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Shakespeare's Queens

"The Political Aesthetics of Anne Boleyn’s Queenship in Henry VIII, or All is True."

When Shakespeare and Fletcher wrote Henry VIII, or All is True, they were responding to and codifying a political mythology developed within the preceding century. Of particular relevance for Shakespeare and Fletcher’s work was Henry’s political performance in his courtship and marriage of his second queen. Both in history and in the play, the character of Anne Boleyn / Anne Bullen becomes a locus of the shifts caused by Henrician reform in church and state. Because those reforms created threatening instabilities in the social order, Anne’s containment becomes a central concern of the play. In Henry VIII, Anne is made subject to the audience, as well as subject to Henry, as a way of historicizing and containing these instabilities and the resultant English anxieties.

"Domestic Economy and Domestic Security: The English Housewife and her Nation."

As the changing economy of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries led to increased social and physical mobility, the housewife, as a central figure of English domesticity, became an increasingly important figure in Renaissance England. “Her” domestic centrality was made possible by the anxieties and complications accessed through increased travel, mobility, and change. At the same time, these complications led English men and women to create ever stricter definitions to control the role and depiction of the English housewife, in whose image the entire country now had a vested interest. As the English translation of Juan Luis Vives’s Instruction of a Christian Woman, Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife, and Elizabeth Jocelin’s posthumous The Mother’s Legacie to her Unborne Childe reflect, English society invested enormous amounts of energy in attempting to create a stable, safe identity for itself by crafting a stable, safe identity for the housewife. This figure necessarily influenced the way that Englishwomen and men thought and wrote about a definition of the foreign and a particular, domestic, English national identity.

Appositions | 9

"Education and Agency in The Miseries of Mavillia"

In Nicholas Breton’s 1599 Miseries of Mavillia, women’s education is examined as a social good that can be transferred across classes. In the text, education helps to define the title character as a gentlewoman, but that education is gained from a laundress rather than from any fellow member of the upper class. For the less-educated characters, Breton allows the value they place on learning to also serve as a marker of worth. For the better-educated characters, worth is more explicitly coded by a combination of endorsed social status, clear reward, and moral stability. Although the titular Mavillia endures many miseries despite her attainments and status, education acts as, variously, safeguard, surety, and salvation throughout her story. Moreover, Mavillia is able successfully to transfer her education and the legitimacy it confers, thereby creating a “gentlewoman” out of the stubborn daughter of shepherds. In showing Mavillia’s successful transference of that education and its benefits to a woman not born to either, Breton challenges the established social order of restrictive class immobility and emphasizes the potential impact of education on the lives of middle-class and gentry women. Ultimately, Breton’s text argues for education as a potential source of comfort and moral fortitude for women of all backgrounds. Learning, in Breton’s text, is to be privileged for the practical good it allows one to do others, but that practical good generally returns to the women who make good use of their education.

Explorations in Renaissance Culture | 42.2

Conference Proceedings | "The King and His Queen: Henry VIII’s Verse and Katherine of Aragon as Center of the Chivalric Court"

This essay examines the ways in which Henry used poetics and performances to establish the iconography of his court and the relevance, within this context, of Henry’s specific choice of Katherine as queen to preside over his chivalric court. Though analysis may now often interrogate the possibility of underlying insecurities motivating Henry’s actions, the king’s consciousness of his own power and belief in his own ultimate sovereignty are equally important elements of almost every such analysis. However, the court over which a not-yet-eighteen year old Henry ascended in 1509 was a very different animal. Henry may have already begun to conceive of his sovereignty as unimpeachable, but he was a fair distance from being able to enforce that conception. How he handled the problems arising from this gap between desire and action determined many of the more defining elements of his reign, for in these first moments Henry intentionally created, in contrast to his father, and through verse and performance, a court invested in the ideals of courtly love, chose as the subject center for that court the regal Katherine, and began the drive towards absolute monarchy in its most ambitious sense that would make everything that followed possible. In the decisions he made in transitioning the court from his father’s to his own and in establishing his own royal identity, Henry VIII created, by example, the definitions of masculinity, courtiership, and chivalric behavior which he expected to be followed in his court and to define his court in history.

European Conference on Arts & Humanities | 2015

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