Whores of Babylon: Catholicism, Gender, and Seventeenth-Century Print Culture

Whores of Babylon: Catholicism, Gender, and Seventeenth-Century Print Culture

Whores of Babylon: Catholicism, Gender, and Seventeenth-Century Print Culture

Whores of Babylon: Catholicism, Gender, and Seventeenth-Century Print Culture

Synopsis

In the seventeenth century, the largely Protestant nation of England was preoccupied with its Catholic subjects. They inspired more prolific and harsher criticism and more elaborate attempts at legal regulation than did any other minority group. To understand this phenomenon, Frances E. Dolan probes the verbal and visual representations of Catholics and Catholicism and the uses to which these were put during three crises in Protestant-Catholic relations: the gunpowder plot (1605), Queen Henrietta Maria's open advocacy of Catholicism in the 1630s and 1640s, and the popish and meal tub plots (1678-1680). She uses each crisis as a jumping-off point, an opportunity for speculation, as did contemporary writers. Drawing on political and legal writings and offering fresh readings of literary texts such as Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra, Dolan shows how often Catholics and Catholicism were linked to disorderly women.

Dolan maintains that since Catholics were members of many English families and communities and prominent at court, the threat they offered was precisely that they could not be readily isolated and assigned to a category -- both laws and polemic struggled to identify Catholics, but never succeeded in establishing a clear line between Catholics and everyone else. In seventeenth-century England, Dolan says, the threat of Catholicism lay in the tension between the foreign and the familiar, the different and the same.

Excerpt

The Gunpowder Plot, to whatever extent it existed in the minds of those executed for it and in the discourses describing and lamenting it, was, for the most part, a conspiracy of men against men. of the conspirators, including three who died before reaching trial, thirteen who were tried and executed, and two who were fined and imprisoned, none was a woman. of the intended victims, the only woman was James I's wife, Anne. Yet the anti-Catholic discourses that proliferated after the plot was discovered often represented the problem of Catholicism as that of female empowerment and gender inversion. While women were not often blamed outright for the Gunpowder Plot, female figures, abstract and particular, crop up frequently in Jacobean discussions of the threat Catholics and Catholicism offer to England. Why would that be? the answer, I suggest, lies in a polemical tradition that both predates and long survives the alleged Gunpowder Plot.

Representations of the plot take their shape as much from the cultural imaginary and polemical conventions of post-Reformation England as from the contours of an extraordinary event, in part because the Gunpowder Plot never quite existed, except at the level of imagination and representation. It was conceived by or imputed to Catholics, but not enacted by them. According to most versions of the story, the conspirators had secreted barrels of gunpowder in the undercrofts of the House of Parliament, planning to blow it up while Parliament was in session, thus killing James I, his wife and male heirs, and virtually all of the most powerful men in the kingdom (the nobility and clergy, the judges, and the members of . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.