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Widows and Suitors in Early Modern English Comedy
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Details

  • Page extent: 254 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.54 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 822/.052309352654
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: PR658.W53 P36 2004
  • LC Subject headings:
    • English drama--Early modern and Elizabethan, 10-1600--History and criticism
    • Widows in literature
    • English drama (Comedy)--History and criticism
    • Courtship in literature

Library of Congress Record

Hardback

 (ISBN-13: 9780521832717 | ISBN-10: 0521832713)

The courtship and remarriage of a rich widow was a popular motif in early modern comic theatre. Jennifer Panek brings together a wide variety of texts, from ballads and jest-books to sermons and court records, to examine the staple widow of comedy in her cultural context and to examine early modern attitudes to remarriage. She persuasively challenges the critical tendency to see the stereotype of the lusty widow as a tactic to dissuade women from second marriages, arguing instead that it was deployed to enable her suitors to regain their masculinity, under threat from the dominant, wealthier widow. The theatre, as demonstrated by Middleton, Dekker, Beaumont and Fletcher and others, was the prime purveyor of a fantasy in which a young man's sexual mastery of a widow allowed him to seize the economic opportunity she offered.

• Uses a wide range of literary texts and historical documentary sources to establish cultural attitudes to remarriage by widows in the early modern period • A good English-language study of widows in early modern literature • Gives substantial close readings of neglected plays by, for example, Thomas Middleton

Contents

Acknowledgements; A note on texts; Introduction; 1. The widow's choice: female remarriage in early modern England; 2. The widow's threat: domestic government and male anxiety; 3. The suitor's fantasy: courtship and compensation; 4. The husband's fear: the lusty widow as wife; 5. A playwright's response: four Middletonian remarriage plots; Notes; Works cited; Index.

Review

'Panek convincingly demonstrates that widows in sixteenth-century England, unlike their Continental counterparts, were encouraged to remarry for a variety of good social, economic and familial reasons.' The Times Literary Supplement

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