Dead mothers among the living

Felicity Dunworth

in Mothers and Meaning on the Early Modern English Stage

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780719076329
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702161 | DOI:
Dead mothers among the living

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This chapter examines a connection between Jacobean drama and contemporary discourses concerning the Protestant family and its relation to the state. Taking such diverse texts as William Gouge's Of Domesticall Duties and King James's writing on government, as well as the popular genre of mothers' legacies, it suggests that the representation and reception of motherhood in drama is coloured by shifts in religious and political pressures rather than because of a new celebration of affective family relations. William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale and John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi revisit the focus upon motherhood and meaning treated in the first chapter. In different ways, the potency of the mothers in The Winter's Tale and The Duchess of Malfi is, to quote Hermione, ‘preserv'd’ and memorialised so that motherhood transcends mortality to offer the unthreatening and unthreatened reassurance of everlasting and unconditional love.

Keywords: Jacobean drama; family; state; Of Domesticall Duties; mothers' legacies; motherhood; Winter's Tale; Duchess of Malfi; mortality; love

Chapter.  11018 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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