Private Matters and Public Culture in Post-Reformation England

Synopsis

"According to Holinshed's Chronicles, Thomas Arden was murdered by his wife, her lover, and several accomplices in 1551. Holinshed apologizes for including in his state history what seems to be "but a private matter," although at the same time he asserts that the "horribleness" of the act justifies public retelling. Alice Arden's crime was popularized in Arden of Feversham (1592), a play that initiated the genre of domestic tragedy and thrust private conflict onto the stage of public discourse. Weaving a complex tapestry out of intellectual history and literary analysis, Lena Cowen Orlin examines how the private issues of contentious marital relations and household governance became public - through conduct manuals, sermons, political tracts, and philosophical treatises, as well as domestic tragedies - in the culture of post-Reformation England. Orlin first draws on rich archival evidence in telling the story of the Ardens. Although Arden of Feversham fulfilled the conservative project of confirming patriarchal authority in the home at a time of social upheaval, Orlin finds that later domestic tragedies such as A Woman Killed with Kindness and Othello were less predictable in their aims. And while other forms of public literature provided blueprints for ordering the household, domestic tragedies continued to reveal the tensions lying under the surface there: inconsistencies in the prescribed role of women, contradictions within patriarchal ideology, conflicts between political and economic interests in the household, inadequacies in the old ideals of friendship and benefice, and anxieties about the control of material possessions." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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