The transformation of tradition in the sixteenth century
in Mothers and meaning on the early modern English stage
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This chapter considers the representation of figures such as Noah's wife, Eve and the Virgin in relation to the typology that is established through their paradigm stories. Religious and literary texts, like the writings of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe, and the poems Piers Plowman and The Romance of the Rose, demonstrate the complexity and reflexivity of motherhood in a range of genres that in turn influence such dramas as the later court plays Wisdom and Nature. Focusing upon the mother figure in terms of function rather than subject, the chapter traces the utility of motherhood as a dramatic trope. This richness of meaning ensures that the mother figure is integral to a reformulation of ideology during the process of Reformation. Her importance as an emblem is demonstrated by reference to two polemical plays written during the Reformation and its aftermath, the Protestant Kyng Johan and its Catholic rejoinder, Respublica.

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