Robert O. Yates
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Devotion, marriage and mirth in The Puritan Widow (1607)
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This essay reveals how Thomas Middleton’s city comedy The Puritan Widow (1607) attempted to reconcile the conflicting religious roles of the play’s protagonist – Lady Plus – as chaste widow to her sexualised potential as a remarried wife. The play wryly subsumes what is here termed ‘devotion to mirth’ with devotion to God, whereby the dramatisation of communal feasting, festive combat and the wearing of livery all lead to the marriage altar, the re-establishment of Protestant religious values and the play’s denouement. In this way, audiences could be taught to adopt religious conformity through dramatic and festive re-enactment – satire could (and often did) point to the sacred. In this way, English playwrights could mock devotions and model them too.

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People and piety

Protestant devotional identities in early modern England


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