Rape & Religion in English Renaissance Literature
A Topical Study of Four Texts by Shakespeare, Drayton & Middleton

By Anna Swardh
December 2003
Uppsala University Press
ISBN: 91-554-5690-1
254 pages, 6" x 8 "
$52.50 Paper Original

This is a Ph.D. dissertation. William Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus (1594) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594), Michael Drayton's Matilda (1594) and Thomas Middleton's The Ghost of Lucrece (1600) appeared at a time when the religious troubles in the wake of the English Reformation were still a vital force. Comprising elements such as religiously colored strife and persecution as well as tearful contrition, idolatry and iconoclasm, the four works show a concern with religious controversies, the topicality in Shakespeare's and Drayton texts is also more specifically related to the events surrounding the capture of the Jesuit poet Robert Southwell in 1592, which included the rape or seduction of a Catholic woman. The study demonstrates that Titus Andronicus reflects the religious strife throughout the Tudor reign with a persistency hitherto unrecognized, while the topicality of Lucrece is visible in the highly complex portrayal of Tarquin's rape of Lucrece as an incorrect form of worship. It is maintained that in these texts Shakespeare criticizes the religious politics of the contemporary rule. Contrary to critical tradition, it is further claimed that Drayton's Matilda shows a sympathetic attitude towards it unreformed heroine as well as the Catholic past, while it is argued that Thomas Middleton's The Ghost of Lucrece is a poem marked by a satirically anti-Catholic depiction of Counter-Reformation poetics and Catholic attitudes.

Studia Anglistica Upsaliensia No. 124

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