Lewalski 1993

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Lewalski, Barbara Kiefer. Writing Women in Jacobean England. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993.

balkanization of women's writing

"yet these texts urgently need to be read with the full scholarly apparatus of textual analysis, historical synthesis, and literary interpretation in play, since they come before us bare and unaccommodated, without the accretion of scholarship and critical opinion through the ages that so largely determines how we understand and value literary works." (1-2)

Jacobean court seen as hostile to women; yet we first hear Englishwomen's voices in large numbers during this period -- "breakthrough to female authorship" (3)


  • "larger space for cultural activity was opened to aristocratic women when Queen Elizabeth's death removed her from the scene as an overwhelming cultural presence while leaving in place a powerful female example" (7)
  • "evidence of some counterweight to patriarchy provided by female communities -- mothers and daughters, extended kinship networks, close female friends, the female entourage of Queen Anne" (8)
  • patriarchal ideology shot through with "conflicting demands and loyalties" for women -- husband, father, king; conflicts "force choices and thereby foster the growth of self-consciousness" (8)
"I have more interest in resistance than subjugation, more interest in attending carefully to what these women manage to express than in reading through them (again)t he all-too-true story of what the culture managed to repress. although these women writers were subsequently ignored or suppressed, I take it that their literary gestures of resistance matter, and that those gestures (often subtly coded) have resulted in fascinating texts." (11)

Enacting Opposition: Queen Anne and the Subversions of Masquing

"Even as Prince Henry's oppositional court became a locus for reformist Protestant ideology and hopes, so the Queen's presence and court provided a locus, unstable but yet influential, of female resistance to Jacobean patriarchy." (18)

early patronage of Jonson and Inigo Jones; helped develop court masque (28)

earliest Jacobean masques are developed and "authored" in some part by Anne

  • "We need not suppose contestation and subversion to be fully conscious on the Queen's or the authors' parts, or to be in the service of a consistent political agenda -- save that of enhancing the Queen's status. They are produced by the need to please multiple audiences -- King, Queen, male courtiers, court ladies -- and from the complexities of shared authorial responsibility with the Queen-patron. The effect was to subvert the representation of James as exclusive locus of power and virtue by means of texts and symbolic actions which exalted the power and virtue of the Queen and her ladies -- and, by extension, of women generally." (29)
  • the court ladies' "very presence as performers makes the female body the locus of action and meaning -- in striking contrast to the public theater, where boy actors took the women's parts" (30)

Masque of Blackness, Masque of Beautie

Queen consistently invites Spanish and Venetian ambassadors, passing over French -- infuriates French ambassador and king; evidence of her Catholic / Spanish sympathies (33)

Masque of Queenes -- historical women who ruled kingdoms in their own right (37)

after 1613, Anne produced no more Christmastide court masques; Prince Henry takes charge and male dancers take center stage, with ladies "relegated to the minor roles of dancing partners" (41)

"Queen Anne's patronage and sponsorship were largely responsible for the emergence and development of that new form, the Jacobean masque, especially in its first decade; and her 'authorial' presence exercised a powerful and often subversive influence on masques and entertainments until her death." (43)

Scripting a Heroine's Role: Princess Elizabeth and the Politics of Romance

"She could not be a victorious Britomart or Pamela, but played out a narrative of struggle and final defeat. Nevertheless, by taking over and rescripting available romance roles, she located in them some space for self-definition and oppositional political action, becoming a potent symbol of resistance to Jacobean patriarchy." (45)

symbol of Protestant resistance, inspiring numerous poems, etc.

"Until her marriage she seems to have been an actor in scenes scripted by others, but showing signs of an emerging self-awareness. After it she took on deliberatively the role of warrior queen in support of the elector's claims and the cause of international Protestantism, and became for much longer the galvanizing spirit for Protestant opposition in England to James's pacific politics." (47)

her wedding to Frederick "portended a militant, pan-Protestant alliance to curb Hapsburg power and secure the Reformation" (51)

comparisons to Queen Elizabeth -- against the image of a "vacillating male King," the comparison "represents women as the true, militant defenders of English Protestant values in the decadent Jacobean world." (64)

Writing Resistance in Letters: Arbella Stuart and the Rhetoric of Disguise and Defiance

James claims she's eaten of the forbidden tree (87) -- c.f. with Aemilia Lanyer, apology for Eve

"Her resistance did not bring the crown within her grasp, or even permit her to realize her simplest dreams of marriage, liberty, and choice of life. Like most other Jacobean women and men, she found that the external circumstances of her life were firmly controlled by arbitrary royal and patriarchal power. But her self-presentation in her many letters registers inner resistance to and open defiance of that power. Her empowerment came from a sense of self-worth derived from lineage, education for rule, and classical learning; it manifested itself in an irrepressible wit, a keen sense of irony, and the skillful exercise of the rhetoric of disguise. Arbella Stuart's notorious rebellion offered the example of yet another royal lady challenging James's patriarchal and absolutist claims." (92)

Exercising Power: The Countess of Bedford as Courtier, Patron, and Coterie Poet

"most important and most powerful patroness of the Jacobean court, except for Queen Anne herself" (95)

"she influenced the queen's patronage directly and had the ear of the King's ministers and favorites. She seems to have constructed her role with some self-consciousness, as the counterpart of the changing role evolving for the Jacobean male courtier; absent the sexual relationship, she offers some parallel on the Queen's side to the King's favorites." (95)

gained eminence despite, not because of her husband (96)

served lead role and as director of masquers for early court masques (99)

addressed as patron (102)

  • by Drayton (104)
  • by Samuel Daniel (105)
  • by Jonson (106-9)
  • by Donne (110-112) -- "In Donne's hands the poem of praise underwent a sea change, transformed from conventional hyperbolic compliment or quasi-Petrarchan adulation into an audaciously witty but also serious metaphysical inquiry into the bases of human worth, played off against the mundane transactions of courtiership." (111)

sole surviving poem (121-2) responds to Donne's elegyon her friend Cecilia Bulstrode's death

  • "The Countess here claims the right of a woman not only to offer a funeral elegy for her friend, but to critique through it the premier male poet of the age in this kind. Donne's second elegy on bulstrode appears to 'correct' the first in light of the Countess's poem." (122)

Claiming Patrimony and Constructing a Self: Anne Clifford and Her Diary

Diary provides "intriguing insight into their construction of self and world as they contested Jacobean patriarchal ideology, supported on the one hand by a sense of female community, and on the other by the firm conviction that God the Divine Patriarch was on their side against the many earthly patriarchs who oppressed them" (125)

tract, Lawes Resolutions of Womens Rights; shows Clifford's legal standing was sound

"she characteristically ranged the various patriarchal authorities against one another, thus opening space for subversion. She both accepted and challenged the patriarchal family structure as she sought to rewrite her place within it." (130)

Clifford's "Great Picture" -- left panel shows her at 15, the right at 53, in both surrounded by the books that mattered to her at those ages (137-8)

"transformation of her bedchamber into a species of commonplace book, to serve as subjects of discourse for herself and her servants" (139)

  • bedchamber walls pinned with sayings

format of the diary

  • "By adding the marginalia at some later stage, Anne Clifford seems to have sought to locate and position her own story more firmly within the larger drama of events. At the same time, the format asserts the significance of the personal narrative: it holds the center while the public and social world are (quite literally) marginalized." (142) -- note that Smith Autobiography disputes this interpretation, links the format to financial accounting books.
"In her Diary Anne sees herself as a loving wife who is forced to endure great suffering at the hands of her husband and much of society, but takes considerable pride in resisting the compliance demanded. She justifies her resistance in terms of the paradigm provided by Foxe's female martyrs, enacting a secular and self-interested version of their patient endurance and firm adherence to the right." (147)

kept careful records of the books she read or had read to her (150)

Defending Women's Essential Equality: Rachel Speght's Polemics and Poems

"This London daughter does not share the aristocracy's sense that publishing is declasse, and she disposes of gender constraints (here and elsewhere) on unimpeachable religious grounds -- the desire to benefit others by leading them to prepare for death, and the biblical command to use and not hide a God-given talent" (157)
"With her extended examination of the relevant biblical texts (supported by many cross-references in the margins in the approved manner of Protestant theological argument), Speght looks past Swetnam to engage worthier antagonists -- all those ministers or other commentators who find in Scripture some basis to devalue and wholly subjugate women." (162)

poem Mortalities Memorandum -- "The interest of this poem lies in the fact that she here proposes to share in the work of her minister-father and minster-husband, offering her poem as a sanctioned way for a woman to instruct a Christian audience. Speght may also have been aware of the large middle-class market for all sorts of books on piety, devotion, and self-analysis, and may have hoped to earn money by writing for that market." (170)

labor omnia vincet -- rewrites Ovid's amor vincet omnia

occurrence that causes her to give up her education

  • "She obeys, but makes her dismay evident, indicating that she has not internalized this construction of woman's role." (174)

Resisting Tyrants: Elizabeth Cary's Tragedy and History

"Cary, like Samuel Daniel and Fulke Greville, chose genres and took over generic strategies which allowed her to explore dangerous political issues, focused in her case by the situation of queen-wives subjected at once to domestic and state tyranny." (179)

dedications to Cary (183-4)

conversion to Catholicism in 1626 (185-7)

"Falkland's arbitrary nature and low opinion of women make it likely that she experienced often enough the married woman's vulnerability to abuses of power." (190)

later biography, written by her daughter, claims Mariam was pirated away from the chamber of her sister-in-law; collaboration between women to stoop to publication (190-191)

less indebted to earlier Herod/Mariam plays than French Senecan tragedies

  • Sidney's Antonie
  • Daniel's Cleopatra and Philotas
  • Greville's Mustapha
"These dramas often make a strong case for aristocrats and magistrates who resist tyranny on the ground of their own rights and responsibilities to the state, recalling positions developed by Calvin, the Jesuit Robert Parsons, and the Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, among others. The dramas do not overtly sanction or encourage rebellion; their perceived danger resides in the complexity and ambiguity with which issues of tyranny and rebellion are treated." (191)

e.g. Daniel's Cleopatra: Elizabethan 1594 version presents Cleopatra as weak, indecisive woman evoking pity, with little exploration of Caesar's tyranny; revised Jacobean version of 1607 makes a more forceful critique of tyranny (192)

in Mariam, "political and domestic tyranny are fused in Herod the reat" (194)

"Mariam's challenge to patriarchal control within the institution of marrige is revolutionary, as the heroine claims a wife's right to her own speech -- public and private -- as well as to the integrity of her own emotional life and her own self-definition. Cary's Mariam intimates that such integrity is the foundation for resistance to tyranny in every sphere." (201)

The History of the Life, Reign, and Death of Edward II

  • written 1627-8
  • first published 1680 in folio
  • often mistakenly attributed to Cary's husband
  • sympathetic and complex portrayal of Queen Isabel
  • "defines the Parliament's proper role in terms that directly challenge Stuart absolutism" (206)
  • "The most unusual feature of Cary's history is the portrayal of Isabel as a tragic protagonist, an intelligent, forceful woman whose role is central while her guilt is minimal." (207)

Imagining Female Community: Aemilia Lanyer's Poems

Salve deus

  • "is a defense and celebration of the enduring community of good women that reaches from Eve to contemporary Jacobean patronesses. Lanyer imagines that community as distinctively separate from male society and its evils, and proclaims herself its poet." (213)
  • "her dedications rewrite the institution of patronage in female terms, transforming the relationships assumed in the male patronage system into an ideal community" (221)
  • generic precedents: religious complaint poem, counter-Reformation genre (e.g. Robert Southwell's Saint Peters Complaynt) (227)

c.f. Cooke-ham with Jonson's Penshurst

  • " draw upon the same generic resources"; "they offer, as it were, a male and female conception of an idealized social order, which respond to contemporary ideology and which are epitomized in the lfie of a specific country house" (235)
  • "Lanyer's poem makes the pastoral departure a matter of social and domestic rather than state politics" (235)
  • Lanyer's poem "displays the real superimposed upon the ideal, affording a very different representation of the lady's situation. ... This poem gives mythic dimension to Lanyer's dominant concerns throughout the volume: this lost Eden was a female paradise and as such an ageless, classless society in which three women lived together in happy intimacy." (237)
  • "In sharpest contrast to Jonson's "Penshurst," whose lord "dwells" permanently within it and thereby preserves its quasi-Edenic beauty and harmony, Lanyer's "Cooke-ham" portrays the destruction of an idyllic place when its lady departs." (240)

oak tree is only gendered male object in the poem (238)

Revising Genres and Claiming the Woman's Part: Mary Wroth's Oeuvre

"She used her heritage transgressively to replace heroes with heroines at the center of several major genres employed by the male Sidney authors, transforming their values and gender politics and exploring the poetics and situation of women writers."
"Wroth's originality resides in claiming the romance, the lyric sequence, and the pastoral drama as vehicles for exploring women's rather than men's consciousness and fantasies, and making all of those genres resonate against a Jacobean rather than an Elizabethan milieu." (244)

Jonson's sonnet to Wroth (247)

Pamphilia to Amphilanthus

  • "revisions represent the awakening to love as grounded in the desires of the woman, not the physical charms of the (male) beloved" (253)
  • Night and its qualities as "valued female companions," Night as her alter ego (254)
  • "In locating the drama of love and desire in the consciousness of the woman lover-poet, Wroth reverses (and exaggerates) the customary Petrarchan focus on the male speaker's psych. The Petrarchists, however, define the male lover-poet's subjectivity by constructing the female beloved as object, while Wroth deliberately eschews this move. Amphilanthus is virtually elided from the sequence , and Pamphilia defines herself and her determined, constant love by direct and persistent introspection and self-analysis." (256)
  • "Wroth makes the love experience itself -- not the beloved -- the locus of value and the stimulus to poetry" (256)

Urania Part I

  • "an idealizing fantasy of female desire only partially overlies a dark image of the Jacobean world" (265)
  • two motifs: the tyranny of love and male inconstancy (267)
  • "The romance focus on love permits exploration of the conflict between private desire and public duty (the Queen's two bodies)" (271)
  • many interpolated tales and poems "explor[e] the issue of poetics, reading, and women's writing" representing "romances as proper vehicles for women's self-discovery, thereby valorizing the kind of reading long denounced as characteristic of, but very dangerous to, women" (277)
  • "A major means of self-definition and agency for Wroth's heroines is literary composition -- the telling of tales about themselves and others, and the making of poems." (277)
  • 56 poems in published Urania; one engraved on an ash tree and three inscriptions (278)

Urania, Part II

  • even more than Part I, "evokes Jacobean court society" through masques, banquets, dancles, triumphs, hunting, etc (283)

Love's Victory

  • pastoral tragicomedy; 5-act structure, contain lyrical songs and choruses, have stock characters; generic precedents 296-8
  • "Here, troubles arise chiefly from love's natural anxieties -- jealousy, misapprehensions, suspicions, and fears -- rather than treacherous plots and violence" (299)
  • "Wroth's drama portrays (beyond anything else in this genre) an egalitarian community without gender or class hierarchy, bound together by friendships within and across gender that are strong enough to survive even rivalries in love." (299-300)
  • structured around ecloguelike game or contest engaging several members of the community (303)