Literature and Theatre
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.
Early modern readings of biblical women are as full of variety and contradiction as the Bible itself. Zipporah and Michal are unusual for the challenges they pose to masculinity in literal and metaphorical ways. Though Jewish midrash unites Zipporah and Michal, the two do not appear together in any biblical narrative or text. Still, they are routinely linked in early modern discourse and in consistently unflattering ways. Zipporah's behaviour sets the stage for women's engagement in nationalistic enterprises an engagement that characterises the actions of several heroines in Exodus and in the biblical books that follow. Early modern readings echo charges of sin and injustice and include Michal in books such as God's judgments against whoring. The severe disconnection between the Bible's mix of compassion and wonder toward these women and the early modern disparagement of them invites us to consider what distinguishes these biblical women's narratives from others.