Incest and Agency in Elizabeth's England by Maureen Quilligan

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By Maureen Quilligan

Maureen Quilligan explores the outstanding presence within the Renaissance of what she calls "incest schemes" within the books of a small variety of influential ladies who claimed an lively lady authority via writing in excessive canonical genres and who, much more transgressively for the time, sought booklet in print.

It is not any twist of fate for Quilligan that the 1st published paintings of Elizabeth i used to be a translation performed at age 11 of a poem through Marguerite de Navarre, within which the inspiration of "holy" incest is the present trope. neither is it coincidental that Mary Wroth, writer of the 1st sonnet cycle and prose romance by way of a girl revealed in English, defined in those an endogamous, if no longer legally incestuous, illegitimate courting along with her first cousin. Sir Philip Sidney and his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, translated the psalms jointly, and after his demise she comprehensive his paintings by means of revising it for booklet; the 2 have been the topic of rumors of incest. Isabella Whitney forged considered one of her most vital lengthy poems as a fictive legacy to her brother, arguably simply because one of these courting resonated with the facility of endogamous girl company. Elizabeth Carey's closet drama approximately Mariam, the spouse of Herod, spends vital power at the tie among sister and brother. Quilligan additionally reads male-authored meditations at the courting among incest and feminine organisation and sees a much various Cordelia, Britomart, and Eve from what conventional scholarship has heretofore envisioned.

Incest and organization in Elizabeth's England makes a sign contribution to the dialog approximately lady service provider within the early smooth interval. whereas modern anthropological conception deeply informs her realizing of why a few Renaissance ladies writers wrote as they did, Quilligan deals a massive corrective to trendy theorizing that's grounded within the ancient texts themselves.

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Mary Tudor felt, and often said, that she had “married” England before she married Philip. ” The God she loves is her brother, father, spouse, and son; her soul is sister, mother, spouse, and child to Him. Why the eleven-year-old Elizabeth should have translated this particular poem to give as a gift to her stepmother Katherine Parr, will ultimately remain a matter for speculation. 12 Successive publications of Elizabeth’s translation extended the life of this text for another sixty years, so that it reiterates, throughout a long and pivotal period of Renaissance culture, the conjuncture of royal female authority and the trope of incest.

Luther married a nun (his sister in Christ), which was forbidden by the incest laws. Both Luther and Henry (after the latter turned Protestant reformer) had argued against these strict and complicated incest rules,24 protesting that they were in actuality a means for directly increasing Church revenues because the pope charged fees for granting dispensations. Henry’s argument suggests that he may indeed have intuited an underlying economic purpose to the Church’s incest rules. But if so, his own “great problem,” when the pope refused to dispense with the dispensation that had allowed Henry years earlier to marry his brother’s wife Catherine of Aragon, only exposed a single (if royally important) example of how the Church proWted from incest laws.

Indeed, with uncanny speciWcity, the situation of the two Tudor queens demonstrates in Renaissance history what incest narratives demarcate in theory: the potential for active female agency. When she remains untraded, for whatever reason, a woman is freer to 36 Chapter 2 choose her own desire actively. That Mary chose to marry, and that Elizabeth did not, should not cloud our perception of the analogous agency they shared at their accessions to the English throne. It is also signiWcant that when Mary Tudor did exercise her anomalous right to select her own mate, she chose a husband from her mother’s family.

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