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This chapter argues that early modern Catholic accounts of Marian grief continued to nostalgically present Virgin Mary using the medieval motif of the Stabat Mater Dolorosa. The Virgin at the cross is understood, in the Stabat Mater Dolorosa tradition, to be poised between grief and happiness; sorrow and exaltation; agony and triumph. Mary's participation at the cross was understood to authorise her intercessionary powers, reasserting her significance in an era coming to terms with the eradication of purgatory from Protestant doctrine. Thomas Lodge's Prosopopeia containing the teares of the holy, blessed, and sanctified Marie, the Mother of God directly engages with the performative nature of the Virgin's grief. Mary's grief at the cross does not simply operate as a static image of medieval Catholicism; instead, that legacy is negotiated in the texts to reveal what the Virgin represented to the particular historical moment.
This book considers how biblical women were read, appropriated and debated in a wide range of early modern texts. It traverses a range of genres and examines literature written by a variety of confessionally diverse writers. By considering literature intended for assorted audiences, the book showcases the diverse contexts in which the Bible's women were deployed, and illuminates the transferability of biblical appreciation across apparent religious divisions. The book has been split into two sections. Part One considers women and feminine archetypes of the Old Testament, and the chapters gathered in Part Two address the New Testament. This structure reflects the division of Scripture in early modern Bibles and speaks to the contemporary method of reading the Bible from the Old Testament to the New Testament. In spite of this division, the chapters regularly make cross references between the two Testaments highlighting how, in line with the conventions of early modern exegesis, they were understood to exist in a reciprocal relationship. Within each section, the chapters are broadly organised according to the sequential appearance of the women/feminine archetypes in the Bible. The biblical women studied extend from Eve in Genesis to the Whore of Babylon in Revelation. The chapters vary between those that examine dominant trends in appropriation to those that consider appropriations of a particular interest group or individual.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book considers how biblical women were read, appropriated and debated in a wide range of early modern texts. It considers the complex ways in which biblical women were positioned as both positive and negative exemplars. The book investigates the 'intersection' by unravelling the rhetorical potential of the Bible's women across political, cultural, gendered and theological discourses. It seeks to build on the developing corpus of work by locating the Bible's more familiar women, such as Eve, Mary and Mary Magdalene, alongside their less familiar but nonetheless significant, counterparts such as Zipporah, Michal and Esther. The book addresses a particular biblical woman or archetype of femininity. It offers a purview of the diverse ways in which the women of the Old and New Testaments were read and represented in early modern England.
The Old Testament's pages weave together the stories of mothers, daughters, wives and queens, as well as female prophets, judges and military leaders, who shape biblical history. Biblical women were mobilised in the period's domestic writings. In Genesis, the bodies and decisions of women, such as Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel, enable the establishment of the Israelite nation. While Rebecca may indeed be understood to figure Elizabeth in Jacoband Esau, it was the Old Testament judge Deborah who was more commonly used to celebrate, and authorise, the authority of England's Queen. Identification with the speaking women of the Bible was an important authorising tactic of early modern women writers, and the prayer of Hannah, as well as the songs of Miriamand Deborah, acquired particular resonance. Tracing 'Womens words' across the Old Testament, Fell lays claim to a biblical tradition of female preaching that has been appropriated by men.
The use of New Testament women to consider the relationship between an individual and God is more forcefully revealed in early modern readings of Anna. In The glory of women, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa lists countless Old Testament women who assert pre-eminence over men, but the New Testament compilation is slight by comparison. Arguably, it was Jesus' mother Mary who was among the most discussed, and debated, New Testament women of the early modern period. The mother of Christ, Mary continued to have a literary presence in England throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, even after reformers destroyed the Marian statues and other physical reminders of her medieval cult. Beyond the Gospels, women from other books of the New Testament also receive attention from early modern writers, including Sapphira, Dorcas (Tabitha), Lydia and Priscilla who appear in the Book of Acts.