The politics of female supplication in the Book of Esther
in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
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This chapter aims to assess the extent to which sixteenth- and seventeenth-century readings of events in the Book of Esther were determined by the different generic forms and by the broader historical, cultural and religious contexts. Female petitioners, mindful of the strong civic and religious associations informing the Book of Esther, appropriated her spiritual image and reputation as a precedent in order to license their own forays into the political arena. It was as 'a patron saint of Civil War women's petitions', to borrow Susan Wiseman's phrase, that this biblical heroine scored her greatest impact. In his commentary on the Book of Esther, Timothy Laniak pertinently remarks that 'Esther is a story about falling and standing in which the Jews' enemies fall, and the Jewish people stand'. Power relations between suppliant and supplicated are inverted to the benefit of the Jews.


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