Literature and Theatre

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Old and new
Margaret Christian

Allegoresis is interpreting a text written with straightforward literal intent as if it were an allegory. In typology, a literal person or object is treated as an anticipatory example of someone or something to come. The Bible was the most important text subject to this kind of reading, including by New Testament writers. A sampling of commentaries on the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) and the rivalry between Mary and Martha (Luke 10) demonstrates the stability of allegorical readings from the patristic to the early modern era. Although the extent to which the Bible was properly read allegorically was hotly debated in the sixteenth century, even William Tyndale’s practice had much in common with traditional four-fold interpretation. Marginal glosses from the Geneva Bible indicate the general acceptance (and by extension, the transparency) of allegorical reading. Spenser’s use of words like "type," "shadow," "image," and "figure" refer to traditional biblical exegesis, adapting a method familiar to Elizabethans from religious sources.

in Spenserian allegory and Elizabethan biblical exegesis
Florimell and the sea
Margaret Christian

This chapter examines sermon uses of the image of the sea and the ship to demonstrate that the ocean, for Elizabethans, represented not only a realm of magic and fertility but also the spiritual dangers of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Sermons by Stephen Gosson, Richard Madox, Robert Wilkinson (among others) as well as Geneva Bible illustrations and glosses, provide parallels for Britomart’s lament at III.iv and a key to the moral meaning of the various settings of Florimell’s adventures: her near-rape by the fisherman, imprisonment by Proteus at III.viii-ix, and rescue by Cymoent in IV.xii. The sea setting sharpens the point of narrative references to divine intervention, and the sermons show how these episodes’ sea settings make sense for Spenser’s dramatizing the incompleteness of the single life that propels men and women toward their destiny of married love.

in Spenserian allegory and Elizabethan biblical exegesis
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Dympna Callaghan

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book examines how early moderns linked the fate of the insistently feminised Jerusalem to that of plague-ridden London, known by the start of the seventeenth century as a metropolis, the mother city. In contrast to the definitively masculine anxiety, the book investigates the dynamics of supplication. The book argues for the degree to which the Whore of Babylon in early modern England had captivated Protestant exegetes. It demonstrates that early modern exegetes had a hard time distinguishing between a heroic woman and one who was simply 'froward', mendacious and insubordinate. The book also examines how the proscribed prayer persisted, especially among male lyricists Jonson, Constable and Verstegen. It discusses what was to be done with Catholic tropes that had infused the culture but were now officially proscribed.

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700

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.

Beatrice Groves

The claustrophobic closeness of life in London was thought to lead to a break-down of conventional morality. Christ's monologue is directly followed by Miriam's even more problematic address, which retrospectively colours Christ's words so that the city's destruction seems an act of pre-meditated violence. In Thomas Nashe's plague pamphlet Christ's Tears over Jerusalem Miriam's cannibalism is a dominant motif both because plague has transformed London into a predatory metropolis and because plague has been caused by the heartless predation of citizens upon each other. While classical examples of parental cannibalism always involve a father consuming their child, Josephus, influenced by the maternal cannibalism of Lamentations, has a mother perform the act. The maternal joys of Jerusalem and the maternal care of God are entwined and ecstatically celebrated at the end of Isaiah. The biblical book, Lamentations performs Jeremiah's lament over Jerusalem in which the sinful, suffering city is insistently female.

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
Exegesis and political controversy in the 1550s
Adrian Streete

This chapter considers two questions what is Christian liberty and is it compatible with female rule, as they were debated in early modern Europe. It also considers the work of a number of English and Scottish Protestant political theologians during the 1550s. As Constance Jordan writes about the political and spiritual status of early modern women: 'In the language of Renaissance political thought, she is a persona mixta: her natural and political self balanced by her spiritual self '. The chapter argues that in each man's discussion of female rule in the Bible, the authority of women is regularly deprecated at a patriarchal level. Biblical exegesis and contemporary reality become intertwined: thraldom and slavery are the antonyms of Christian liberty. Mary Tudor, and her biblical antecedents like Jezebel, stand as wilful deniers of Christian liberty in the secular realm.

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
The Book of Proverbs in action
Danielle Clarke

The Book of Proverbs was adapted and recycled in multiple versions in early modern England, primarily because it was easy to break down into digestible units. Through the powerful example of the Book of Proverbs, author suggests that Reformation thought re-invigorates the reading, interpretation and application of feminine precursors to be found in the Bible. The Book of Proverbs is a frequent and popular choice for female encomia in the seventeenth century. The positive valuations of female speech rest heavily on the preconditions supplied by situation, audience and context, and surface at various points throughout Proverbs. Frequently the model of the virtuous woman involves referring the reader to the catalogue of exemplary biblical women. Robert Cleaver's commentary highlights the virtuous woman of Proverbs as a model for emulation within the household, and is aimed at husbands and wives alike.

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
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Protestant readings of the Whore of Babylon in early modern England, c.1580–1625
Victoria Brownlee

Early modern scholarship has accepted the Whore of Babylon's popularity and synonymy with Catholicism, and her evocation within discourses of anti-popery has been acknowledged in studies of Catholicism and discussions of dramas set in southern Europe. For Protestants, reading the Whore of Babylon was central to a broader attempt to create and maintain a strict opposition between the opposing factions of Christianity. Martin Luther declared the Whore's Roman Catholic identity by including a woodcut depicting her in the papal tiara in his 1522 New Testament. This interpretation gained credibility among reformers on the continent, it accrued similar respect and popularity in England through the work of John Bale, John Foxe and Heinrich Bullinger. Richard Bernard's instructions demonstrate that the reformers did not abandon their commitment to the literal but instead accepted a form of literalism that was, paradoxically, figural.

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
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Discovering biblical women in early modern literary culture, 1550–1700
Victoria Brownlee and Laura Gallagher

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.

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
Literary memory and defloration
Thomas Rist

The reflection on the Hail Mary prayer colours the analogy between the Virgin Mary and Henrietta Maria to follow. Since venerating Mary was outlawed after 1559, subsequent poetry exalting her is in a sense recusant by default because it refuses Elizabethan conformity. The poetry to Mary of Richard Rowlands or Verstegan is less known than that of Constable, and their backgrounds seem initially rather different. Rowlands was a printer who, in the wake of Edmund Campion's execution, became a leading Counter-Reformation publicist on the continent. Rowlands was an important smuggler of recusant books and also people into England, and his works circulated widely on the continent. Recalling the deeply inscribed, indeed scriptural, Marys, the poets present the Church as a seventeenth-century Mary without name: thereby acknowledging a loss of memory metaphorically, but with maximum sadness and horror, termed defloration.

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700