Animating Matter: The Corpse as Idol in <i>The Second Maiden’s Tragedy</i> and <i>The Duke of Milan</i>

Susan Zimmerman

in The Early Modern Corpse and Shakespeare's Theatre

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2005 | ISBN: 9780748621033
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652198 | DOI:
Animating Matter: The Corpse as Idol in The Second Maiden’s Tragedy and The Duke of Milan

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This chapter investigates the repercussions of continual tension in two plays that directly address the issue of idolatry: Thomas Middleton's The Second Maiden's Tragedy, and Philip Massinger's The Duke of Milan. Both plays are implicated importantly in the core concern of Protestant iconoclasm: the question of what ‘dead’ means in relation to materiality. It would seem that the ideological confusions of The Second Maiden's Tragedy foreclosed the possibility of doctrinal orthodoxy despite the play's ostensible condemnation of idolatry. The Duke of Milan renders with compelling immediacy the sensory temptations of anthropomorphic imaging, and isolates the female body as the site of violence, or more precisely, as the bridge between sexuality and the bloody waste of war. The Middleton and Massinger plays are useful in anatomizing the difficulties of staging the corpse and the slippages that inevitably proceed from any efforts to do so.

Keywords: Thomas Middleton; Second Maiden's Tragedy; Philip Massinger; Duke of Milan; idolatry; Protestant iconoclasm; dead; corpse

Chapter.  17718 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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