Could Not Choose but Follow’: Erotic Logic in The Changeling. and Gender Struggle in Early Modern England. and The Changeling. “Crossdressing. 116 115 Jardine 38-39. 112 Dawson. Forman 1540. 117 118 Notes: Chapter Three Citations from The Changeling are from Oxford Press’ forthcoming Collected Works of Thomas Middleton.” Essays in Criticism 56. “‘A Frightful Pleasure. The Changeling. “Sex and Social Conflict” 180.
Judith Butler. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. 1580-1980. for instance.” Essays in Criticism 10 (1960) 298. ed. edited by David Bevington (New York: Pearson-Longman. Sugimura.W. “The Moral and Poetic Structure of The Changeling.” English Studies 80. I do not intend to imply that Beatrice-Joanna is a reincarnation of Shakespeare’s Beatrice or that the women’s desires are the same. Berger was perhaps the first to write about the Petrarchan qualities of the play. Sara Eaton examines the play’s pervasive rhetoric of courtly love. 126 125 Thomas L. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press. especially in its treatment of fortified buildings and its poetic correlative. Norton and Company. noting the impossibility for Beatrice-Joanna to live up to Alsemero’s expectations since the woman of poetry can never be approached and thus remains permanently ideal. Andrew Stott has more specifically compared Alsemero’s love for Beatrice-Joanna to that of Dante for Laura. “‘There’s Scarce a Thing but Is Both Loved and Loathed’: The Changeling. 2001) 2501. Additionally. 127 128 All citations from Shakespeare’s plays are from The Complete Works of Shakespeare. “The Petrarchan Fortress of The Changeling. while Beatrice-Joanna wishes to kill a man that simply wishes to marry her. from The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.3 (1984): 371-382. one might argue that Shakespeare’s Beatrice does actually wish to be a man. 5th ed.’” Theatre Journal 36. Bassnett 398. 2004). argues that Beatrice-Joanna “believes herself” when she claims not to be aware of De Flores’ meaning in his claims to her virginity. 129 While Shakespeare’s Beatrice and Beatrice-Joanna do resemble each other in some ways. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990). 1983) 222. while Beatrice-Joanna clearly uses her precursor’s mode for a desired result without true conviction of the words she speaks. “Beatrice-Joanna and the Rhetoric of Love in ‘The Changeling. ed. Kenneth Friedenreich (New York: AMS Press. 2005). 247.” Renaissance Papers (1969): 37-46.6 (1999) 508. Leitch (New York: W.. 133 134 92 . “Tiresias and the Basilisk: Vision and Madness in Middleton and Rowley’s The Changeling. though it is apparent that she does indeed fully understand his desires since they are in fact her own.” “Accompaninge the Players”: Essays Celebrating Thomas Middleton. Vincent B. 132 131 “A Congoun in Zombieland: Middleton’s Teratological Changeling.” Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses 12 (1999) 168. Shakespeare’s Beatrice notably wishes to kill a man who has effectively killed her kinswoman. 130 Sugimura 254. the lady.
136 135 Barker and Nicol 34. who is initiated into the mysteries of sex and evil by a Svengalian lover and who finds her ultimate consummation on the point of his knife. see Barker and Nicol. a part of the Corpus Christi pageants. my emphasis). Daalder also argues that Beatrice-Joanna “against her conscious intention comes to enjoy De Flores himself. The citation is from Vives’ seventh chapter.” Renaissance Drama 22 (1993) 98. Norton & Company. Haber 92. 26. Discovery. 2000. The Duchess of Malfi.” International Conference on Elizabethan Theatre 14 (1996) 146. Associate General Editor./ And they that wil not b[u]y it. vol.2 (1992) 27. Ruth Nisse./ And telle hem it is for love—she may it not deny” (106-108.Iago’s line of thinking has great cultural precedent. Abrams. 145 146 147 148 93 . not yet in touch with her own rampant sensuality. characterizes the woman who must prostitute herself in order to acquire a dowry as a woman who simply cannot deny herself sex. M.” English Studies in Canada 9. 137 All citations of The Duchess of Malfi are taken from The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. “Acting the Act in The Changeling. which were preformed even into the Elizabethan era. Medieval Drama (Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 138 139 140 141 142 “The Aristocratic Woman as Scapegoat: Romantic Love and Class Antagonism in The Spanish Tragedy. “Virginity in The Changeling.” “The Role of Isabella in The Changeling. Lisa Hopkins. Morrison 232. yet inow shal they han. and Indistinction in The Changeling. 143 144 “‘Hidden Malady’: Death. Hopkins. 230. Such a depiction of Beatrice-Joanna is quite contrary to the popular image of Beatrice-Joanna as “a nubile and beautiful young girl. H. W. 149-150 For more details about the productions. Ed. “Acting the Act” 111. Defining Acts: Drama and the Politics of Interpretation in Late Medieval England (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.” Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses 8 (1995): 109. for she will “selle lechory to hem that wil bey. New York: W. and The Changeling. the gallant-like Satan of N Town’s The Passion Play.1 (1983) 33. 1. Barker and Nicol 35. 2005) 3. Duncan 29. 1975).” English Studies 73. General Editor and Stephen Greenblatt.” as Barker and Nicol have summarized it. David Bevington.
“Beguiling the Master of the Mystery: Form and Power in The Changeling. Hopkins. Duncan 25. Eaton 381.” the Duchess replies simply that he must “Remove him” and wear the ring instead. for instance. 1990) 162. 36. 2. Chakravorty 147. “‘I’ll Want My Will Else’: The Changeling and Women’s Complicity with Their Rapists. in which the Duchess herself gives away her ring.31.48-49. Burkes 763.” English Literary History 62.2. 118). Hopkins. Hopkins.1. See. Barker and Nicol also point out that Alonzo is likely murdered in the discovery space.33. Haber 80.119).4 (1995). 162 Once again. which he views as off-limits.3. 159 160 161 Hopkins. Malcolmson 329. and she is concerned that it is properly “fit” (1. “Acting the Act” 110.” Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 9 (1997) 154.4. esp. mocking Antonio’s suggestion that a devil tempts him from her ring. we find a contrast in The Duchess of Malfi’s wooing scene. To his “There is a saucy and ambitious devil/ Dancing in this circle.3. see Mariko Ichikawa. 2. 156 Society and Politics in the Plays of Thomas Middleton (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 163 94 . 157 158 It is for this reason that De Flores must occupy Alonzo’s “eye” in order to kill him and take his ring. “What to Do with a Corpse?: Physical Reality and the Fictional World in the Shakespearean Theatre.” Theatre Research International 29 (2004): 201-215. “Acting the Act” 109. his cries like those of Beatrice-Joanna’s in the play’s final scene. 150 151 152 153 For another argument on the significance of Beatrice-Joanna’s deception. and 3. 772-783. since there is no need for “small conjuration” of the kind he implies (1.116-117.149 Duncan 33.” 154 155 For a discussion of the discovery space and death on the stage.2.167. see Deborah Burkes. The word “thrust” appears also in 1. “Acting the Act. She also refutes the idea that it is the woman’s ring in which from which the devil springs.
164 Hopkins. 165 95 . Burkes 782. “Beguiling” 158.
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Amy L. Stahl is pursuing a career in teaching young people.” and conference papers: “Shakespearean (Re)Valuation: Women. her class Writing about Classical Music of the Romantic Era). “‘They shall shine with incomparable Brightness’: Printed Seventeenth-Century English Funeral Sermons as Portrayals of Masculine and Feminine Models. Embodiment.. majoring in English. 2004.A. “Gender Distinctions of Clergymen and Clergy Wives in Printed Seventeenth-Century Funeral Sermons. Stahl is expected to receive her M.” South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities symposium. In addition to her academic interests of late medieval and early modern drama and devotional writings.” Southeastern Medieval Association. and experiencing and learning about foreign cultures.” Literature and Film Conference. and minoring in Politics. listening to and performing Classical music. “The Dead Clergy Wife: The Written Female Standard in Early Modern England. Ms.BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Beginning her semi-formal education as a toddler. 2006. 104 .A. 2005. Ms. and Disfigurement. 2007. Stahl was educated at home until the age of 17. “Rendering the Extraordinary Common: Virgins. focusing on Creative Writing.” National Undergraduate Literature Conference. Ms. Whores. studying German and Arabic. women’s studies. She graduated summa cum laude from Converse College in 2005 with a B. and political philosophy. Stahl’s passions are various: writing lyric poetry and fiction. Having thoroughly enjoyed her two-year experience as a teacher in the First Year Composition program at FSU (and in particular. Stahl’s academic writings include her undergraduate honors thesis. in English Literature in April of 2007 from Florida State University. and Martyrdom. Ms.
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