Imagining the enemy
Protestant readings of the Whore of Babylon in early modern England, c.1580–1625
in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
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Early modern scholarship has accepted the Whore of Babylon's popularity and synonymy with Catholicism, and her evocation within discourses of anti-popery has been acknowledged in studies of Catholicism and discussions of dramas set in southern Europe. For Protestants, reading the Whore of Babylon was central to a broader attempt to create and maintain a strict opposition between the opposing factions of Christianity. Martin Luther declared the Whore's Roman Catholic identity by including a woodcut depicting her in the papal tiara in his 1522 New Testament. This interpretation gained credibility among reformers on the continent, it accrued similar respect and popularity in England through the work of John Bale, John Foxe and Heinrich Bullinger. Richard Bernard's instructions demonstrate that the reformers did not abandon their commitment to the literal but instead accepted a form of literalism that was, paradoxically, figural.

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