St Helena of Britain in the land of the Magdalene
All’s Well That Ends Well
in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
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This chapter suggests that one should read the pilgrimage-minded Helena of All's Well That Ends Well in the light of two holy women, St Helena of Britain and Mary Magdalene. Despite the official marginalisation of Catholicism, there were many cultural uses made of Mary Magdalene in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The story of St Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine and supposed finder of the True Cross, was well known in Britain. In Lewis Wager's The Life and Repentaunce of Mary Magdalene, Mary Magdalene, like Helena, is first introduced with reference to her late father. In most dramatic versions of her story, Mary Magdalene was the sister of Lazarus, like Helena, was also associated with narratives of death and miraculous or quasi-miraculous recovery. Antonina Harbus explains that St Helena was sometimes mentioned in the same breath as the Blessed Virgin Mary.


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