“Honest Margaret Newcastle”

Melissa E. Sanchez

in Erotic Subjects

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199754755
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199896912 | DOI:
“Honest Margaret Newcastle”

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Chapter Seven considers what happens to Sidneian ideals of resistance after the civil wars and regicide illustrated their logical extreme. The chapter offers a new reading of Margaret Cavendish’s fiction, one grounded in the ancient constitutionalism to which both Cavendish and her husband, the Duke of Newcastle, subscribed. Cavendish’s romances struggle to find common ground between the extremes of absolutism and republicanism by turning to the Elizabethan discourse of love: this model insists that monarchs’ power is limited by subjects’ affections even as it acknowledges love’s latent violence. By imagining only compromised, even degrading, erotic unions, Cavendish acknowledges that the overwhelming desires of sovereign and subject alike may vitiate any possibility of mixed rule. Because the allure of power can be irresistible, the subjects who should restore justice may equally imperil it.

Keywords: Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle; William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle; English history, 1642–1666; Oliver Cromwell; Charles II; royalism; women’s writing; gender; sexuality

Chapter.  14837 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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