Framing the Family: Narrative and Representation in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods

By Rosalynn Voaden; Diane Wolfthal | Go to book overview

DOMESTIC RHETORS OF AN EARLY MODERN
FAMILY: FEMALE PERSUASIONS IN
A WOMAN KILLED WITH KINDNESS*

CAROL MEJIA-LAPERLE

While Thomas Heywood's (1573–1641) play, A Woman Killed with Kindness (1603), has inspired praise as an “achievement within the field of domestic drama,”1 it also profoundly contributes to our understanding of what it means to be a domestic drama. Henry Adams identifies the genre as a dramatic representation “of the common people, ordinarily set in the domestic scene, dealing with personal and family relationships rather than with larger affairs of state.”2 As a portrayal of familial interactions, the play interrogates the responsibilities of the patriarch to his wife, children, siblings, companions, and servants. Lena Cowen Orlin, however, extends Adams's description by contending that the domestic setting of the play is in fact concerned with the larger affairs of the state; it is “a political association, an economic enterprise, a social institution, and, most particularly for John Frankford, a moral system.”3 As a study of private relations with manifold social implications, Orlin's investigation of the play's household unit prompts questions about the roles of all members of Heywood's representation of an Early Modern family.

This essay explores Heywood's domestic drama through the central female figures, Anne Frankford and Susan Mountford, and their awareness and negotiation of their roles within the household. Perhaps most striking for the modern

*This paper would not be possible without the generous guidance of Cora Fox who contributed her time, knowledge, and enthusiasm throughout all stages of the project. I also benefited greatly from the significant suggestions of Curtis Perry and Diane Wolfthal's patient instruction on style.

1 Michael Wentworth, Thomas Heywood: A Reference Guide (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1986), xxi.

2 Henry Hitch Adams, English Domestic Or Homiletic Tragedy 1575–1642 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1943), 1–2.

3 Lena Cowen Orlin, Private Matters and Public Culture in Post-Reformation England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), 146–51.

-39-

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