Female Mourning and Tragedy in Medieval and Renaissance English Drama: From the Raising of Lazarus to King Lear, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Female Mourning and Tragedy in Medieval and Renaissance English Drama

From the Raising of Lazarus to King Lear, 1st Edition

By Katharine Goodland


264 pages

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Grieving women in early modern English drama, this study argues, recall not only those of Classical tragedy, but also, and more significantly, the lamenting women of medieval English drama, especially the Virgin Mary. Looking at the plays of Shakespeare, Kyd, and Webster, this book presents a new perspective on early modern drama grounded upon three original interrelated points. First, it explores how the motif of the mourning woman on the early modern stage embodies the cultural trauma of the Reformation in England. Second, the author here brings to light the extent to which the figures of early modern drama recall those of the recent medieval past. Finally, Goodland addresses how these representations embody actual mourning practices that were viewed as increasingly disturbing after the Reformation. Female Mourning and Tragedy in Medieval and Renaissance English Drama synthesizes and is relevant to several areas of recent scholarly interest, including the performance of gender, the history of emotion, studies of death and mourning, and the cultural trauma of the Reformation.


’Her book is impressive not only in its breadth of coverage but in the tenacity with which its pursues its claims…Goodland's study is well worth reading…teaches us a great deal about the prevalence and significance of female mourning in pre- and post-Reformation drama.’ Renaissance Quarterly ’… compelling study… The strength of this book is its dedication to thinking across the medieval-early modern divide that structures English literary studies. Goodland's sustained interest in medieval drama is a welcome addition to current trend in thinking across the divide between pre- and early modern England… an informative and stimulating read for medievalists and Shakespeareans alike.’ Journal of British Studies

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Introduction to part 1; Resistant female grief in the medieval English Lazarus plays; Maternal mourning and tragedy in the nativity and passion plays; Residual lament in the medieval resurrection plays; Introduction to part 2; Constance and the claims of passion; Mourning and communal memory in Shakespeare's Richard III; Monstrous mourning women in Kyd, Webster, and Shakespeare; The gendered poetics of tragedy in Shakespeare's Hamlet; Inverting the pieta in Shakespeare's King Lear; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Katharine Goodland is Assistant Professor of English at the City University of New York's College of Staten Island, USA.

About the Series

Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama

Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama
This series presents original research on theatre histories and performance histories; the time period covered is from about 1500 to the early 18th century. Studies in which women's activities are a central feature of discussion are especially of interest; this may include women as financial or technical support (patrons, musicians, dancers, seamstresses, wig-makers) or house support staff (e.g., gatherers), rather than performance per se. We also welcome critiques of early modern drama that take into account the production values of the plays and rely on period records of performance.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature