Motherhood and history
in Mothers and meaning on the early modern English stage
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This chapter considers the place of the mother figure in the representation of history, focusing on the typology adumbrated in the first two chapters as a quality of narrative in late sixteenth-century history plays. Elizabethan chronicles imply a teleology that offers a reading of history in terms of a grand scheme structured around causes and events. The chapter suggests that motherhood in history plays operates against the dynamics of teleology to offer alternative readings of historical episodes. The meanings carried by the mother bisect chronology to assert a mythic and macrocosmic history that insists upon an alternative context for the reading of the play as ‘story’. Beginning with Dr Thomas Legge's Latin play Richardus Tertius and followed by a discussion of George Peele's Edward I, and finally with an examination of the role of Queen Margaret in William Shakespeare's Henry VI plays, the chapter argues that motherhood works as a kind of narrative event, plotted as an intervention in the iteration of chronologically organised occurrences to complicate the dramatic representation, and thus the political and moral implications of history.

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