Schwarz 2003

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"Formulated in terms of self-control, chastity stands in an odd relation to the presumption of control by others; it is not a straightforward mechanism of hierarchical imposition but a complicated and always potentially contested interplay of constraint and will." (270)

Milton's Comus and Cavendish's Assaulted and Pursued Chastity

"Milton and Cavendish link violent obduracy to conventional social value, yoking militancy to marriage, and with this elaboration significance shifts." (272)

"somewhat apprehensive view of chastity" circulating more generally in the period; but for Milton and Cavendish, becomes "not anxiety but story: not, that is, a partially repressed subterranean possibility but a matter of plot and a mode of heroism" (272)

whose mastery does chastity signify? (274)

"If femininity, the set of conventions that directs female identitis and acts toward the accomplishment of patriarchal ends, appears as an artifact of female will, its role in the management of power becomes ambiguous at best. A feminine sexuality at once conventionally defined and militantly disposed imperils the ordering effects of marriage." (275)

Assaulted doesn't satirize its subject; but "seriously considers the implications of chaste agency; if the result disrupts social logic, it does so without ironic distance, xposing a curious intimacy between oddity and norm"; "extracts its theory of sexual virtue from a tissue of cliches, social proprieties so formally arituclated that it seems they must empty themselves of meaning" (278)

"The ideal of virtue seems fully realized in her figure. Yet in becoming that figure our hero shoots the prince and later a priest (who dies), dresses as a boy, impersonates a god, wins a war, and is proclaimed a viceregent, all in the name of chastity." (279)
"Chastity defined and defended by women is a convention commandeered by its occupants, an ideology put in question by the place from which it speaks. Cavendish's hero traces the fault lines in power as she directs her own production as a sexual ideal." (280)

character is protean in some respects; but chastity provides the touchstone (280)

  • "mystification of identity that does not change the conditions of acting" (280)

generic belatedness shared by Comus and Assaulted (281)

"Structured as always already prescribed yet subject to appropriation from within, chastity mirrors the vexed conventionality of the generic forms it inhabits." (281)