Mothers and meaning on the early modern English stage

This book studies the mother figure in English drama from the mid-sixteenth to the early seventeenth centuries. It explores a range of genres from popular mystery and moral plays to drama written for the court and universities and for the commercial theatres, including history plays, comedies, tragedies, romances and melodrama. Familiar and less-known plays by such diverse dramatists as Udall, Bale, Phillip, Legge, Kyd, Marlowe, Peele, Shakespeare, Middleton, Dekker and Webster are subject to readings that illuminate the narrative value of the mother figure to early modern dramatists. The book explores the typology of the mother figure by examining the ways in which her narrative value in religious, political and literary discourses of the period might impact upon her representation. It addresses a range of contemporary narratives from Reformation and counter-Reformation polemic to midwifery manuals and Mother's Legacies, and from the political rhetoric of Mary I, Elizabeth and James to the reported gallows confessions of mother convicts and the increasingly popular Puritan conduct books. The relations between tradition and change and between typology and narrative are explored through a focus upon the dramatised mother in a series of dramatic narratives that developed out of rapidly shifting social, political and religious conditions.

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