Biblical Women's Voices in Early Modern England (Women and Gender in the Early Modern World) [1 ed.] 0754666743, 9780754666745

Biblical Women's Voices in Early Modern England documents the extent to which portrayals of women writers, rulers,

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Biblical Women's Voices in Early Modern England (Women and Gender in the Early Modern World) [1 ed.]
 0754666743, 9780754666745

Table of contents :
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
List of Figures
Notes on the Text
Introduction: “Even I wil sing”
1 “Should she not be ashamed?”: Constructing Mary Sidney as a Renaissance Miriam
2 “My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”: Hannah and the Consequence of Private Prayer
3 “Give ear o princes”: Deborah as a Model for Female Authority
4 “Naked against the enemy”: The Feminization of David
Epilogue: None Can Resist Her Words
Biblical Index
Subject and Author Index

Citation preview


Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Series Editors: Allyson Poska and Abby Zanger In the past decade, the study of women and gender has offered some of the most vital and innovative challenges to scholarship on the early modern period. Ashgate’s new series of interdisciplinary and comparative studies, ‘Women and Gender in the Early Modern World’, takes up this challenge, reaching beyond geographical limitations to explore the experiences of early modern women and the nature of gender in Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa. Submissions of single-author studies and edited collections will be considered. Titles in this series include: Reading the Jewish Woman on the Elizabethan Stage Michelle Ephraim Masculinity, Anti-Semitism and Early Modern English Literature From the Satanic to the Effeminate Jew Matthew Biberman Women’s Wealth and Women’s Writing in Early Modern England ‘Little Legacies’ and the Materials of Motherhood Elizabeth Mazzola English Printing, Verse Translation, and the Battle of the Sexes, 1476–1557 Anne E.B. Coldiron Figuring Modesty in Feminist Discourse Across the Americas, 1633–1700 Tamara Harvey Masculinity and Emotion in Early Modern English Literature Jennifer Vaught

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

MICHELE OSHEROW University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA


Routledge Taylor & Francis Group


First published 2009 by Ashgate Publishing Published 2016 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business Copyright © 2009 Michele Osherow Michele Osherow has asserted her moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Osherow, Michele Biblical women’s voices in early modern England. – (Women and gender in the early modern world) 1. English literature – Early modern, 1500–1700 – History and criticism 2. Women in literature 3. Women in the Bible 4. Women and literature – England – History I. Title 820.9’3522 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Osherow, Michele. Biblical women’s voices in early modern England / by Michele Osherow. p. cm. — (Women and gender in the early modern world) Includes bibliographical references (p.). ISBN 978-0-7546-6674-5 (alk. paper) 1. Protestant women—England—Language—History. 2. Language and languages— Religious aspects—Protestant churches—History of doctrines. 3. Bible. O.T.—Influence— Modern civilization. 4. Women in the Bible—Biography—History and criticism. 5. Hebrew poetry, Biblical—History and criticism. 6. Miriam (Biblical figure) 7. Hannah (Biblical figure) 8. Deborah (Biblical judge) 9. David, King of Israel. I. Title. BX4838.O84 2009 274.2’06082—dc22 2008053109 ISBN 9780754666745 (hbk)

For Doug, Olivia, and Phoebe

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Contents List of Figures Acknowledgments Notes on the Text Introduction: “Even I wil sing”

viii ix xi 1

1 “Should she not be ashamed?”: Constructing Mary Sidney as a Renaissance Miriam


2 “My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”: Hannah and the Consequence of Private Prayer


3 “Give ear o princes”: Deborah as a Model for Female Authority


4 “Naked against the enemy”: The Feminization of David


Epilogue: None Can Resist Her Words


Bibliography Biblical Index Subject and Author Index

157 171 175

List of Figures 1.1

Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke by Simon van de Passe, line engraving, early seventeenth century


Hannah Weeping from Icones Historiarum Veteres Testameni (1547) by Hans Holbein



Rembrandt’s Mother as the Prophetess Hannah (1631)



Queen Elizabeth I (“The Ditchley Portrait”) by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (1592)



Donatello’s David (1430–1435)



David and Jonathan by Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano (c.1505–1510)



David Victorious Over Goliath by Caravaggio (1600)



Judith by Giorgione da Castelfranco (c.1510)



David with the head of Goliath by Caravaggio (c.1609)



David Killing Goliath by Titian (c.1544)



Judith and Holofernes by Artemesia Gentileschi (1612–1613)



Acknowledgments Portions of this work have been presented in other forums. I am grateful to the editors of Elizabeth I: Always Her Own Free Woman (Ashgate 2003) for including part of Chapter 5 under the title “‘A poore shepherde and his sling’: A Biblical Model for a Renaissance Queen.” Part of Chapter 3 appeared as “’Give Ear O’ Princes’: Elizabeth, Deborah, and the Right Word” in Explorations in Renaissance Culture (Summer, 2004). I am indebted to The Renaissance Society of America, Sixteenth Century Studies Conference, South Central Renaissance Conference, and the Attending to Early Modern Women Symposium for allowing me to communicate some of my findings at their professional meetings. I also extend deep appreciation to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., for access to its prominent collection of materials. I began this project during my graduate work at the University of Maryland, College Park, where I benefited enormously from the wisdom and readings of professors Adele Berlin, Willam H. Sherman, Theresa Coletti, and most especially Jane Donawerth, whose thoughtful and fierce engagement with the ideas in these pages shaped this work from its earliest days. Numerous scholarly friends joined me in discussion at College Park and beyond while I grappled with various arguments. At the top of this list are Karen Nelson and Jeanine Hurley. I am also grateful to the sponsors of the Mary Savage Snouffer Fellowship which provided both time and trust to advance my investigations. I have had outstanding mentors and colleagues in addition to those at College Park. Carole Levin’s passion for scholarship was inspiring, and her interest in and support of this project was a gift. Gary Waller first introduced me to the Sidney Psalms more years ago than I’d care to admit and has indulged my ideas about them ever since. I am indebted to many colleagues I encountered in the Baltimore/ Washington area including Raphael Falco, Christoph Irmscher, Jessica Berman, Lena Orlin, Robin Farabaugh, Gail Orgelfinger, and Rebecca Boehling, who provided sound advice and critical readings. I am also enormously appreciative of the interest Stephanie Mumford, Jack Sbarbori, Anya Riehl, Leslie Robertson, Mary Manning, Frank and Jeanne Tufano, Muriel Prouty, and Aaron Posner have shown in this work, and am grateful to Fernando Cialini and Matthew Poland for assistance in its final stages. Had I timbrels, they would sound for all of these people, and also for the helpful readers provided by Ashgate, for series editors Abby Zanger and Allyson Poska, and for Erika Gaffney who has shown generosity, guidance, fortitude, and wit at every turn. For so many reasons, my profoundest thanks are owed to my family. My parents Evelyn and Aaron Osherow introduced me to the joys of “good books,” sacred texts, and intellectual inquiry. The extent of their support cannot be told, and their encouragement (which, perhaps, I should have outgrown) has never been


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

more valued. Sincerest thanks to Sharon Goldman for kindness and interest, and to Jackie Osherow who amazes me with insights, attention, and patience these many years, not to mention her sonnets. And thank you, Doug Prouty, for enduring the Bible talk, late nights, distracted days, for still and more. Finally, I am grateful to those women (and girls) of voice, poetry, and song who confirm these as feminine virtues. Other citation acknowledgements: Osherow, Michele, “‘A Poore Shepherde and his Sling’: A Biblical Model for a Renaissance Queen,” in Debra Barrett-Graves, Jo Eldridge Carney, and Carole Levin (eds), Elizabeth I: Always Her Own Free Woman (Hants, England: Ashgate Press, 2003): 119–30; “‘Give ear o’ princes’: Deborah, Elizabeth, and the Right Word,” Explorations in Renaissance Culture (30.1 Summer 2004): 111–19. Reprinted with kind permission of Southwest Missouri State University. Fifty-one lines from pp. 49–51, 78–80, 159, 169–70 from Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke: Volume II: The Psalmes of David (1998) by Herbert, Mary Sidney, edited by Hannay, Kinnamon, and Brennan. By permission of Oxford University Press.

Notes on the Text Quotations from primary sources conform to original spellings and syntax. All Hebrew biblical passages are taken from The Jerusalem Bible, Harold Fisch (English ed.), (Jerusalem: Koren Publishers, 1997). Hebrew transliteration conforms to the guidelines in C.L. Seow’s A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew, Revised Edition (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1995). Old Testament translations are taken from The Jerusalem Bible to support general references to biblical narratives and poetry. In those instances where a different translation is cited, the biblical text used is that which is most relevant to the examined literary work. All Shakespeare references are from The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, 4th edition, ed. David Bevington (New York: Harper Collins, 1992).

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“Even I wil sing” Heare, ye Kings, hearken ye princes: I, even I wil sing vnto y Lord: I wil sing praise vnto the Lord God of Israel. (Judges 5:3)

This verse of Deborah’s song in the Book of Judges comes from the 1560 text of the Geneva Bible. The line is essentially the same in the 1568 Bishops Bible and in the 1611 King James text. And it is curious. The word “even,” shown in italics in both the Geneva and King James versions, is a word not found in the Hebrew original.1 The Hebrew Bible does emphasize the speaker’s intention to sing, reading, “Hear, O kings! … I will sing, will sing to the Lord” (Judges 5:3).2 The Geneva and King James translators’ instinct to emphasize the speaker’s purpose is a good one and yet the choice of the word “even” to indicate this significance is unsettling.3 Though scholars attending to biblical translation characterize the use of “even” as “an adverb of strong affirmation” (Partridge 117), the phrase “even I” also implies that the speaker’s voice is somehow inappropriate. “Even” suggests a contradiction of expectations, emphasizing “weakened senses as an intensive or emphatic particle ... similar to uses ... of just” (OED V:455).4 Thus, “even I wil sing” potentially conveys an unconfident or incompetent speaker, as if to say, “even I—whose voice is unlikely or insignificant—will announce God’s praise.” Is Deborah’s an unlikely voice? The Geneva, Bishops, and King James translations of Judges 5:3 imply as much, though the implication is hardly in keeping with the details of Deborah’s story. Deborah is identified as a prophetess and judge in Israel (Judges 4:4); her influence manifests itself through rhetorical 1

The word “even” is italicized in the King James text, but not in the Bishops Bible. A.C. Partridge, who has noted over a thousand uses of the word in the King James Old Testament, writes that “even” in italics is supernumerary, mainly used before appositional phrases. See A.C. Partridge, English Biblical Translation (London, 1973), p. 117. 2 This translation of Judges 5:3 is taken from the Tanakh/The Holy Scriptures: The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text (Philadelphia and Jerusalem, 1985), p. 384. 3 William Tyndale’s 1530 translation of the Old Testament (Pentateuch) does not contain the word “even” and eliminates repetition of the words “will sing.” Here, the speaker announces, “Hear kings and hearken lords, I will sing, and give praise unto the Lord God, of Israel.” See William Tyndale, Tyndale’s Old Testament: Being the Pentateuch of 1530, Joshua to 2 Chronicles of 1537 and Jonah, ed. David Daniell (New Haven and London, 1992), p. 348. 4 Following this definition in the OED is one that reads, “Exactly, precisely, ‘just.’ Now chiefly arch. after Bible use.” See The Oxford English Dictionary, ed. J.A. Simpson and E.S.C. Weiner (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989) vol. V, p. 455.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

performance.5 Deborah’s announcement of her own voice is peculiar only to Renaissance editors of it.6 The inclination to have Deborah declare, “even I wil sing” betrays their attitudes towards women’s speech, for it is the female voice that sixteenth- and seventeenth-century translators would have considered remarkable. They might well have glossed the verse, “even she will sing.” Though Deborah’s linguistic authority is made clear in the biblical narrative, equally clear is the early modern discomfort with women’s words. Women, according to Renaissance prescripts for female behavior, were best kept silent. In the popularly referenced 1641 text The English Gentlewoman, Richard Braithwait advises his gentle readers that “Silence in a woman is moving rhetoricke, winning most, when in words it wooeth least ... More shall wee see fall into sinne by speech then silence” (319–20). As has been recognized by scholars of the early modern period, female silence signified female chastity. If loquacious women were susceptible to “sinne” as Braithwait indicates, it was sin of a lascivious kind. Catherine Belsey and Margaret W. Ferguson first directed critical attention to the Renaissance connection between female chastity and female silence, and it is a connection that has affected decades of literary readings.7 Ann Rosalind Jones, Wendy Wall, Dympna Callaghan, and others emphasize the relationship between female language and licentiousness. Carol Barash communicates the connection forcefully, writing, “the female tongue often symbolized ungovernable protest and unbridled sexual license” (31). Recognizing the ties between chastity and silence— or between chastity’s ruin and speech—has profoundly affected considerations of early modern women’s writing and forces attention to the social constraints placed upon women and their words.8 In her book ‘A moving Rhetoricke’ (2002), 5 Fokkelien Van Dijk-Hemmes considers Deborah’s story evidence of “the actual power ascribed to a prophetess’ words.” See Athalya Brenner and Fokkelien Van DijkHemmes, On Gendering Texts: Female and Male Voices in the Hebrew Bible (Leiden, New York and Koln, 1993), p. 63. 6 In truth, there is some modern debate as to whether Deborah is actually speaking these lines. The song in Judges 5 begins, “Then sang Deborah, and Barak the sonne of Abinoam the same day” (Geneva Judges 5:1), suggesting a pair of voices. However, the verb form of “sing” in the biblical Hebrew is in the feminine singular. The proclamation in verse 7 also suggests Deborah as speaker: “The townes were not inhabited: they decayed, I say, In Israel, vntil I Deborah came vp, which rose vp a mother in Israel” (Geneva 5:3). However, modern biblical scholars now translate a key part of this verse as “Till you arose, O Deborah ...” (v. 7, emphasis mine), suggesting the song was sung about the prophetess rather than by her. Nevertheless, early modern readers regarded this declaration as Deborah’s own. 7 Ferguson writes, “The issue of chastity was intricately bound up with the problem posed by the logic that made silence an equivalent of body purity,” p. 97. 8 Suzanne Trill writes that chastity, silence, and obedience were “viewed as synonymous..therefore, for a woman to express herself was simultaneously to bring her reputation into doubt.” She cautions readers not to underestimate the difficulties that faced early modern women writers. See Trill’s Introduction in Lay by Your Needles Ladies, Take the Pen: Writing Women in England, 1500–1700, ed. Suzanne Trill, Kate Chedgzoy, and Melanie Osborne (London, New York, Sydney and Auckland, 1997), p. 4.



however, Christina Luckyj interrogates these critical notions about gender and silence calling into question the flat binary of masculine speech verses feminine silence. The critic recognizes silence as a rhetorically prescribed tool for both sexes and emphasizes the empowerment that comes of it: “If speech bears traces not of personal agency but of institutional constraint, are the men who can speak freer than the women who keep silent?” (5). Luckyj identifies secrecy and prudence as a virtue of silence since “speech allows men to appropriate women’s inner space” (61). The critic references Robert Cleaver who writes, “ ... a man or a womans talking, is the mirrour and messenger of the minde, in which it may commonly be seene without, in what case, the man or woman is within ... Now silence is the best Ornament of women” (104).9 It is clear from this text, as Luckyj notes, that speech does function similarly for men and for women, but it is all too clear that the female mind is to be perpetually hidden. This may be a brand of empowerment, but it seems, too, an obvious tactic to suppress women’s thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. Though Luckyj argues speech held a potential risk for both sexes, the greater risk confronted women. Silence may not have been an exclusively feminine condition, but it was an ideal one. Thus, the early modern woman of letters found herself in a complex and particular bind. If silence was a moving rhetoric, the fact remains that it was not the strategy of choice for women who took up the pen. Early modern arguments promoting female silence cite the Bible for authority despite the vocal prophetess featured in Judges 5. A most popular endorsement of female silence is found in I Corinthians where Paul explains in no uncertain terms that women should not speak in church: “Let your women kepe silence in the Churches: for it is not permitted vnto them to speake: but they oght to be subject, as also the Law saith” (Geneva, 14:34).10 The early modern order extended the appeal of female silence into less sacred environments as well, relying on the more general instruction in I Timothy: “Let the woman learne in silence with all subiection. I permit not a woman to teache, neither to vsurp authoritie ouer the man, but to be in silence” (Geneva, 2:11, 12). Even Luckyj in her defense of silence refers to “the largely negative prescriptions for female silence and submission offered by Scripture” (56). If women’s speech compromises female virtue as the early modern English understood it, it is little wonder Deborah is made humble in translations of her song. “Even I wil sing” suggests that joy overwhelms Deborah’s modesty, enabling feminine virtue to remain intact. But Deborah is only one of many biblical women whose stories demonstrate the potency of the female voice. Song is a largely feminine genre in the Old 9 Quoted in Christina Luckyj, ‘A moving Retoricke’: Gender and Silence in Early Modern England (Manchester and New York, 2002), p. 44. 10 Luckyj also references another passage in I Corinthians (14:28) to demonstrate the Bible’s endorsement of male silence. However, the later passage appears to refer specifically to prayer since there is reference to an “absent interpreter” in the church; male silence is encouraged in order that he might “speak to himself, and to God.” See Luckyj, p. 51. This and all “Geneva” citations refer to The Geneva Bible (1560; Madison, Milwaukee, and London: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1969).


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Testament, according to Biblical Scholar S.D. Goitein.11 Biblical women’s songs are recognized as potent rhetorical and political forces (Goitein 5). Even a cursory examination of the Bible reveals that numerous narratives contradict St. Paul and the early modern mandate he inspired. Some early modern women determined to speak could explain Paul’s prescript without insult to either the saint or to themselves. Margaret Fell in Women’s Speaking Justified (1667) addresses Paul’s injunction against women’s speech, claiming that those whom Paul silenced had not “had the revelation and Spirit of God poured upon them” (9). She maintains, “women led by the spirit of God are not under the Law. And where [God] has poured fourth his Spirit upon them, they must prophecy” (13). Similarly, Rachel Speght repudiates Paul’s misogyny with the explanation that “The Apostle speakes ... onelie because of Corinths present necessitie” (16), thereby limiting Paul’s instructions to a particular time and place.12 What Fell, Speght, and numerous early modern women and men recognize is that the Bible itself negates the requirement—even the desire—for female silence. Miriam, Hannah, Judith, and bands of women in the Book of Judges, the First Book of Samuel, and the Book of Psalms are all shown raising their voices to celebrate God, man, and themselves. There is no doubt of the extraordinary impact of the Bible on early modern culture,13 or the significance given to Paul’s instruction for women’s silence. But the authority early modern readers invested in the biblical text did not discriminate among chapters. Paul’s aversion to the female voice notwithstanding, narratives of the Old Testament praise particular women for their words, their poetry, their songs. And early modern readers were sensitive and attentive to this praise. Biblical stories featuring rhetorically powerful women complicated the cultural requirement for female silence and facilitated early modern women’s words. Examining the Bible’s varied positions on women’s speech alongside early modern readings of these occurrences enables modern readers to appreciate one way early modern women were able to circumvent requirements for silence. In this book, I examine how biblical women whose histories are marked by poetry and song challenge the Renaissance prescript for female silence. Attending to a broad range of writings by Protestant men and women, including John Donne, Mary Sidney, John Milton, Rachel Speght, Aemilia Lanyer, and others, I investigate how the cultural requirement for feminine silence informs early modern readings of biblical women’s stories, and furthermore, how these biblical characters were used

11 Fokkelien Van Dijk-Hemmes also investigates song as a component of biblical women’s texts. See Brenner and Van Dijk-Hemmes, pp. 32–47. 12 The discourse to which Speght responds is not Paul’s specific injunction against women’s speech, but his statement that “It were good for a man not to touch a woman.” The misogynist element is consistent, however. See Rachel Speght, The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght, ed. Barbara Kiefer Lewalski (New York and Oxford, 1996), p. 13. 13 Christopher Hill writes that the Bible was “central to all spheres of intellectual life ... the Bible was ... the foundation of all aspects of English culture.” See Christopher Hill, The English Bible and the Seventeenth Century Revolution (London and New York, 1993), p. 7.



to counteract cultural constraints on women’s speech. Renaissance readings and representations of Miriam, Hannah, Deborah, and David are the topics of these chapters. Though David is, obviously, not a biblical woman, the significance of song to his history makes him, curiously, a part of this feminine tradition. Chapter 1, “‘Should she not be ashamed?’: Constructing Mary Sidney as a Renaissance Miriam,” investigates references to the biblical Miriam in Mary Sidney’s psalm translations. Miriam, Moses’ sister, is the first female prophet in the Bible, and raises her voice in song to celebrate the Hebrews’ crossing of the Red Sea. Her activity authorizes women’s religious discourse. I argue that select psalms in which Sidney takes noted liberties with translation contain repeated glosses to Miriam’s history—a history that both celebrates the female voice and documents the potential dangers of it. Miriam, whose song earns her prophetic status, is ultimately punished for inappropriate speech. The biblical judgment of Miriam’s speech as a form of disobedience parallels the early modern belief that speech undermined female obedience and female chastity. I conclude this chapter with the assertion that Miriam’s history influences Sidney’s presentation of herself as psalmist, and that the warnings against female pride contained in Miriam’s tale contribute to the modest pose assumed by Sidney in the Sidney Psalms’ prefatory poems. Though Miriam’s history shows the potential hazards of speech, Hannah’s voice wins her divine favor. In Chapter 2, “‘My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies’: Hannah and the Consequence of Private Prayer,” I investigate a biblical woman’s emergence as a paradigm for Protestant expression and belief. Hannah is the first character in the Bible to be shown in private prayer—precisely the manner of devotion advanced by the Protestant Church. I further argue that the use of Hannah as a model of subjection affected Protestant notions of gender in relation to divinity and the self. Though the Bible specifically tells us that Hannah prays silently, the success of her prayer later inspires her to raise her voice in celebratory song; her lyric is exceptional for the rhetorical authority it announces. This chapter also analyzes the influence of Hannah’s poetic license on texts by early modern women, and ways in which that license is used to testify to divine approval of women’s words. Because Hannah is a character who succeeds in both linguistic and non-linguistic communication, readings and applications of her story reflect cultural attitudes and anxieties towards female expression. Chapter 3 focuses on Deborah the judge and prophetess. “‘Give ear o princes’: Deborah as a Model for Female Authority” explores early modern references and allusions to the women who appear in Deborah’s story, paying greatest attention to Deborah herself. I focus on the ways in which she becomes a model of feminine authority in early modern England, and how that authority is controlled by the early modern men and women who recommend her. I begin by unpacking the characterization of Elizabeth I as a Renaissance Deborah, exposing the anxieties and consequences implicit in this comparison. I examine how speech functions to indicate Deborah’s authority in some early modern readings of her story, and the corruption of Deborah’s speech in others. The latter half of this chapter presents Deborah’s rhetoric as a discursive model. Deborah’s victory song juxtaposes a


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

celebration of God with a celebration of valiant women, while unabashedly criticizing those who ignore God’s call. Similar patterns appear in early modern women’s writings; in prophetic tracts, pamphlets, and poetic works we repeatedly find women coupling celebrations of God and womankind while broadcasting male weaknesses. The final chapter of this study, “‘Naked against the enemy’: The Feminization of David,” considers the appropriation of David as a model for early modern women in writings by both male and female authors. How is it that women of the Renaissance liken themselves, or are likened, to him? Both during and after her reign, Elizabeth I is frequently compared to King David to assuage the English people’s suspicions regarding a woman’s ability to rule. In their battles against male giants, women assume a Davidic posture by comparing their opponents to Goliath; Mary Lee, Lady Chudleigh writes, “I have resolved to … enter into a single combat with this great Goliath, this man of mighty fame” (The Female Advocate, B1). Such a comparison not only turns the enemy into a monster defeated with a sling, but also turns the female subject into a political and cultural savior. I demonstrate that women’s Davidic self-presentations constitute a kind of literary cross-dressing, which, like the actual cross-dressing practices of the early modern period, frequently served to accentuate a wearer’s sex instead of obscure it. My purpose in this book is not simply to acknowledge references to biblical women and those like them, but to examine the readings and interpretations they reveal. Increasingly, literary critics note the abundance of biblical characters, citations, and allusions in Renaissance texts. These acknowledgments do not amount to investigation, however, for too often scholars seem content to take the early modern telling of a biblical tale at face value; they assume a writer’s description or reading of a biblical episode is presented plainly without revision, without embellishment. In Domesticity and Dissent in the Seventeenth Century (2004), for example, Katharine Gillespie notes Anne Hempstall’s reliance on the biblical Hannah to authorize female prophecy. Hempstall relates a dream in which “Anna [Hannah] the Prophetess was presented unto [her] view” (73). Gillespie then cites Hannah as biblical precedent for Hempstall’s female ministry. In the Bible, however, Hannah is not described as a prophet or minister. Hempstall’s awarding her that title assigns divinity to Hannah’s language, extending Hannah’s achievement and privilege for the purpose of extending Hempstall’s own. I have approached this project with the belief that every biblical reference involves a biblical reading. I am particularly interested in what these readings reveal about early modern representations of gender and cultural power. Mieke Bal and feminist biblical scholars such as Phyllis Trible and Ilana Pardes significantly influence my consideration of ways in which the Bible’s female characters are represented. Despite the varied readings the Bible prompts, I agree with Bal that there has been in Western culture a dominant biblical reading, a “monolithically misogynist view of those biblical stories wherein female characters play a role” (Lethal 2). Bal does not argue that all female characters are seen as negative, but rather that the acknowledged valiant women have been championed for their support



of male interests.14 Bal and critics like her inquire into women’s histories and offer readings that resist privileging patriarchal heroes. Similar practices are evident in early modern considerations; in fact, many early modern readings of biblical women appear entirely contemporary. Various sixteenth- and seventeenth-century readers have anticipated Bal’s call to reexamine the value that has been awarded or denied the Bible’s female characters and their considerations are compelling. Because my interest is in early modern readings of the Bible, I focus on the works of Protestant writers whose interaction with the biblical text is mandated by their faith. The advent of Protestantism in England brought with it an emphasis on the word of God, and placed importance on an individual’s relationship with God through his holy book. In the introduction to his 1530 translation of the Old Testament, William Tyndale instructs Protestant readers to read the Bible and “Cleave unto the text and plain story and endeavor thyself to search out the meaning of all that is described therein … And note every thing earnestly as things pertaining unto thy own heart and soul” (Tyndale’s Old Testament 84). The availability of the Bible in English enabled such endeavors. Beginning with Henry VIII’s authorized translation of the Bible into English in 1537,15 early modern England saw an increasing number of authorized vernacular Bibles under the reigns of Elizabeth I, and later James I,16 though it was the “unauthorized” Geneva Bible that seems to have been most popular with laypersons and clergy (Tribble 31).17 The vernacular Bible became a symbol of England’s Protestant independence (Hill 4). This independence was forged by yet another biblical marker, one specifically linked to the Hebrew Bible. England repeatedly and forcefully identified itself with the Children of Israel. The comparison is a commonplace in lyrics, literature, and political tracts of the time. As Patrick Collinson writes, “In the … voice of Protestant nationhood, the notion of God’s special relationship with England as paradigmatically Israel was invested with new and enhanced meaning” (“Biblical Rhetoric” 24).18 Early modern 14

Bal refers specifically to regard for biblical characters Eve and Ruth to demonstrate how these biblical women have “mixed reputations;” their acts balanced against prescribed feminine virtues. See Mieke Bal, Lethal Love: Feminist Literary Readings of Biblical Love Stories (Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1987), p. 2. 15 Prior to authorizing the Great Bible in 1539, Henry VIII sanctioned the 1537 Matthew’s Bible. The Matthew’s Bible was a combination of Tyndale’s, Coverdale’s, and Rogers’ translations. See Evelyn B. Tribble, Margins and Marginality: The Printed Page in Early Modern England (Charlottesville and London, 1993), p. 20. 16 Elizabeth I authorized the Bishops Bible in 1568, and James I authorized the translation that bears his name in 1611. 17 Between the years 1560 and 1611, the Geneva Bible saw over 120 editions compared to 22 of the Bishops Bible and seven of the Great Bible. See Tribble, p. 32. 18 Scholars note the rise in Christian Hebraicism as early modern men and women attempted to engage with the Hebrew Bible in its original language. See G. Lloyd Jones, The Discovery of Hebrew in Tudor England: A Third Language (Manchester, 1983), p. 115. To that end, Bathsua Makin argues that women ought to be instructed in both Greek and Hebrew as “these will enable to the better understanding of the Scriptures.” See Bathsua


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Protestants figure themselves as participants in the sacred narratives of the Hebrew Bible, filling the role of God’s chosen who are in need of divine leadership and relatively confident of God’s favor.19 The Protestant Reformation’s fascination with the Old Testament directs my attention to its characters particularly as the majority of biblical women’s songs may be found there. Though this study uses those songs to inquire into the license biblical authority granted the female voice, recognition of biblical heroines was not the privilege of female readers alone. In the pages that follow, I demonstrate that both Renaissance men and women champion these characters, though the characteristics they champion often vary. While Margaret Fell uses Hannah’s song of thanksgiving in I Samuel, chapter 2, to argue for women’s right to preach (15), Minister John Preston uses Hannah’s behavior in I Samuel, chapter 1 to demonstrate the posture and virtue of silent prayer (Effectual Faith 110). Both Fell and Preston are passionate in their tributes to Hannah while they use her narrative to promote different, potentially opposite, ideals. Similar patterns of interpretation surround the stories of other characters as well. Repeatedly, reactions to biblical women are reactions to their words. Early modern readers rarely deny the narratives’ attention to women’s discourse, but I note discrepancies regarding the consequences of the women’s language, its audiences, and the significance of its place within each character’s story. One would predict biblical references in religious discourse, but biblical women’s situations were also used to expound more generally upon early modern women’s own. These remarks are more complicated and oppositional than they appear.20 Elizabeth Clinton uses biblical women to promote breast-feeding, encouraging aristocratic women to care for children without the aid of wet nurses. In her Nurserie Clinton frequently references the Bible and God, but her text is certainly more domestic in emphasis than it is religious. Her argument is based on biblical example but she uses these models to challenge early modern expectations of wifely duty. Not only was breast-feeding viewed as decidedly unaristocratic, but also there were medical stigmas attached to the practice as well (Paster 202); breast-feeding would prohibit a husband and wife’s sexual contact due to the belief that breast milk could be contaminated by intercourse (Otten 181). Though seeming merely to prompt women to do their duty, Clinton’s text rather prompts a type of rebellion in that she replaces a woman’s obligation to her husband with a mother’s obligation to her child—an argument she proves by biblical example. In Makin, An Essay To Revive the Antient Education of Gentlewomen, in Religion, Manners, Arts & Tongues (1673; Los Angeles, 1980), p. 24. 19 In his introduction to the Book of Exodus, Tyndale advises readers that, “As God doeth all thinges here for them that believe his promises, and hearken unto his commandments and with patience cleave unto him and walk with him: even so shall he do for us.” See Tyndale’s Old Testament, p. 84. 20 I refer to Tina Krontiris’ volume Oppositional Voices: Women as Writers and Translators of Literature in the English Renaissance (London and New York, 1992). In this text, Krontiris defines her work with early modern women’s oppositional voices as “a study of female assertiveness in the literary field” (8).



her close, Clinton references Hannah’s song to encourage women to celebrate and announce their maternal privilege. The frequency with which biblical characters are referenced in all sorts of early modern texts indicates that an effective rhetorical strategy was to use the Bible as a foundation of invention for argument. The Bible conferred authority upon those who used it. Biblical inconsistencies (or what appear to be inconsistencies) serve to empower readers, allowing them the freedom to choose which biblical tellings, ideals, and instructions to follow. This freedom of choice amounts at times to a freedom to resist, for concepts such as female silence might be combated by noting the rhetorically powerful women scattered throughout the Bible’s pages. “The great advantage of the Bible,” Christopher Hill writes in The English Bible and the Seventeenth Century Revolution (1993), “was that it could be quoted to make unorthodox or unpopular points” (6). Arguments surrounding women’s ability and right to speak, to preach, even to rule, were certainly among those less popular views, but the ethos provided by the Scriptures made such views increasingly difficult to dismiss. Dismissal of female language is particularly problematic given that wise discourse is presented as a marker of feminine virtue. Proverbs 31 contains a list of characteristics by which a virtuous woman may be known;21 verse 26 reads, “She openeth her mouth with wisdome, and the law of grace in is her tongue.” The Geneva gloss elaborates on “law of grace” explaining, “Her tongue is as a boke whereby one might learne manie good things: for she deliteth to talke of the worde of God” (277). While the Geneva editors narrow good talk to talk of faith, readers defined the term more freely.22 In her 1643 Essay to Revive the Antient Education of Gentlewomen, Bathsua Makin clearly references Proverbs 31:26 to argue for women’s training in composition and rhetoric: “She could not open her Mouth with Wisdom, and have in her Tongue the Law of kindnes, unles she understood Grammar, Rhetorick and Logick” (35).23 Some early modern readers appreciated that not only is women’s discourse authorized by the Bible, but also the methods by which women might obtain that rhetorical authority are made clear. For example, Hannah announces her achievement of linguistic authority through motherhood. “My mouth is enlarged ouer mine enemies ...” she sings, “for the barren hathe borne seven” (Geneva I Samuel 2:1, 5). Similarly, early modern women such as Elizabeth Brooke Joceline and Elizabeth Grymeston assert a maternal “right to write” and use Hannah’s story as authorization to direct the instruction of their children. Deborah conflates a celebration of God with a celebration of women and uses her psalm as an opportunity to critique male enemies; Lanyer does the 21 This advice is framed as maternal wisdom, presented to Lemuel by his mother. See Proverbs 31:1. 22 The Geneva Bible is heavily annotated, and the power of these marginal glosses is significant. Tribble argues that the “margins of texts were often central in their importance” (6), and that the glosses in the Geneva text make it “very much an institutional document” (34). For a discussion of the Geneva Bible and its glosses, see Tribble, pp. 31–6. 23 Makin’s reference to a “Law of kindnes” refers to the King James translation of Proverbs 31:26, which more closely reflects the biblical Hebrew.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

same in her 1611 Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum. Speght uses the rhetorical figures of Miriam, Hannah, and Deborah to speak out against male arrogance; and Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea references the singing women of I Samuel to authorize her poetry. Edward Vennard extends his good wishes to Elizabeth I with the hope that “our Soveraigne may sing with Debora after the victorie” (541), implying that female power is reflected in female language. These biblical readings and applications make clear that though the Bible may be used to silence women, it may also be used to justify and encourage women’s speech. Regard for biblical women’s discourse is surprisingly absent from critical investigations of early modern works. Scholars do not ignore the significance of biblical influence but appear to rely most often on David’s psalms, or on equally recognizable prose narratives. In his work Psalm Culture and Early Modern English Literature (2004), Hannibal Hamlin skillfully investigates the influence of the biblical Psalms on sixteenth- and seventeeth-century literature. But his consideration of the biblical song is limited to the psalms of David (who was hailed the author of the book in the Renaissance) without attending to the established genre to which the poet contributes.24 Early modern poets’ views of biblical poetry were not so narrowly defined. In his Defense of Poesy Philip Sidney praises Deborah for her hymn designed to “imitate the inconceivable excellencies of God” (110). The psalm is a genre available to women and a popular choice of female speakers in the Bible; acknowledgment of this could particularly serve scholars investigating early modern women’s texts. Pamela S. Hammons writes persuasively of Prophet Anna Trapnel’s use of song to “legitimize her public speech” (56). The critic links Trapnel’s activities to those of King David (56). What is not acknowledged is Trapnel’s reliance on precisely the techniques used by biblical prophetesses Deborah and Miriam before her—information that would legitimize Trapnel’s participation in female prophecy through poetry. Examinations of Old Testament women as they appear in early modern texts are few. Eve, particularly as she figures in the controversy surrounding woman’s nature and original sin, has received the great bulk of this attention.25 The richness of the scholarship on Eve demonstrates the need for a study like this one because early modern Bible readers progressed further than Eve’s three brief chapters in Genesis. Reading on, they discovered female characters who are bold, dutiful, valiant, and radical. Moreover, they are women who speak and they are continually referenced in early modern Protestant texts. Attending to these references uncovers complexities and contradictions surrounding early modern women, their speech, and their power.

24 Hamlin acknowledges that there are songs in the Bible in addition to those in the Book of Psalms and notes that there are no formal recognizable distinctions between the Psalms and these other songs. See Hannibal Hamlin, Psalm Culture and Early Modern English Literature (Cambridge, 2004), p. 5. 25 For references to Eve in early modern women’s texts, see Part III of Elaine V. Beilin, Redeeming Eve: Women Writers of the English Renaissance (Princeton, 1987), pp. 247–85.

Chapter 1

“Should she not be ashamed?”: Constructing Mary Sidney as a Renaissance Miriam The circulation of the Sidney Psalms by Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke, established her as the heir of Philip Sidney’s poetic legacy. Though the psalm translations began as a joint project of the brother and sister,1 Philip Sidney was responsible only for the first 43 of the 150 psalms, and Mary Sidney seems to have edited those.2 Mary Sidney’s Psalms garnered praise from writers, poets, and theologians of her day. The embodiment of all of these, John Donne, enthusiastically salutes the Sidney translations declaring, “So though some have, some may some Psalmes translate / We thy Sydnean Psalmes shall celebrate” (“Upon the translation of the Psalmes” l. 55–6). In the course of his 56-line poem “Upon the translation of the Psalmes by Sir Philip Sydney, and the Countesses of Pembroke his Sister” (1621), Donne praises Philip and Mary Sidney as “this Moses and this Miriam” (l. 46), cleverly associating an admired Renaissance brother and sister with a renowned brother and sister of the Bible. The comparison makes sense: Moses’ divine selection paved the way for his siblings’ prophetic roles.3 Though Mary 1

Mary Sidney describes the psalms’ translators in her dedication to Queen Elizabeth as “Which once in two, now in one Subject goe” (“Even now that care” l.21). Margaret P. Hannay interprets this as Mary Sidney’s claim of participation from the beginning of the project. See Margaret P. Hannay, “Mary Sidney and the Sidney Legend” in M.J.B. Allen, Dominic Baker-Smith, and Arthur F. Kinney with Margaret M. Sullivan (eds), Sir Philip Sidney’s Achievements (New York, 1990), p. 221. 2 The extent of Sidney’s revision of her brother’s psalms is uncertain. In his 1963 edition of the Sidney Psalms, J.C.A. Rathmell suggests that Mary Sidney revised the final stanzas of her brother’s psalms nos. 1, 16, 22, 23, 29 and 31. See Sir Philip Sidney and the Countess of Pembroke. The Psalms of Sir Philip Sidney and the Countess of Pembroke, ed. J.C.A. Rathmell (New York, 1963), p. xxvi. R.E. Pritchard, in his 1992 edition of selected Sidney psalms, writes that Mary Sidney’s work included “some revision” of her brother’s poems. See Mary Sidney (and Sir Philip Sidney), The Sidney Psalms, ed. R.E. Pritchard (Manchester, 1992), p. 13. The editors of the 1998 Oxford edition of The Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert are less certain of Mary Sidney’s tampering with Philip Sidney’s poems: “someone, probably [Mary Sidney], altered occasional phrases and revised the endings of some of [Philip Sidney’s] Psalms.” See Mary Sidney Herbert, The Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, ed. Margaret P. Hannay, Noel J. Kinnamon, and Michael G. Brennan (Oxford and New York, 1998), vol. 1, p. 8. 3 Aaron is invited by God to serve as prophet specifically to help Moses who claims to be unable to speak, or unskilled in speech. See Exodus 4:10–16. There is no text indicating Miriam’s entry into prophecy.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Sidney’s completion of the psalms makes clear that her literary talents existed independently of her brother’s, her presentation of the psalms to Elizabeth and her circulation of these poems was eased by her ability to do so in Philip’s name and as “the Sister of that Incomparable Sidney” (Collected Works 1:112). Furthermore, Exodus establishes Miriam as Moses’ caretaker early on in the narrative; Mary Sidney demonstrated a similar care of Philip at the end of his story. After his death, she became the patron of poets who celebrated him and his work, wrote tributes to him herself, and oversaw publication of his texts. Margaret P. Hannay writes that Mary Sidney is responsible for “encouraging the hagiography that developed into the Sidney legend” (“Sidney Legend” 220). But Donne’s inclination to link Mary Sidney to the biblical Miriam is not merely a sign of his poetic resourcefulness or a clever insight into a sister’s use of her good brother’s status. I argue instead that Donne’s identification of Mary Sidney as a Renaissance Miriam stems from her repeated gloss of Miriam’s history, and the poet’s frequent assumption of Miriam’s posture within selected poems. Furthermore, Sidney’s references to Miriam extend beyond the psalms and influence her presentation of herself as a female poet who is sister to a redeeming, heroic figure.4 That Mary Sidney would identify with a biblical character and privilege that character’s speech and history is perfectly in keeping with Protestant directives. Tyndale instructs his readers to read the Bible as it “pertaineth to thine own self” (Tyndale’s Old Testament 8). The Bible was not merely a religious text. Scholars such as Deborah Shuger and Christopher Hill mark the significance of the Bible on Renaissance society as a whole, but the Bible had no less an effect on individuals existing within that social order. As Arise Evans confessed in 1653, “I looked upon the Scripture as a history of things that passed in other countries, pertaining to other persons; but now I looked upon it as a mystery to be opened at this time, belonging also to us” (Evans 17). The Bible shaped the way early modern individuals defined themselves. In this chapter I examine the ways in which Sidney uses the tale of Miriam in her psalm translations, and follow that examination with a look at the biblical prophetess’s influence on Mary Sidney’s self-presentation in her prefatory works. Mary Sidney is the ideal candidate for such an investigation. Her Protestant faith made her a diligent reader of the biblical text, and her education and social position made her a reader in her own right—that is, not merely an audience to 4 Among early modern Protestants, Philip Sidney was recognized as a hero because Protestants “looked to him as their future leader.” See Margaret P. Hannay, Philip’s Phoenix (New York and Oxford, 1990), p. 59. Hannay also examines Mary Sidney’s engineering of her brother’s praise in “Mary Sidney and the Sidney Legend” in Sir Philip Sidney’s Achievements, pp. 219–26. J.A. Van Dorsten also investigates Sidney’s evolution into Renaissance hero. He writes that following Philip Sidney’s death English poets represented him as “the ideal Christian Knight.” See Van Dorsten, Poets, Patrons, and Professors: Sir Philip Sidney, Daniel Rogers, and the Leiden Humanists (London, 1962), p. 154. For an account of Philip Sidney’s life, hopes and military campaigns, see Katherine Duncan-Jones, Sir Philip Sidney, Courtier Poet (New Haven and London, 1991).

“Should she not be ashamed?”


the readings of clerics and priests. Protestant emphasis on the word of God, and the importance of an individual’s relationship with God through the divine text facilitated access to the Bible for those who had previously been dependent upon professional churchmen to reveal and interpret biblical mysteries. So great was the emphasis on God’s word that Protestantism has been tied to the growth of Christian Hebraism in sixteenth-century England, due to the faith’s “insistence upon the theological principle of sola scriptura” (Burnett 169).5 A Psalaterium Hebraeum (1516) was kept in the impressive Pembroke Library at Wilton (Waller, Critical 159). In fact, the editors of the Oxford edition of the Sidney Psalms, write that “it is not impossible” that Sidney worked with the psalms in their original Hebrew (Herbert 2:16).6 Clearly, the Sidney project of psalm translation marks Mary Sidney an engaged reader of the Bible’s Old Testament in whatever language. The Book of Exodus, in which Miriam’s character most frequently appears, precedes The Book of Psalms in Renaissance Hebrew and Christian Bibles, and furthermore was a popular referent during Elizabeth’s reign. The Children of Israel’s victory in Exodus is a significant example of the liberation that follows affliction. Early modern England likened itself to Israel, and promoted nationalism by fashioning itself as a chosen nation besieged by enemies on all sides (Hill 264).7 “Oh Lord God,” begins a sixteenth-century prayer, “save thy chosen people of England” (King 410). We can understand that a nation identifying with the Children of Israel would have citizens identifying with those characters integral to its history, as Miriam assuredly is. Miriam: In the Bible and the English Renaissance Miriam was potentially appealing to Mary Sidney, or to any early modern Mary, as an Old Testament namesake. In a sermon, Donne again draws attention to the names Mary and Miriam, elaborating on their potency and significance:


The impetus for the study of Hebrew in Tudor England is also associated with the rise of humanism. For an investigation of causes and motives behind the rise in Christian Hebraism in Tudor England, see G. Lloyd Jones, The Discovery of Hebrew in Tudor England: a third language (Manchester, 1983). 6 The editors of The Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert note, however, that there is no direct evidence linking Mary Sidney to the study of that ancient language. See Mary Sidney Herbert, The Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, ed. Margaret P. Hannay, Noel J. Kinnamon, and Michael G. Brennan (Oxford and New York, 1998), vol. 2, p. 16. Theodore Stienberg, on the other hand, suggests that Sidney may have known Hebrew. See “The Sidneys and the Psalms,” Studies in Philology 92 (1995): 1–17. 7 Patrick Collinson also recognizes the Bible as a source of English identity. See Patrick Collinson, “Biblical rhetoric: the English nation and national sentiment in the prophetic mode” in Claire McEachern and Debora Shuger (eds), Religion and Culture in Renaissance England (Cambridge, 1997), p. 24.

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


Miriam and Mary is the same name in women, as Josuah and Jesus is the same name to men. The word denotes Greatnesse, not only in Power, but in Wisdome, and Learning too; and so signifies often Prophets, and Doctors; and so falls fitliest upone these blessed women, who, in that sense, were all made Maries.” (Sermons IX:193)

This interpretation provides a more respectable Old Testament source for those Protestant Marys who had likely been named for a Catholic Queen. Donne’s substitution of the name Mary for Miriam is supported by biblical texts. The Geneva Bible (1560) and The Bishops Bible (1568) both refer to Miriam by the name Marie.8 In Thomas Bentley’s The Monument for Matrons (1582), Miriam is also recognized as Marie (lamp 7:209). Donne explains to his congregation, “in pure and Originall Hebrew, the word signifies Exaltation, and whatsoever is best in the kinde thereof” (Sermons IX:193). Bentley expansively defines the name as “exalted or reaching or bitter” (209), a more accurate definition if we consider the biblical Hebrew to which Donne refers. Both “Mary” and “Miriam” contain the same Hebrew root ‫( מ ר‬mar), the literal meaning of which is “bitter,” also ֿ et al. 600).9 The “exultant” reading of the name owes “temper, of feeling” (Brown more to Miriam’s behavior than Hebrew etymology. Donne justifies his definition by noting, “This is the name of that sister of Aaron, and Moses, that with her Quire of women assisted at that Eucharisticall sacrifice, that Triumphant Song of Thanksgiving, upon the destruction, the subversion, the submersion of Egypt, in the Red Sea” (193). The biblical passage to which Donne refers is Miriam’s most celebrated scriptural moment, but it is not her first appearance in the Bible. In Exodus 2:4–9 Miriam is identified as Moses’ sister and observes Moses’ rescue by Pharaoh’s daughter: “his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him” (Exodus 2:4).10 Miriam’s first appearance establishes her as a bold and clever character. When Moses is drawn from the water by Pharaoh’s daughter, Miriam approaches and offers to find a woman to nurse the child. Miriam astutely suggests her mother Jocheved for this task, thus reuniting mother and son. The significance of Miriam’s place among biblical women is established with her next appearance in Exodus. In Exodus 15:20 Miriam is identified as the first


In the Geneva Bible, the name “Marie” appears in the page heading only; the name “Miriam” is used within the actual text. See The Geneva Bible (1560; Madison, Milwaukee, and London, 1969), p. 67. 9 The bitterness implicit in the name is emphasized immediately following Miriam’s song. In Exodus 15:23, the Children of Israel arrive at “Mara,” and we are told they “could not drink of the waters of Mara, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Mara.” See The New Jerusalem Bible, Eng. ed., Harold Fisch (Jerusalem, 1997), p. 81. 10 In Exodus, Moses’ rescue is necessary due to Pharaoh’s edict calling for the death of any Hebrew male child (Exodus 1:16). Moses’ mother Jocheved sets her infant son afloat in a basket where he is found by Pharaoh’s daughter (2:5, 6).

“Should she not be ashamed?”


female prophet.11 This title accompanies Miriam’s song of praise, in which she celebrates God’s rescue of the Children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage: And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and rider has he thrown into the sea. (Exodus 15:20, 21)12

This episode establishes Miriam’s fame; in it she sets a pattern of song and celebration in her prophetic performance which is reflected in the behavior of women throughout the Bible. Moses and Miriam’s song of thanksgiving in Exodus 15 is the first example of a biblical psalm. Moreover, biblical critics argue that the genre of the psalm was, in fact, a tradition begun by Miriam and her instruction to “Sing unto the Lord” (Exodus 15:21).13 The genre becomes increasingly popular in subsequent biblical narratives and is very often in the voice of a female. Like the first prophetess, women throughout the Bible are described in celebration 14 ‫ןּב ׃מחֺלֺת‬ ּ ‫תפים‬ ּּ ֻ ּ‫( ׃ב‬bĕtupiym ûbimĕּhôlôt) “with timbrels and dances” —a clear allusion to Miriam’s rejoicing figure in Exodus. Moreover, the timbrel (‫ֺּף‬ ‫[ ת‬tōˉp]), an instrument associated with reveling females and mentioned frequently in the Psalms,15 first appears in Miriam’s hand. The instrument is a perpetual marker of Miriam and her gift of song. In the writings of early modern women we observe Miriam’s influence extend beyond her biblical text and into the English Renaissance. Her song, which marks her prophecy,16 is a form of the religious lyric. Miriam authorizes women’s Miriam’s title, ‫( ׃נּבּיאָה‬nĕbiy āh) is the feminized form of ‫( נָבּיא‬nābiy ), prophet. The masculine form literally means “spokesman, speaker, prophet.” The feminine form is translated only as “prophetess” described, “of the ancient type endowed with gift of song.” Miriam is cited as an example. See Francis Brown et al., A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford, 1951), pp. 611, 612. The Tyndale, Geneva, and Bishops Bibles all translate Miriam’s title as “prophetess.” 12 Unless otherwise indicated, the Old Testament translations in this chapter are those found in The New Jerusalem Bible. In those instances where a different translation is cited, the biblical text used is that which is most relevant to the examined literary work. 13 See Athalya Brenner, Israelite Women: Social Role and Literary Type in Biblical Narrative (Sheffield, 1985), p. 52 and Trevor Dennis, Sarah Laughed: Women’s Voices in the Old Testament (Nashville, 1994), p. 110. 14 See, for example, the description of Jephthah’s daughter in Judges 11:29–40, and the description of women celebrating David’s victory over the Philistines in I Samuel 18:6, 7. 15 The timbrel, ‫( תֺף‬tōˉp), or its plural ‫פים‬ ּּ ‫( ֻּת‬tupiym) may be found in Psalms 68, 81, ֺ 149, 150. In one of these psalms the musicians are specifically identified as women. See Psalm 68:25. 16 It is possible that Miriam’s identification as prophetess may simply be a result of her having been Moses’ sister. Jacob Milgrom notes that “the divinatory profession is known to have been handed down within families.” See The JPS Torah Commentary: Numbers, Commentary by Jacob Milgrom (Philadelphia and New York, 1990), p. 94, n.2. c



Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


religious discourse, and the significance of her activities was not lost on those early modern women eager to speak. In A Mouzell for Melastomus (1617), Rachel Speght cites the first prophetess as proof that women were made “to glorifie God,” since Miriam used “her voice to sound foorth his prayses” (19). Speght needs to justify the use of the female voice because early modern patriarchy was adamantly opposed to it.17 Relying upon biblical precedent, the early modern social order privileged in excess Saint Paul’s argument prohibiting female speech: “Let your women keep silence in the Churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speake: but they ought to be subject, as also the Law saith” (Geneva, Corinthians 14:34).18 But Miriam’s example contradicts Paul’s requirements for the muted female voice. Despite demands for silent women, writing on religious themes was an approved discourse for women in the Renaissance. Hannay regards this allowance as a “paradox” (Silent 4), given the imposed female silence, but the real paradox lies in the awareness that the sacred text used to silence women also praises and empowers women for their enlightened words.19 Allusions to Miriam in Mary Sidney’s poetry go beyond the biblical character’s enabling of female writers to engage in religious discourse. The seeming ease with which Miriam voices her song in The Book of Exodus is complicated by the disease associated with Miriam’s voice in The Book of Numbers. Miriam’s final and most elaborate narrative occurs in Numbers, chapter 12 and warrants careful review, for here Miriam’s spirited language leads to her fall from authority and grace. The chapter opens with the claim “And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses” (Numbers 12:1). The biblical Hebrew suggests that this act is predominantly Miriam’s; not only does her name precede her brother Aaron’s in describing their slander,20 but also the verb “speak” (as in “spoke against”) is presented as ‫( ַוְּת ַדֵבּר‬watĕdabēr), appearing in the third person, feminine singular form, and not in the third person, masculine plural form as would be expected.21 17

Many fine texts elaborate on the silence imposed upon early modern women. For places to begin, see Suzanne W. Hull, Chaste Silent and Obedient (San Marino: Huntington Library, 1982); Catherine Belsey, The Subject of Tragedy (London and New York, 1985), pp. 149–91; Margaret W. Ferguson, “A Room Not their Own” The Comparative Perspective on Literature, ed. Koelb et al. (Ithaca, 1988), pp. 93–116; Dympna Callaghan, Woman Gender in Renaissance Tragedy (Atlantic Highlands, 1989); Christina Luckyj, ‘A moving Rhetoricke:’ Gender and Silence in Early Modern England (Manchester and New York, 2002). 18 All “Geneva” citations refer to The Geneva Bible (1560; Madison, Milwaukee, and London: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1969). 19 In Proverbs 31, a woman of valor is defined by wise speech: “She openeth her mouth with wisdome, and the law of grace is in her tongue” (Geneva v. 26). 20 In its summary to Numbers 12, The Bishops Bible presents Aaron’s name first: “Aaron and Marie grudge against Moses;” see The Bishops Bible (London, 1568), p. xc. 21 The verb form here is “piel” in the imperfect tense; the third-person, feminine singular of the verb is identical to the second-person, masculine singular. However, the second person masculine singular is not applicable in this sentence. For a resource see C.L. Seow, A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew (Nashville, 1995), p. 338.

“Should she not be ashamed?”


Jacob Milgrom writes that the presence of the feminine singular verb marks Miriam “the principal instigator of the gossip” and further notes that her name’s appearance before Aaron’s is a reversal of the normal order (JPS: Numbers, 93 n.1.). Without reference to Hebrew verb forms, Miriam’s voice is dominant in a 1651 biblical commentary which claims Miriam “was first in the fault and … also a mover of Aaron to it” (Downame, Numbers 12.10). At the heart of Miriam and Aaron’s complaint is a desire for recognition. They attempt to assert their authority asking, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? has he not spoken also to usֶ?” (Numbers 12:2). The Anchor Bible Commentary explains that the verb here, ‫( ּּד ֶבּר‬diber), “means either ‘to speak to’ or ‘to speak through’” (Anchor, Numbers 328). Note that the authority both Miriam and Aaron crave is explicitly associated with voice and speech; God’s voice has informed all three prophets, and it is acknowledgment of this communication that Miriam and Aaron desire. In the following moments, God hears Miriam’s and Aaron’s slander, appears in a pillar of cloud, and chastises them. He then strikes Miriam with leprosy. Aaron and Moses petition God on Miriam’s behalf, and God orders her to be sent out from the camp for seven days. Miriam is ultimately reunited with her people, but this story of shame is her final mention until notice of her death in Numbers 20:1. Miriam’s speech is as much a focus of this biblical episode as her quest for power. While her voice reaches a divine audience (the verse describing her complaint concludes, “And the Lord heard it” [Numbers 12:2]), the ensuing verses detail God’s anger and punishment of Miriam only. The biblical narrator describes Miriam and Aaron as the objects of God’s wrath, but only Miriam is stricken with leprosy. It is Miriam who is punished for her speech and for her pride, suggesting that her female challenge to male authority is the greater transgression. In his chastisement of Miriam, God focuses on her rebellious speech: “why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:8, emphasis mine). Speech becomes a marker of privilege, not only in Miriam and Aaron’s boast of divine exchanges, but also in God’s defense and elevation of Moses: “If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision, or speak to him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so … With him I speak mouth to mouth, manifestly, and not in dark speeches” (Numbers 12:8, emphasis mine). God does not deny his interaction with Miriam and Aaron, nor does he dispute the narrative’s identification of them as prophets. However, he does minimize the value of their exchanges. Miriam is reprimanded for her assertive speech, and essentially is told that her discourse is uninformed—of lesser value—than that of the youngest brother. By impugning the value of her discourse, God minimizes Miriam’s authority. The result is her silence. Miriam does not speak again, even on her own behalf; her brothers speak for her: And the anger of God was inflamed against them; and he departed … and, behold, Miriam was snow white, stricken with leprosy; and Aaron looked upon Miriam and behold she was diseased. And Aaron said to Moses, Alas my lord, I pray thee, lay no sin upon us … And Moses cried to the Lord, saying, Heal her now, O God, I pray thee. (Numbers 12:9–13)


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

God’s response to Moses’ plea for Miriam reiterates God’s refusal to engage Miriam as he does Moses: “And the Lord said to Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed for seven days? let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again” (Numbers 12:14). God’s likening his actions to a father who spit in his daughter’s face is a perversion of God’s holy mouth to mouth discourse with Moses (Numbers 12:8). Hence, Miriam’s assertion of privilege and worth haunts this analogy; her punishment corresponds to her transgression. Miriam’s pride is replaced with shame (Numbers 12:14), and the dominant voice that opens the chapter is suppressed. Miriam’s punishment in this episode leaves a mark upon her character and a mark upon female speech, emphasizing the necessity for obedience. This outcome is reinforced in the Old Testament and in early modern discourse. The Book of Deuteronomy recognizes the significance of Miriam’s punishment, encouraging readers to mind the law and follow the instruction of priests, lest they suffer as Miriam did: Take heed in the plague of leprosy, that thou observe diligently, and do according to all that the priests of the Levites shall teach you … Remember what the Lord thy God did to Miriam by the way, after you were come out of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 24:8, 9)

This passage makes clear that Miriam has broken the law, ignoring the Levites’ message. Though Deuteronomy does not blatantly distinguish between male and female obedience, allusions to gendered behavior are apparent. This is because Aaron, Miriam’s co-conspirator, is previously identified as a priest (Exodus 28:1), and as a Levite (Exodus 4:14). When we recall the dominance of Miriam’s voice at the beginning of Numbers 12, the warning of Deuteronomy, chapter 24 becomes more suggestive, implying that if Miriam had diligently observed her brother (the Levite priest), her infectious grumblings would not have been given voice. Since the evidence suggests that Aaron is free from guilt in God’s estimation, and in the estimation of Deuteronomy’s narrator, we must ask what crime Miriam has committed that Aaron has not.22 This passage from Deuteronomy reinforces the notion that God’s punishment was not inspired as much by the offense as by the female offender. The relevance of Miriam’s tale to early modern notions of female speech becomes increasingly clear: if Miriam committed a crime, as Deuteronomy suggests, it was a crime of disobedience marked by a dissenting female voice. Regard of Miriam as guilty of both disobedience and rebellion is evident in early modern references to her story. A “Homily against disobedience and wilfull 22 In order to account for the apparent injustice in God’s exclusive punishment of Miriam, a midrash was created in which Aaron was also punished by God, but Aaron’s leprosy lasted for a moment only; as soon as he looked at his skin, the leprosy vanished. He then tried to cure Miriam by looking at her, but with each look her leprosy worsened. I have found no reference to this midrash in early modern English texts, however. See Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews (Philadelphia, 1967), vol. 8, pp. 258–61.

“Should she not be ashamed?”


rebellion” written “in the time of the late Queene Elizabeth of famous memory”23 invokes Miriam’s grumbling transgression: Some of the children of Israel, being murmurers against their Magistrates appoynted over them by God, were striken with foule leprosie … such Israelites … were murmurers against Moses, appointed by GOD to bee their heade and chief magistrate, are recorded in the book of Numbers, and other places of the scriptures, for perpetuall memorie and warninge to all subjects how highly GOD is displeased with the murmurings and evill speaking of subjects against their princes … for their murmure was not against their prince onely, beeing a mortall creature, but against GOD himself also. (“Homily” 299)

While the threatening minister does not mention Miriam by name, “Numbers 12.c” is glossed by the description of leprosy, and Miriam is the sole leper in that chapter (299). Miriam is used to warn against religious and political challenge. The biblical assessment of Miriam’s speech as a form of disobedience parallels the early modern belief that speech undermined female obedience and chastity. In this way, Miriam becomes an example of a woman undone by her discourse. The tension of the interplay between female silence, chastity, and obedience are illustrated in the dramatic condemnation of yet another Miriam, this one in Elizabeth Carey’s The Tragedy of Mariam. We are told of the title character, “She’s unchaste / Her mouth will open to any stranger’s ear” (IV, l. 434). A woman’s lack of silence implied a lack of other virtues as well. The biblical Miriam’s situation confirms this. That Miriam’s chastity is affected by her speech continues to be recognized in biblical readings. Ilana Pardes considers Miriam’s actions a protest “against the privileged status of Moses’ discourse” (Countertraditions 9), observing that “Miriam’s demand for greater expression seems to be synonymous with lewdness” (10). Pardes’s twentieth-century examination links Miriam’s crime with those the Bible associates most frequently with women: harlotry and lewdness (Ezekiel 45–9). “Lewd”24 is a term that is also used in the English Renaissance to describe improper speech as well as willful rebellion. Mary Sidney’s version of Psalm 52 translates the Geneva’s phrase “deceitful tongue” (Psalm 52:6) as “Lewd lies” (l. 5). The homily against disobedience characterizes rebellions as 23

A collection of homilies titled Certaine Sermons or Homilies appointed to be read in Churches. In the time of the late Queene Elizabeth of famous memory was published in London in 1623. This volume actually contained “Two Books of Homilies Appointed to be Read in Churches.” The first of these books was published toward the end of the reign of Henry VIII in 1547, the second during Elizabeth’s reign in 1563. The “Homily Against Rebellion” was added to the second book in 1571. For more information on the publication history of these sermons, see Certaine Sermons or Homilies appointed to be read in Churches In the Time of Queen Elizabeth I, ed. Mary Ellen Rickey and Thomas B. Stroup (1623; Gainesville, 1968), pp. v–xii. 24 According to the OED, sixteenth-century definitions of “lewd” include: 1. not in holy orders; 2. unlearned; 3. common, vulgar; 4. ignorant, foolish; 5. Of persons: wicked, worthless; 6. Of actions: bad, poor; 7. lascivious, unchaste. See J.A. Simpson and E.S.C. Weiner, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford, 1989), vol. 8, p. 873.

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


“lewd remedies … far worse then any other maladies and disorders that can bee in the body of a common wealth” (“Homily” 279). While it is a twentieth-century voice that directly ties Miriam with lewdness, the threat of lewdness pervades early modern understandings of Miriam. The Geneva Bible’s gloss of Exodus 15:20 in which Miriam appears with timbrels and dances reads “signifiing their great joye … : but ought not to be a cloke for wanton dances” (31).25 The Geneva Bible warns against Miriam’s behavior even before her arrogant display in the Book of Numbers. We should not underestimate the significance of the warnings constructed around Miriam to an audience of early modern women, including Mary Sidney. The early modern English people believed in the absolute truth of the biblical text. Indeed, devout Protestants such as the Sidney Family (Hannay, Phoenix x) would follow Tyndale’s direction to read the Bible and “suck out the pith of the Scripture, and arm thyself against all assaults” (Tyndale’s Old Testament 8). Mary Sidney would not have had to search too deeply in the Old Testament to find a familiar figure. Like Miriam, Sidney was an assertive woman who challenged the social order and “transcended limitations” imposed upon her by her early modern world (Hannay, Phoenix x). Mary Ellen Lamb observes that Sidney was an “unusually public” figure (29) who “took risks” (28) during a time when risk taking was especially dangerous for women. Hannay writes that Sidney “demonstrates what could and could not be accomplished” (Phoenix x). This is precisely what Miriam does before her. Like Miriam, Mary Sidney has a brother who is identified as a divine agent and she presents herself as a sister accompanying her brother in a holy enterprise. She is a Renaissance Miriam. Miriam and Mary Sidney’s Psalms Since Mary Sidney actively translated the psalms, it is, I believe, difficult to distinguish between what Gary Waller calls her “continuous exercise of true piety” (Critical 179) and the sensibility of the biblical poet whose conviction she presents. Though translation is often considered to provide a “limited” form of expressive freedom (Bennett 36), Sidney’s allusions to Miriam enable a sort of inventiveness uncharacteristic of translation. Sidney’s Miriam-like moments most often reveal themselves in those instances where she diverges from the psalms presented in the Hebrew and early modern vernacular Bibles.26 In Psalm 51 Sidney directly refers to, and assumes the position of, Miriam. Psalm 51 is one of the penitential psalms, which were particularly popular in the English Renaissance (Hill 359); 25

The Bishops Bible’s gloss is extended: “Signifying their great joy, whiche custome the Jewes observed in certaine solemnities Judges II verse 34 which ought not to be a cloke for our wanton dances (Exodus 15:20). See The Bishops Bible, p. xliii. 26 The liberties Sidney takes with translation in her references to Miriam and in other ways points to the difficulties of classifying the “English Psalms” as original or translated works. See Hannibal Hamlin, Psalm Culture and Early Modern English Literature (Cambridge, 2004).

“Should she not be ashamed?”


Hamlin refers to Psalm 51 as “the most important” of the Penitential Psalms (173). Critical attention to Sidney’s translation of Psalm 51 has generally focused on her masterful comprehension of David’s guilt, and on the “complex motives that lie behind the whole process of individual repentance” (Waller, Critical 233). What has not been examined, however, are the undeniable allusions to Miriam. In Psalm 51 Sidney takes some liberty with her translation, and by so doing constructs herself (as psalmist) in the image of the first biblical prophetess. The first few verses of the Geneva Bible’s Psalm 51 read:27 1 Have mercy upon me O God, according to thy loving kindenes: according to the multitude of thy compassions put awaie mine iniquities. 2 Wash me thoroughly from mine inequities, and cleanse me from my sinne. 3 For I knowe mine iniquities, and my sinne is ever before me. … 7 Purge me with hyssope and I shal be cleane: wash me, and I shalbe whiter then snowe. 8 Make me to hear joye and gladnes, that the bones, which thou hast broken, maie rejoyce.

The Geneva Bible identifies Psalm 51 as “A psalme of David … , after he had gone into Bath Seba” (245). The voice of the penitent is clear in the Geneva text, and remains so in Sidney’s version. However, Sidney expands upon the cleansing metaphor and transforms the speaker into one who is diseased: O lord, whose grace no limitts comprehend; sweet lord, whose mercies stand from measure free; to mee that grace, to mee that mercie send, and wipe o lord, my sinnes from sinnfull mee O clense, o wash my foule iniquitie: clense still my spotts, still wash awaie my staynings, till staines and spotts in mee leave noe remaynings. … Then as thie self to leapers hast assign’d, with Hisip, lord, thie Hisop, purge me soe: and that shall clense the leaprie of my mind; make over me thie mercies streames to flow, Soe shall my whitenes scorn the whitest snow. (49, 50, ll. 1–7, 22–6)28 27 The Sidney Family’s association with The Geneva Bible is noted in numerous critical studies. See Hannay, Philip’s Phoenix 86; and Rivkah Zim, English Metrical Psalms: Poetry as Praise and Prayer, 1535–1601 (Cambridge, London and New York, 1987), p. 190. Hill writes that Mary Sidney is more influenced by the Geneva psalms than was her brother. See Christopher Hill, The English Bible and the Seventeenth Century Revolution (London & New York, 1993), p. 357. 28 All Sidney psalm excerpts are taken from The Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, vol. 2, unless otherwise noted. This edition is based on MS A; there are seventeen extant manuscripts of the Sidney Psalms. See The Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, vol. 2, p. 33.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

In her version of the Psalm, Mary Sidney specifies a leper where there had been none. Elaine V. Beilin explains the choice by acknowledging a gloss in the Geneva Bible referencing Leviticus 14:6 (146). This Leviticus passage details the use of hyssop in cleansing of lepers; it was also used to clean the dead (Numbers 19:18).29 What’s more, hyssop was used by the Children of Israel prior to their escape from Egypt. Moses directs the Israelites to dip hyssop in lamb’s blood to mark their houses to allow the angel of death to pass over them during the final plague brought upon Egypt (Exodus 12:22, 23). Therefore, hyssop was used for both physical and spiritual cleansing, and was a material used to delineate God’s chosen. Sidney’s translation, or interpretation, of Psalm 51 embellishes on both the penitent’s need for cleansing and the metaphor of cleansing itself. Though the biblical psalmist refers to “mine Iniquities” (v. 3), the cleansing required seems significantly more intense in Sidney’s detail of spots, stains, and, finally, leprosy. By evoking the image of lepers, Sidney turns her speaker into a being who is literally disfigured by sin—whose “flesh is … consumed” in iniquity (Numbers 12:12). Sidney describes sin as a leprous deformity that only God can heal. By identifying the penitent as a “leaper,” Sidney makes a clear reference to Miriam. Leprosy is mentioned fairly frequently in the Bible, but named lepers are few: Miriam, Na’aman (a captain in the forces of King Aram), and Uzziah the King. Of these characters, Miriam has the most notoriety. Furthermore, her leprosy seems to have been unusually severe since the Bible emphasizes her disease with a double reference: “Behold Miriam was snow white, stricken with leprosy … behold, she was diseased” (Numbers 12:10, 11).30 In The Book of Numbers, God is responsible for Miriam’s cleansing, just as God is sought for cleansing by the psalmist. (Na’aman’s leprosy is cleansed by washing seven times in the Jordan river at the Prophet Elisha’s advice,31 and Uzziah, punished for asserting his power in the temple of the Lord, “remained a leper until his death” [2 Chronicles 26:21].) Like Miriam, the leper in Sidney’s Psalm 51 is ostracized from her community. The poet emphasizes this separation, both in her likening of sinfulness to leprosy, and in her notice that the guilty are distanced from God (“faultie feete have wandred from thie way” [51, l. 37]). Sin is represented as a form of displacement. 29 The use of hyssop in the cleansing of lepers requires the following: “Then shal the Priest commande to take for him that is clensed, two sparowes alive and clean, and ceder wood and a skarlet lace, and hyssope. And the Priest shal commande to kil one of the birdes over pure water in an earthen vessel. After, he shal take the live sparowe with the cedar wood, and the skarlet lace, and the hyssope, and shal dip them and the living sparowe in the blood of the sparowe slaine, over the pure water, And he shal sprinkle upon him, that must be clensed of his leprosie” (Geneva, Leviticus 4:4–7). 30 Bentley also suggests that Miriam’s leprosy was severe, attributing Moses’ aid to having seen his sister “in such a loathsome case.” See Thomas Bentley, The Monument of Matrons (London, 1582), lamp 7:209. 31 Na’aman expresses his disappointment that Elisha did not call upon the “name of God” to heal him, thus distancing God from this healing (II Kings 5:11).

“Should she not be ashamed?”


The presentation of a sinner as one who is literally “removed” from the community does not appear in the biblical psalm, though a gloss on verse 13 in the Geneva Bible suggests a similar outcome: “He promiseth to endeavor that others by his example may returne to God” (245). This sentiment is stressed in the Sidney psalm, where we find an emphasis on departure and return. An inherent reference to leprosy, and to Miriam’s episode in Numbers 12, is contained in both the Bible’s Psalm 51 and in Mary Sidney’s version. The penitent voice of the Bible announces that once cleansed with hyssop, he “shalbe whiter than snowe” (Geneva Psalm 51:7). In this context, whiteness is a symbol of cleanliness and “purenes of heart” (Geneva gloss 245). Sidney retains the comparison as well: “Soe shall my whitenes scorn the whitest snow” (50, l. 26). However, because Sidney retains this reference to whiteness within the distinct context of leprosy, the description has extended relevance.32 The elaborate report on leprosy in Leviticus, chapter 13 gauges the severity of the disease in terms of whiteness: “the priest shall look upon him … If the bright spot be white in the skin of his flesh … then the priest shall shut him up that has the plague seven days” (13:3–4). Interestingly, Leviticus also uses whiteness to signify healing: “behold, if the plague be turned white; then the priest shall pronounce him clean that has the plague” (13:17). The psalm’s comparison of the speaker’s cleanliness to the whiteness of snow evokes Miriam’s leprous incident in Numbers 12, where “snow” is a marker for leprosy: “behold, Miriam was snow white, stricken with leprosy” (Numbers 12:10, emphasis mine).33 Both the Geneva and Bishops Bibles, along with Tyndale’s Pentateuch, retain the analogy of Miriam’s flesh to snow.34 If snow white flesh connotes leprosy as Numbers 12 demonstrates, line 26 in Sidney’s psalm does so as well. Skillfully, Sidney manages to retain the allusion to whiteness as the redemption following cleansing, even while evoking the image of the snow white leper. In this way, Sidney alludes to a spiritual cleansing through affliction; the “whiteness” of line 26 is both the purified flesh, and that which is intensely diseased. Snow white flesh becomes the speaker’s penitence, as well as her reward. The leprosy in Sidney’s Psalm 51 is, we are told, a leprosy of the mind (l. 24) marked by the spots and stains of sin. When compared to David’s sin with Batsheva (the event taken to inspire this psalm), Miriam’s crimes appear more like mental trespasses. Her wrongs in Numbers 12 include ambition, pride, and covetousness. David’s sin goes beyond a mere imagined desire for Batsheva since he acted upon his lust (II Samuel 11:4).

32 Elaine V. Beilin views this use of leprosy as “doubling the significance of whiteness.” See Elaine V. Beilin, Redeeming Eve: Women Writers of the English Renaissance (Princeton, 1987), p. 146. 33 However, whiteness of snow is also linked to purity in Isaiah 1:18: “Come now … though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” 34 The various translations read: “behold, Marie was become leperous as it were snowe” (Bishops, Numbers 12:10); “beholde, Miriam was leprous like snowe” (Geneva, Numbers 12:10); and “behold, Miriam was become leprous, as it were snow” (Numbers 12:10) in Tyndale’s Old Testament (1530; New Haven and London, 1992), p. 218.

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


His sexual act which prompted his orchestration of the death Uriah Batsheva’s husband (II Samuel 11:15–17) are physical offenses. While leprosy evokes the presence of Miriam, so, too, do other references in Sidney’s Psalm 51 that do not appear in the biblical version. Immediately following the references to leprosy and snow white skin, Sidney’s psalmist is depicted as one who aspires to celebrate God’s love through dance and song, praying that her “brused bones maie daunce awaie their sadness” (51, l. 28). The idea of bones burdened by the weight of sin comes from the biblical psalm.35 However, while the biblical psalmist longs for his broken bones to soon “rejoyce” (Geneva v. 8), it is Sidney who characterizes this rejoicing by music (“soundes … of gladdnes” [51, l. 27]) and dance—precisely the tradition established by Miriam with her “timbrels and daunces” (Geneva, Exodus 15:21). The speaker of Sidney’s psalm follows this dancing image with the promise that “soe shall my tongue be raised / to praise thy truth” (51, ll. 41, 42). The Oxford editors of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke’s psalms attribute the celebratory dance in this and other psalms to Sidney’s alignment of herself with Matthew Parker and his more liberal religiosity (Hannay, Kinnamon, and Brennan 27). Clearly, though, this tradition has biblical origins and keen significance for female celebrants. Shame, also linked with Miriam, is mentioned in Sidney’s Psalm 51, and in a remarkably Miriam-like context: “Unlock my lipps, shut up with sinnfull shame: / then shall my mouth, ô lord, thy honor sing” (51, ll. 43–4). The Geneva passage reads: “Open thou my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shal shewe forth thy praise” (Geneva Psalm 51:15). Here, too, the psalmists’ ideas are similar, but they are not the same. Sidney qualifies the silenced lips, attributing their silence to the penitent’s shame. We recall God’s grounds for Miriam’s punishment in his demand, “shulde she not have bene ashamed?” (Geneva, Numbers 12:14, emphasis mine).36 Once released from shame, the speaker of Sidney’s psalm again proffers song as the chosen form of praise. This song, of course, is reminiscent of Miriam, whose song is a tribute to God who “triumphed gloriously” (Exodus 15:21). Although Miriam certainly is not the only biblical character associated with shame in the Old Testament, her disgrace is significant because it is given a position of emphasis in the longest and most elaborate passage in which she appears. She is never again directly referred to as prophetess, or by the honorable titles “the sister of Moses” or “the sister of Aaron.”37


The Geneva gloss reads, “By the bones he understandeth all strength of soule and bodie, which by cares and mourning are consumed.” See The Geneva Bible, p. 245. 36 The Hebrew word ‫לם‬ ַ‫כ‬ ַּ (kalam), is a verb meaning to be humiliated, put to shame, dishonored, confounded. See Francis Brown et al., p. 483. 37 The Book of Micah does recall Miriam’s role in bringing the Children of Israel out of Egypt: “For I brought thee up from the land of Egypt and redeemed thee from the house of bondage; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam” (6:4).

“Should she not be ashamed?”


Despite the attention to shame throughout Sidney’s Psalm 51, the Miriam-like penitent seems to recover from her disgrace, and hints at her achievement of the divine communication Moses enjoyed: Lastly, O lord, how soe I stand or fall, leave not thy loved Sion to embrace: but with thie favour build up Salems wall, and still in pease, maintaine that peacefull place. then shalt thou turne a well-accepting face to sacred fires with offred giftes perfumed: till ev’n whole calves on alters be consumed. (51, ll. 50–56)

A subtle reference to God’s unique relationship with Moses appears in the image of God’s “well-accepting face” (l. 54). The Geneva version simply reads, “Then shalt thou accept the sacrifices of righteousnes” (Geneva, Psalm 51:19). We are told in the Bible that no one may see God’s face: “Furthermore he said, Thou canst not se my face, for there shal no man se me and live” (Geneva, Exodus 33:20). And yet Moses achieves a more intimate communication with God than do the majority of biblical prophets.38 Prior to God’s “mouth to mouth” communication with Moses in Numbers 12, the reader learns that “the Lord spake to Moses, face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Geneva, Exodus 33:11, emphasis mine). To emphasize the uniqueness of such a confrontation with the divine, Exodus 34 describes the glow emanating from Moses after receiving God’s laws for the second time: “And the children of Israel sawe the face of Moses, how the skin of Moses face shown bright” (Geneva, Exodus 34:35). While the speaker in Sidney’s psalm does not absolutely assert her divine selection (“how soe I stand or fall” [51, l. 50]), her confidence in her ability to describe God’s face implies her potential to observe it. She anticipates his contented gaze upon sacred offerings, and while the speaker names “whole calves” as examples of these, psalms themselves are consecrated gifts. Mary Sidney’s references to Miriam in her translation do not solely focus on the lamentable events of Numbers 12. In Psalm 68, Mary Sidney again evokes the Miriam of Exodus fame: In vantguard marcht who did with voices sing: the rereward lowd on instruments did play: the battaile maides, and did with Tymbrells ring: And all in sweete consort did jointly say: praise god … (80, ll. 65–9)

38 In the Book of Genesis, Jacob also declares that he has seen God “face to face” (32:31), when God (or God’s servant) appears in the form of a man with whom Jacob wrestles until dawn (Genesis 32:25–32).


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Sidney’s depiction of the singing female army—complete with attention to Miriam’s timbrels—is much more vivid than the corresponding verse of the biblical psalm: “The Lord gave matter to the women to tel of the great armie” (Geneva, Psalm 68:11). The Geneva Bible refers to Miriam in a gloss on this verse: “The facion then was that women sang songs after the victorie, as Miriam, Deborah, Judith and others” (Geneva 248). However, Sidney’s poem features images of Miriam-like celebration. In what is considered a draft of Psalm 68 found in Manuscript B1,39 Sidney not only elaborates upon the reference to Miriam’s rejoicing figure, but also boldly identifies the poem’s speaker as a woman: A virgin army there, with chastness armed best While armys fledd, by Thee was taught this triumph song to sing. These Kings, these Sons of Warr, lo, lo they fly they fly Wee house-confinéd maids with distaffs share ye spoyle Whose hew though long at home the chimneys gloss did foyle Since now as late enlarged doves wee freer skyes do try (Waller, Triumph 120, ll. 31–6)

The characterization of the virgins’ song as a song of triumph echoes Miriam’s triumphant celebration. Furthermore, we are reminded of the divinity of Miriam’s song since these women were taught by God to sing (l. 32). This draft of Sidney’s Psalm 68, however, has been considered most remarkable for the clear referent to a female psalmist in line 34: “Wee house confined maids” (emphasis mine). In her astute study “’House-confinéd maids’: The Presentation of Woman’s Role in the Psalmes of the Countess of Pembroke,” Hannay argues ways in which Mary Sidney uses the psalms to authorize her own (and all women’s) speech (“’Houseconfinéd maids’” 48). Hannay attends to the use of “Wee” to demonstrate Sidney’s use of a feminine voice in her translation. I want to build upon this observation to note that the psalm in which Hannay perceives Sidney’s strongest assertion of her female voice is a psalm featuring the influence and authority of Miriam. Hannay notes that Sidney’s gendered pronoun appears in Psalm 68, a poem of complaint: “We women, she says, we poets who sing God’s praise, we who have been confined to the household” (“’House-confinéd maids’” 68). I caution, however, against conflating the two groups of women presented in the poem. The women confined to the home are not the same women as those comprising the 39 Waller’s edition of “The Triumph of Death” and Other Unpublished and Uncollected Poems by Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke presents versions of the Sidney Psalms written prior to Manuscript A, the Penshurst text upon which the Oxford edition of the Sidney Psalms is based. Here I rely on psalms from Manuscript B, made in 1694–1695 by Bishop Samuel Woodford, and Manuscript B1, representing an earlier stage of revision. Waller considers the revisions contained in the B MSS to represent “the Countess’ early experiments.” See Gary F. Waller, ed., “The Triumph of Death” and Other Unpublished and Uncollected Poems by Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke (Salzberg, 1977), pp. 18– 44. According to Zim, Samuel Woodford’s transcript of one of Sidney’s working copies is the “best witness” of Sidney’s revisions. See Zim, p. 186.

“Should she not be ashamed?”


female battalion. I support Hannay’s view that those left at home make “a powerful statement on the plight of women” (“’House-confinéd maids’” 68); so, too, does the juxtaposition of these female leagues. Sidney’s presentation of these disparate groups prompts us to ask why certain women wait at home while others are receiving instruction from God. What is the difference between them? The answer seems to lie in the amplified virtue of the female chorus—they are virgins armed in chastity (v. 11); the others are at home waiting to share the spoil. Hannay regards the virginal shield as Sidney’s “acceptance of the cultural cliché that chastity is a woman’s best armor” (“’House-confinéd maids’” 68). But chastity is more than a cliché for early modern women, particularly given the relationship between female chastity, silence, and obedience. The praised virgins are not strictly silent; they are taught their words by God. Sidney’s description of the singing women glorifies Miriam’s virtue in Scriptures, but we are then reminded of Miriam’s loss of virtue when she attempts to “share the spoyle” of Moses’ authority in Numbers 12. Though Miriam is unsuccessful in her attempts, in Sidney’s early version the women not only enjoy the soldiers’ bounty, but are also liberated in the process. Immediately they take flight and turn to gold and silver before our eyes. Arguably, Sidney’s experience was similar. According to Hannay, “flight” is traditionally associated with poetry (“’House-confinéd maids’” 69); Sidney’s share in her brother’s spoil enabled her discursive freedom. And yet the distinction between waiting women and singing women appears only in a draft of Sidney’s 68th psalm. In its final form, Sidney’s pronoun is less specific; she exchanges “Wee house-confinéd maids” for “we … that weake in howse did ly” (79, l. 28). The gendered speaker is obscured, as is the sex of the house-bound subjects.40 But what does prevail, and is made even more explicit in the final version of the psalm, are the references to Miriam and the singing virgins. In the final version of Psalm 68, the first reference to these women is grounded in biblical context much more specifically than in the earlier draft. Preceding the reference to the singing army (l. 26) we read, “The prisoners chaines are by [God’s] hands undone” (78, l. 14), evoking the image of slaves freed from bondage. This detail is followed by a description of the Israelites’ journey in Exodus: O god when thou in desert did’st appeare, what time thy folk that uncouth jorney tooke: heav’n at the sight did sweat with melting feare, earth bow’d hir trembling knee, mount Sinay shook. (78, ll. 17–20)

The reference to the prisoners’ chains, the desert, a journey, and Mount Sinai all connote Moses’ journey with the freed Hebrew slaves—a journey marked by Miriam’s performance. There are allusions to a journey in the drafted version of Psalm 68 (Waller, Triumph 119, l. 22), and to Mt. Sinai (Waller, Triumph 119, l. 24), but there are no references to chained prisoners, or the desert. 40 The Geneva version of this passage does make evident the sex of those at home: “She that remained in the house, devided the spoile” (Psalm 68:12).

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


Such references to Exodus do not occur in the biblical psalm. A gloss of verse 22 in the Geneva Bible does refer to the Red Sea (248). In her final version of Psalm 68, however, Sidney literally moves Miriam from the glossed margins of the Geneva psalm into the midst of the poem. Sidney does not merely reference Miriam’s character; she assumes that character. Her description of the women’s refrain as “this tryumphant song” (78, l. 25, emphasis mine) suggests the psalmist has promoted herself from one of the house-bound maids to the very woman leading the poetic fleet. The “battaile maides” reappear toward the close of the poem, timbrels in hand (80, l. 67).41 In another drafted psalm, the Manuscript B version of Psalm 62, Mary Sidney again assumes Miriam’s posture, as well as the language framing her story. Sidney’s draft of Psalm 62 begins, “Yet shall my soul not grutch” (Waller, Triumph 113, l. 1), a sentiment which is repeated in the poem (l. 19). The word “grutch” (grudge) is a marker of complaint, the same action attributed to Miriam in the Geneva Bible’s summary of events in Numbers 12: “Miriam and Aaron grudge against Moses” (Geneva 67). Furthermore, the Geneva Bible glosses the description of Moses’ meekness (v. 3) with the explanation, “And so bare with their grudgings, ֵ although he knewe them” (67, emphasis mine). The biblical Hebrew reads ‫ש ה‬ ֶ ‫וַ ְֺת ַדֵבֺ ר מ ריָם וְ ַא ֲה רֺ׀ ְֺב מ‬ ֺ spoke (watĕdabēr miryām wĕ ahărōn bĕmōšeh), literally, “And Miriam and Aaron against Moses”—‫( וְַֺת ַדֵב ר‬watĕdabēr) meaning “spoke” and ‫ב‬ ְֺ (bĕ) the preposition ֺ preceding Moses’ name meaning “against.”42 Nonetheless, “grudge” is a fitting description of their activities. The OED defines grudge as “murmur, murmuring, grumbling; discontent, dissatisfaction; reluctance, unwillingness” particularly against a person (6: 901). Sidney’s psalm begins with her directing herself not to grudge—not to do that which warrants punishment. The first stanza of the psalm in Manuscript B1 reads as if it were a dramatic monologue written for Moses’ sister: c

Yet shall my soul not grutch, but silently Waiting on God his gracious will attend His will wheron my health and help depend For He my rock, my saftys Treasury He is my mount, his strength even to the end Though sore I shake from fall shall me defend. (Waller, Triumph 113, ll. 1–6)


The women reappear in the Geneva version as well : “The singers went before, the plaiers of instruments after: in the middes were the maides playing with timbrels” (Psalm 68:25). 42 As a preposition, ֺ‫( ְב‬bĕ) has numerous meanings, most commonly used to express position in a place. However, it is also used with words to express or imply an act of hostility as in “against” or “down upon.” See Francis Brown et al., pp. 88–9.

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Sidney uses the Hebrew Bible’s metaphor of God as a rock (verse 2),43 and the Geneva Bible’s emphasis on God as strength (v. 2),44 and embellishes on the penitent’s condition. Though the psalmist instructs her soul not to speak against God, we discover potential causes for complaint, nonetheless. We learn the speaker awaits God’s gracious will, implying the speaker is currently out of grace. We are told her health depends upon him. The speaker further describes her condition as “sore” (l. 6), adapting biblical language such as that used in the discussion of leprosy in Leviticus 13. Moreover, the soreness experienced by the penitent is the result of a “fall” (l. 6), presumably the fall which led to the penitent’s attendance upon God’s good will. In light of Miriam’s history, we cannot help but note the speaker’s admonition to keep silent, though an emphasis on silence does appear in the biblical poem in both the Hebrew and early modern vernacular texts. The Hebrew psalm begins, “My soul waits in silence only for God” (Psalm 62:1). The word connoting silence here, ‫( דומ ָיה‬dûmiyāh), generally means to grow silent, or still. Definitions also include aֺ silence that comes from being astounded, resulting from amazement or fear. The Hebrew word occasionally means to perish, or to be caused to perish. When applied to souls, as it is in Psalm 62, it connotes composure (Brown et al, 198, 199). In other words, the “silent soul” of the Hebrew psalm does not necessarily indicate a “speaking” soul, much less a grudging one. This is less true of the first verse of the Geneva version of Psalm 62: “Yet my soule kepeth silence unto God.” In the Geneva version, the soul’s temptation to speak against God is suggested by the gloss “Though Satan tempted him to murmure against God, yet he bridled his affections and resting upon Gods armes beareth his crosse patiently” (Geneva 247, emphasis mine). In Mary Sidney’s draft of this psalm these notions of speech and silence are brought to the fore. Her inclination to grudge is reminiscent of Miriam’s activities, and her self-addressed direction to keep silent reminiscent of the directives bestowed upon her sex. While the biblical psalmist proceeds to a verbal attack on an apparent enemy sure “to be demolished like a leaning wall” (v. 3), Sidney’s speaker instead continues with her self-critique, as if she were her own chief adversary: “How long will you vain attempts contend / To pull him down whom God hath raysed high” (Waller, Triumph 113, ll. 7, 8). Sidney’s speaker addresses “vain attempts;” we may be inclined to think them others’ attempts, but Sidney has not yet introduced any “other” into the poem. The biblical psalms rely on the pronoun “they” to connote transgressors (Geneva, v. 4), but the speaker of Sidney’s psalm is not given this subject. Instead, the psalmist appears to address the parts of herself requiring instruction: her grudging soul and grudging deeds. Curious, too, is the recognition that the vain attempts were made in an effort to pull down one whom God raised; that is precisely how God perceived Miriam’s activities in Numbers 12. 43 The Hebrew Bible reads, “He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress” (Psalm 62:2). 44 The Geneva Bible reads, “Yet he is my strength and my salvation, and my defence, therefore I shal not muche be moved” (Psalm 62:2).

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


In the biblical version of this psalm, the psalmist assumes the role of God’s chosen and appears to be hunted (or cast down) by the transgressors.45 Sidney removes that possibility in her draft. We cannot regard Sidney’s psalmist as he “whom God hath raysed high” because she establishes the speaker as one awaiting God’s gracious will, not one presently enjoying it (l. 2). We might wonder if the speaker’s fall isn’t a result of her inclination to grudge; recall the “Homily against disobedience” in which we are told “how highly GOD is displeased with the murmurings and evill speaking of subjects” (“Homily” 299). Sidney’s fallen speaker in Psalm 62 is unlike the biblical psalmist, and this new character and scenario provoke questions: Who is the grudging, sore, out-of-favor poet? What man has endured others’ attempts to “pull him down?” Who is responsible for those attempts? Line 9 of the draft provides a clue. The transgressor is someone who envies another and suffers for it: “You envy him, and envy makes you dy” (Waller, Triumph 113). Miriam’s character fits this profile.46 Line 14 of Sidney’s draft introduces a separate oppressor into the poem: “They see I do to Excellency ascend / And therefore thus my ruin still entend” (Waller, Triumph 113, ll. 14, 15). Though the speaker’s claim of ascension seems incongruous with the opening lines of the piece, even here a sense of Miriam prevails; it was Miriam’s determined “ascent to excellency” which led to her fall. The likeness of the speaker’s situation to Miriam’s is even more apparent in another rejected version of these lines reworded in MS B: “Sure that I faln may not again ascend / To tread me lower yet they do attend” [Waller, Triumph 114].)47 Here the speaker is presented as one who has fallen but hopes to rise again, a hope Miriam presumably entertained. Much of the remainder of Sidney’s early version of Psalm 62 follows the biblical psalm’s emphasis on trusting God in times of adversity, and avoiding vanity. But even such standard themes as these take on a haunting quality within Sidney’s Miriam-like pose. Whereas the Geneva Bible’s Psalm 62 instructs men to “be not vain,” (v. 10), Sidney warns, “Look in good ground your confidence you sow” (Waller Triumph 114, l. 38). Sidney’s speaker does not wholly dismiss vanity as does the biblical psalmist,48 but qualifies its use with caution. Immediately following this warning is the final Miriam-like posture exhibited in this draft. It is also the most unusual. Sidney employs a metaphor in which the need for care 45

The Geneva text reads, “How long wil ye imagine mischief against a man? ye shalbe all slaine: ye shalbe as a bowed wall, or as a wall shaken” (Psalm 62:3). 46 Some biblical scholars do argue that Miriam died from her leprosy because instructions for the cleansing of lepers and the cleansing of the dead immediately precede mention of the prophetess’s death in Numbers 19. See Phyllis Trible, “Bringing Miriam out of the Shadows,” Bible Review (February, 1989), p. 23. 47 These lines are recorded in earlier versions of Manuscript B, both expunged. See Waller, Triumph, p. 114. 48 This “dismissal” is more evident in the Geneva version: “Yet the children of men are vanitie, the chief men are lies: to lay them upon a balance they are altogether lighter than vanitie” (Psalm 62:9).

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in the choice of faith is likened to the need for care in a man’s choice of wife: “Be skilfull husbands, chuse your seed aright” (Waller Triumph 114, l. 39). This metaphor cannot point to either the Hebrew or English biblical psalm as its source. It does, however, point to the thoughts of a judgmental sister, for it was Moses’ lack of skill in his choice of a wife that provoked Miriam’s grumblings: “Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the woman of Ethiopia whome he had married (for he had married a woman of Ethiopia)” (Geneva, Numbers 12:1, emphasis mine).49 Sidney’s psalmist does not “speak against” an actual wife, but in exposing targets of complaint, the speaker assumes a manner and language similar to the first prophetess. In what is recognized as the final version of Psalm 62, Sidney edits these markers of Miriam to such a great extent that it is difficult to imagine the Manuscript B version a draft of that poem. Sidney drops her suggestions of grudging and, in true biblical spirit, laments the success of her enemy (ll. 5, 6). She also eliminates the sore shaking, fallen grace, and importance of a husband’s choice of wife. These changes do not, however, diminish Miriam’s significance for the psalm. While Miriam is less apparent in the final version of Psalm 62, the poet uses her tale as a way to approach the sentiment and circumstance of the biblical poem. Adopting Renaissance reading practices, Sidney glosses Miriam’s history in her reading of this psalm and others. As William H. Sherman explains, “Extensive crossreferencing, both within the volume and to other volumes, is almost always in evidence in scholarly readings” (71).50 One might be tempted to consider Sidney’s enterprise more spiritual than scholarly, but that inclination fades with recognition of the demands of translation,51 and poetic virtuosity.52 In her psalms, Sidney’s cross-references sometimes rival the original biblical subject (as in Psalm 51), and are sometimes relegated to the margins of the work or rejected drafts. Sidney’s inclination is in keeping with Bible reading practices of her time which encouraged readers to understand one biblical episode in terms of another. In 1594, Edward Vaughan instructed Bible readers, “How to read, and in reading, how to understand; and in understanding, how to bear in mind all the bookes, chapters, and verses contained in the holie Bible” (Sherman 61). Sherman references Vaughan’s text to illustrate the early modern championing of the commonplace book, the keeping of which was designed to assist readers in cultivating a ready supply of useful 49

The Hebrew Bible describes Moses wife as a “Kushite woman” (Numbers 12:1). Sherman references the work of Anthony Grafton, “Renaissance Readers and Ancient Texts: Comments on Some Commentaries” in Renaissance Quarterly 38:4 (1985), pp. 615–49. 51 In addition to a possible reliance on the Hebrew Psalms, both Mary and Philip Sidney relied on the French psalter written by Clement Marot and Théodore Béza. See Gary F. Waller, Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke: A Critical Study of Her Writings and Literary Milieu (Salzburg, 1979), p. 159. 52 Mary Sidney’s 107 psalms reveal her a virtuoso of poetic form. Waller identifies 164 stanzaic patterns and 94 metrical patterns in Mary Sidney’s contributions. See Waller, Critical Study, p. 150. 50


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

phrases and ideas (61). It also served to allow readers to make discoveries betwixt and between texts, or between sections within a text, applying the wisdom of one towards an inspired reading of another (61). This is Sidney’s practice. Miriam’s Lessons and Sidney’s Self-Presentation As the “most significant text in the [English] language” (Greenblatt 97), the Bible served a purpose beyond illumination of its own scriptural passages. It was a guide for living and faith showing followers “what to do and what to hope” (Tyndale’s Old Testament 7). In his “Prologue Showing the Use of the Scripture,” Tyndale directs his Protestant readers to pay particular attention to the experiences of biblical characters because “such things happened them for our example” (8). Tyndale removes the distance between characters and readers, cautioning that the characters’ fates will be our own: for according to those examples shall it go with thee and all men until the world’s end. So that into whatsoever case or state a man may be brought, according to whatsoever example of the bible it be, his end shall be according as he there seeth and readeth. (11)

Tyndale poses a potentially terrifying threat, particularly for a female poet confronted with the history of Miriam. Recognizing the early modern regard of biblical tales as genuine living histories brings with it the appreciation of the Bible’s effect on early modern behavior. I believe the choices Sidney makes in her self-presentation as the often humble sister of an incomparable brother are influenced by Miriam’s narrative. Beyond her translation activities, we witness Sidney in her prefatory poems imitate Miriam’s admired behavior, while selfconsciously avoiding the outright assertion of authority (poetic or otherwise) for which Miriam is blamed. Like all readers of the Bible, Sidney recognizes the prominence of Miriam’s character in Exodus 15. Here, Miriam is a prophetess, a singer of divine song, a poet commemorating God’s victory over the Egyptians at the Red Sea. Sidney assumes a similar role by engaging in the Sidney psalm project. Her effort to depict herself as a holy poet is evidenced by the portrait in which she poses with a copy of “Davids Psalmes” open before her. (See Figure 1.1.). Though David’s psalms may not appear an immediate reference to Miriam, Miriam is prominent in psalm history. She and her brother are the first singers of divine song in the Bible, a fact noted in early modern commentary (Downame, Exodus, 15:1). Modern biblical scholars have actually dubbed Miriam “the Israelites’ first psalmist” (Phipps 38) based on Miriam’s command at the start of her verse: “Sing to the Lord” (Exodus 15:21, emphasis mine); Moses declares at the start of his song, “I will sing to the Lord” (Exodus 15:1, emphases mine), as if in response to an imperative (Dennis 110). Athalya Brenner argues that the song was originally recognized as Miriam’s but was gradually attributed to her brother “thus making Moses the author and

“Should she not be ashamed?”

Fig. 1.1


Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke by Simon van de Passe; published by John Sudbury. © National Portrait Gallery, London.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Miriam his female echo” (Israelite Women 52). Similarly, Trevor Dennis reasons, “Miriam was the composer of the larger song, but a later hand has ascribed it to her brother” (110). Though no early modern reader of Exodus seeks to displace Moses’ contribution to the Red Sea psalm, Miriam’s voice is recognized in seventeenthcentury readings as more than an echo of her brother’s: “some think ... the words of the first verse repeated by Miriam, or (being a Prophetesse) she might sing another songe like unto it” (Downame, Exodus 15:21). Mary Sidney’s psalms align her with Miriam. In his Defense of Poesie, Philip Sidney defines a poet as “diviner, foreseer, or prophet” (5). Unlike her biblical ancestress, however, Mary Sidney does not demonstrate a hubristic temper in her songs and, in fact, seems to minimize her significance. And yet such modesty is not necessarily in keeping with Sidney as others depict her. The editors of The Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke question Sidney’s show of humility and rather suggest that her niece Mary Wroth had her famous aunt in mind when crafting an egoist in the Urania as “her who knew when she did well, and would be unwilling to lose the due unto herself” (Hannay et al. 19). If Sidney’s modesty is affected it draws even greater attention to itself as the pose selected to accompany the psalms. And this selection is, I believe, a lesson learned by the unfortunate episodes in Miriam’s history. Where Miriam asserts her equality with her brother, Mary Sidney denies hers. While Miriam boasts her abilities, Sidney strikes us as alarmingly modest. This may seem an unnatural stance for Sidney but it is one urged by the biblical example of the first female poet. So far is Mary Sidney from any show of pride that she often removes herself from view altogether. In fact, many of the surviving Sidney Psalm manuscripts bear only Philip Sidney’s name on the title page. Before one reaches the psalms in Mary Sidney’s volume, a reader is confronted with profuse praise of Philip. Mary Sidney does not specifically announce her own talents; instead, she asserts that Philip’s abilities are superior to her own. Mary cannot be Philip’s equal, for he is “matchlesse” (l. 24); far from alleging her power, she requests “Pardone” of her “presumption too too bold” (l. 26). Mary Sidney’s praise of her brother borders on improper. Claiming the psalm translations “hath no further scope to goe / nor other purpose but to honor thee” (ll. 30, 31), Philip Sidney is transformed into God himself, since a psalm is a song sung in religious worship (OED XII: 736). Mary Sidney petitions her brother as the psalmist would her Lord: “Receive theise Hymnes, theise obsequies receive” (l. 87). The zeal with which Mary Sidney promotes her brother is arguably the result of numerous agendas, including a genuine affection and a genuine desire to enhance her own literary reputation. And yet, when Sidney’s diligence in celebrating her brother is considered alongside Miriam’s history, the biblical tale effects understanding. Miriam’s tale is particularly conspicuous because, as the Bible and Anglican priests repeatedly inform their audiences, Miriam makes mistakes. In her prefatory works, Mary Sidney adopts a self-conscious posture that reflects the complicated performance of the psalmist. The nature of psalms generally requires a penitent speaker to confess sin in order to obtain grace. The psalmist confronts a devastating and divine authority and is tasked, essentially,

“Should she not be ashamed?”


with persuading that authority to recognize the speaker’s own. The psalmist begins from a position of weakness. He is an outcast—alienated from God, his people, or both—and crafts an identity from the tension that springs from this confrontation. Sidney’s psalms, including those containing references to Miriam, exhibit this brand of negotiation. In Psalm 51, the metaphor of the leper enhances the alienation of the speaker from her community and from the authoritative figure of God. The speaker’s distance from God is evident in such verses as “ah! cast me not from thee: take not againe / thie breathing grace” (51, ll. 33, 34). It is also clear, however, that the very leprosy that distances the psalmist from others also unites her with the higher authority. The speaker urges, “Then as thie self to leapers hast assign’d, / with Hisop, lord, thie Hisop, purge me soe” (51, ll. 22, 23). The speaker astutely notes God’s history of healing lepers, thereby closing the gap between the most authoritative figure and she who is alienated. The union between God and speaker does not occur in spite of their distance, but because of it; the relationship produced relies on both the speaker’s alienating disease and God’s history of recovering the disabled. Sidney’s Psalm 106 demonstrates the ironic posture of an identity crafted upon redemption. Throughout the piece the speaker of the psalm aligns herself with rebellious sinners but ultimately asserts her surety of God’s salvation and the power of her voice: Goe on ô god, as them, soe us to save: Rally thy troopes that widly scattred be, that their due thankes, thy holynesse may have; their glorious praise, thy heav’nly powr may see. ô god, of Izrael our god, our lord, eternall thankes be to eternall thee: lett all the Earth with praise approve my word. (169, 170, ll. 113–19)

The psalmist’s authoritative voice permeates the world. Her voice is one expressing “due thankes” (l. 115), a gratitude based on God’s aid provided in spite of the rebellious (l. 21), envious (l. 42), shameful (l. 52), murderous (l. 96), filthy (l. 97) behavior of the speaker, her people, and her ancestors. By featuring this history, the psalmist makes her thanksgiving dependent upon her sinful past; her identity as the redeemed spokesperson always contains signs of her treason, signs of subversion. The paradox of this position is described as the speaker’s “double heart” (Psalm 12:22.).53 According to Hill, the inconsistency demonstrated within the Psalms made the texts attractive to a society in transition (341).54


The Geneva reference reads: “They speake deceitfully everie one with his neighbor, flattering with their lippes, and speak with a double heart” (Psalm 12:2). 54 Hill’s study shows that the Geneva psalter (1559–1562) went through almost 300 editions before 1650. See Hill, p. 355. Zim identifies more than 90 psalm translations between 1530 and 1601. See Zim, p. 57.

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


Mary Sidney preserves, and often expands upon, these sorts of anxious contradictions. For example, in Psalm 106, the disappointment Sidney’s speaker feels toward God-the-father is clear, but we cannot deny the psalmist’s urgency to unite with her holy father: “Come lord, ô come with speed” (95, l. 13). Sidney’s speaker in Psalm 51 moves quickly from confessing her “faultie filthines” (50, l. 9) to asserting her ability to spread God’s teachings.55 Another obvious inconsistency in Sidney’s psalms is evident in assertions of guilt along with a justification of that guilt. A sense of shame pervades Sidney’s Psalm 51 in references to “sinnfull mee” (49, l. 4) and the speaker’s “fowle iniquitie” (49, l. 5), but we also see justification for that characterization when the speaker attributes her guilt to original sin: “My Mother, loe! when I began to be, / conceaving me, with me did sinne conceave” (50, ll. 15, 16). The speaker does take some responsibility for her weaknesses, but quickly assigns fault elsewhere. In the Psalms Mary Sidney’s skills as a poet function alongside her ability to assume the role of pious Protestant. But as Hannay argues in “House-confinéd maids,” Sidney is a Protestant poet with a difference. Her voice is distinctly feminine; Sidney’s psalmist is “never given a male gender” (Hannay, “’Houseconfined maids’” 50). She undermines the traditionally masculine posture of the psalmist by adopting a more feminine pose. Though critics such as Bennett and Trill object to the tendency to read Sidney’s work as a “distinctly feminine experience” (Bennett 58) for fear of diminishing the effect of the literary achievement of the psalms, it is clear that in poems such as Psalm 104 Sidney does emphasize a common female understanding.56 The Geneva version of this psalm contains the verse, “He causeth grasse to growe for the cattle, and herbe for the use of man, that he maie bring forthe bread out of the earth” (Psalm 104:14). While God does the creating at the start of the verse, that power is handed to man, who becomes responsible for a kind of “birth”—his labor produces bread. Sidney’s pen removes man from that scope, and he is transformed from one who creates into one who simply “hopes”: Earthe greate with yong, hir longing doth not lose, the hopefull ploughman hopeth not in vayne. the vulgar grasse, whereof the best in faine, the rarer hearbman for him self hath chose: all things in breef, that life in life maintaine, from Earths old bowells fresh and yongly growes. (159, ll. 43–8)


This assertion is even more bold in the biblical poem: “Then shal I teach thy waies unto the wicked and sinners shalbe converted unto thee” (Geneva, Psalm 51:13). 56 Hannay effectively argues the emphasis on women’s roles and the female voice in the Sidney psalms in “’House-confinéd maids’: The Presentation of Woman’s Role in the Psalmes of the Countess of Pembroke,” in ELR 24.1 (1994), pp. 44–71.

“Should she not be ashamed?”


Unlike the Geneva psalm in which man is responsible for cultivating the earth, Sidney’s version presents earth as the pregnant mother from whom all life springs. Both man and beast are consumers of the mother’s goods, but they do not contribute to production. That role is exclusively the right of she in whom things “fresh and yongly growe” (l. 48). This psalm fashions the creator and provider as a distinctly feminine force. By depicting herself as female poet embarking on her brother’s enterprise, Sidney runs the risk of overstepping those narrow bounds in which early modern women were confined. Sidney’s social prominence added to her risk. As Wendy Wall explains, “The female writer could become a ‘fallen’ woman in a double sense: branded as a harlot or a member of the non elite” (281). But Miriam can aid Sidney here, for her biblical history makes it clear what Sidney must not do: announce her ability and dispute the authority of a brother. Early modern requirements for female modesty force Sidney into delicate negotiations further mirroring the activities of the psalmist. Sidney must appear to possess the “especial virtues”57 lacking in Miriam’s character. She must stake claim to her authority as a poet and as a Sidney; still, that claim must be made under the guise of modesty. Sidney’s situation prevents her from boldly identifying herself an authority. Female discourse marked potential chaos, as the history of Lady Eleanor Davies demonstrates. For 27 years Davies unabashedly voiced her prophecies (claiming the divine assistance of the prophet Daniel), and was repeatedly imprisoned and confined to Bedlam as a madwoman (Davies 15). For the woman of voice bent on functioning within the early modern social order, the seeming acceptance of that order is necessary, though her purpose may ultimately disarm and disrupt cultural directives. In Mary Sidney’s prefatory poems we witness the same kind of wrangling in which the speaker of the psalms is engaged. The psalmist generally enters the scene as an outcast who craves acceptance; this speaker ultimately achieves some degree of authority (such as the speaker’s entitlement to divine love and selection, or the power to cast down his enemies) before the poem’s final verse. Sidney’s negotiation of herself as both outsider and authority is nowhere more evident than in the dedicatory poems to Philip and Elizabeth preceding the psalms. Sidney constructs herself within these verses as the devoted sister and modest participant in Sir Philip’s psalm translation. Consideration of both the constraints placed upon the female voice, and the requirements of female modesty complicate her appearance of humility. In the poem “To the Angell spirit of the most excellent Sir Philip Sidney,” Sidney’s self-presentation depends upon a complex presentation of her brother. He must maintain his authority in order to bestow authority on her, but he must ultimately surrender that position to his sister. Thus, Sidney depicts herself and her brother as both outcast and as authority though at different moments within the poem. 57 I refer here to Richard Greene’s 1587 text on “faeminine perfection” in which he identifies the “three especial virtues” intrinsic to women of quality: chastity, silence and obedience. See Richard Greene, Penelope’s Web (London, 1587), p. i.

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


Mary Sidney begins this dedicatory poem by asserting her brother’s authority and divine privilege. The psalms were “First rais’de by thy blest hand” (Herbert I:110, l. 3).58 He achieves authority as the initial author of this project, and his power presides over the works contained within the volume. But Philip Sidney must relinquish his authority in order for Mary Sidney to obtain her own. It is that transfer of power which recreates the male Sidney as the outcast figure. Mary Sidney tells her readers that she was inspired by her brother to continue his work, (his “secrett power” has been “imprest” upon her [110, l. 4]); as she does this Philip Sidney begins to evolve into something other-worldy, godly. Mary Sidney’s identification of herself as “mortall stuffe” is a show of modesty in light of her divine description of her brother; it also makes her familiar. She is as her readers are, with one exception: she retains the privileged impression of Sir Philip Sidney’s influence. He becomes an alien other, who generates “lightning beames” (110, l. 7).59 Mary Sidney calls our attention to the notion of transformation in the second stanza of her poem: “That heavens King may daigne his owne transform’d / in substance no, but superficial tire / by thee put on” (110, ll. 8, 9). She refers specifically to King David’s Psalms transformed into English by the Sidneys, and names Philip in association with this change. The idea of transformation, introduced so early in the poem, is an effective background to this piece because the poem is, essentially, a tribute to transformation: King David’s Psalms transformed into English, Philip Sidney transformed into a divine being, and Mary Sidney transformed into the empowered Sister of he who is “most excellent.” Philip’s divinity is erected on the unfortunate circumstance of his death, the ultimate transformation. Mary Sidney uses death to connote her brother’s separateness. Her elaborate mourning of he who was “brought to rest / too soone” (110, ll. 15, 16) is a vehicle to promote her brother’s worth, but it also results in a distancing of Philip Sidney from his audience, and from the early modern world. His distance is punctuated in his sister’s lamentations: “Yet, here behold, (oh wert thou to behold!)” (110, l. 23). Philip Sidney begins to appear almost unnatural, “exceeding Natures store” (111, l. 37). His sister does not allow her audience to forget the divide separating him from his mortal admirers:


All dedicatory poem excerpts are taken from The Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. The texts of “Angell Spirit” and “Even now that Care” are those from the Tixall MS. See The Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, vol. 1, pp. 102–4, 110–112. 59 Sidney’s depiction of her brother here is more divine than Donne’s depiction of Moses. Donne preaches that “Moses was in meeknesse … yet this man would not bee vera lux, tota lux, true light, all light. … Every man is so far from beeing tota lux, all light, so that he hath still within him, a darke vapor of originall sinne.” See John Donne, The Sermons of John Donne, Evelyn Simpson and George R. Potter, eds. (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1958), vol. 3, p. 355.

“Should she not be ashamed?”


Thy Angells soule with highest Angells place’t There blessed sings enjoying heav’n=delights thy Maker’s praise: as farr from earthly tast as here thy workes so worthilie embrac’t By all of worth, where never Envie bites. (111, ll. 59–63)

While the poet depicts Philip in the company of angels, far from earthly elements and cares, she also moves to depict herself as among those people “of worth” (l. 65) who embrace her brother’s work (111, l. 63). Her embrace is evident, not only in the poem, but in the larger world of editing and authorizing her brother’s texts.60 This moment of self-lauding is no sooner said than hushed, and in a fashion extremely telling in light of Mary Sidney’s Old Testament namesake. In line 63 we are distinctly told that envy is absent from this sister’s praise; thus, an early modern Miriam learns from biblical example. The more blessed and unearthly Philip Sidney appears, the more Mary Sidney presents herself as one tied to her accessibly mortal condition, characterized by a “hart / dissolv’d to Inke” (112, ll. 78, 79, emphasis mine), and “bleeding veines of never dying love” (l. 82, emphasis mine). And yet, within her performance of humility Mary Sidney arises, another Phoenix from her brother’s ashes.61 She aligns herself with integrity: “Truth I invoke … / Truth, sacred truth” (111, ll. 51, 52). She declares that Philip’s “rare workes” (112, l. 68) are his own “Immortal Monuments” of fame, but in the next moment proffers the psalms as markers of herself, her love, and her worth. The psalms, initially described as Philip Sidney’s praise of God and language (l. 10), become “these offerings of my hart” (112, l. 78, emphasis mine). In the poem’s final stanza, Mary Sidney presents the psalms as her gift to her brother (”Receive theise Hymnes, theise obsequies receive” [112, l. 85]), and not her brother’s gift to the English Language, or to his Lord. The psalms become, in a very direct sense, her own. Initially marked as evidence of Philip Sidney’s grace, the psalms bestow the same prestige on his sister. In the final moments of her dedicatory address, Mary Sidney at once confirms her brother as alienated from his audience, while moving herself into the position of Sidney authority: … Deare Soule, I take my leave; Sorrowe still strives, would mount thy highest sphere presuming so just cause might meet thee there, Oh happie chaunge! could I so take my leave. By the Sister of that Incomparable Sidney (112, ll. 88–91) 60

Sidney authorized the 1593 edition of Arcadia, and apparently made changes to her brother’s work. For a brief publication history of Arcadia, see Hannay, Philip’s Phoenix, pp. 70–77. 61 I refer here, of course, to the title of Hannay’s excellent biography, Philip’s Phoenix, and to the reference in Sidney’s dedicatory poem “To the Angell spirit,” in which the poet refers to her brother as “Phoenix” (l. 39).


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Sidney emphasizes her brother’s inaccessibility and his inability to continue his incomparable service. In other words, Sidney disaffects her brother, and by so doing affirms her own presence; she would leave this world but she cannot. Her “forced commitment” makes her a reluctant authority, perhaps, but an authority nonetheless. She is the inheritor of Philip Sidney’s legacy, and if that assertion is subtle in her dedicatory address, it is less so in her signature to it. Mary Sidney’s announcement that the psalms were completed for her brother is undermined by another dedicatory poem in which Elizabeth I is the named recipient of the volume.62 The posture Sidney must assume in addressing the Queen is similar to that of the psalmist since neither speaker can proclaim authority over their potent audiences. In “Even now that Care” the gender of the audience is not the alienating factor, although Elizabeth was known occasionally to depict herself as masculine.63 Instead, Sidney is a penitent in relation to Elizabeth I because she is the Queen’s servant, and subject to her power. As poet, Sidney humbly hopes her work “shall acceptance finde” (102, l. 10), and presents herself as one voice speaking for two (“I the Cloth in both our names present” (103, l. 33]). Conventional modesty appears to dominate Sidney’s display in the manner in which she humbles herself in comparison to her co-author and in her hesitancy to approach the Queen. This modesty, however, does not prevent Sidney from ultimately instructing the Queen to “doo What men may sing” (104, l. 96). As Bennett observes, Sidney’s dedicatory messages are implicitly political and “urge the monarch to continue to champion the Protestant cause” (37). Sidney’s methods of self-assertion in this poem are very similar to those employed in her dedication to her brother. At the start of the piece, Elizabeth is distinguished by her authority and the tremendous cares that attend her reign. Sidney is not associated with this authority; she is an intruder, hesitant to burden the Queen “in these most active times” (102, l. 8). Yet, through her crafted praise of Elizabeth, Sidney outlines the necessity of the poet. After apologizing for her intrusion upon the Queen by presenting the volume, Sidney justifies the act: Yet dare I so, as humblenes may dare cherish some hope they shall acceptance finde; not waighing less thy state, lighter thy Care, but knowing more thy grace, abler thy minde. What heav’nly powrs thee highest throne assign’de, assign’d thee goodnes suting that Degree: and by thy strength thy burthen so defin’de, To others toile, is Exercise to thee. (102, ll. 9–16) 62 Both dedicatory poems appear in the manuscript owned by Dr. B.E. Juel-Jensen. See Hannay, “Mary Sidney and the Sidney Legend” in Sir Philip Sidney’s Achievements (New York, 1990), p. 221. 63 I refer most notably to Elizabeth’s declaration, “I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I heart and stomach of a king.” For a discussion of the effect of gender, power and Elizabeth I’s reign, see Carole Levin, The Heart and Stomach of a King (Philadelphia, 1994), pp. 121–48.

“Should she not be ashamed?”


Sidney confirms the Queen’s virtuous right to the throne and cleverly depicts Elizabeth’s acceptance of the Sidney psalms as evidence of that right. The Queen’s graceful and able mind—manifestations of God’s selection—are the very distinctions that compel both Sidney to deliver the psalms and Elizabeth to accept them. While psalm study may be work for some, for a divinely appointed personage such as the Queen, they are merely the exercise necessary for one whose “greatnes dayly growes” (102, l. 2). After promoting the Queen’s acceptance of her poetry, Sidney begins to reinvent Elizabeth as a poetic figure: “Thy brest the Cabinet, thy seat the shrine / where Muses hang their vowed memories” (103, ll. 45, 46). The description here compliments both subject and author. An Elizabethan cabinet is “a case for the safe custody of jewels, or other valuables” (OED II: 748). It seems a particularly appropriate place for psalms since early modern definitions of cabinet also include “tabernacle” (748), a kind of portable sanctuary in which the Israelites contained the Ark of the Covenant. As a tabernacle-like cabinet, Elizabeth is a holy vessel, but of greater holiness are the elements contained within her. It becomes Elizabeth’s obligation to protect these elements since she is the place “Where Wit, where Art, where all that is divine / conceived best, and best defended lies” (103, ll. 47, 48). In this stanza, poetry depends upon Elizabeth for devotion, protection, and endorsement. Sidney defines Elizabeth both personally and professionally by her connection to poetry, thereby substantiating the art and those responsible for it. Sidney assumes the position of the poet, though it is a shared position belonging to herself and her brother. The writers, “Once in two, now in one Subject goe” (102, l. 21), are both dressed in modesty: “the stuffe not ours, our worke no curious thing” (l. 28). Such modesty is deemed admirable in both men and women. And it is, interestingly, Miriam’s privileged brother who is often used to illustrate the value of meekness in men. Daniel Cawdrey comments on the attractiveness of Moses’ humility: “When hee is found, hee sometimes denies with disparagement of him selfe, as Moses, sent by him … O my Lord, I am not eloquent, I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (24, 25).64 While Mary depicts herself and Philip Sidney as humble, she surpasses her brother in modesty, as she must. Philip, the poet writes, “Who better might (O might ah word of woe,) / have giv’n for mee what I for him defraye” (102, ll. 23, 24). Here Mary Sidney claims she is unable to do justice to her brother or his skill: “How can I name whom sighing sighes extend?” (102, l. 25). She punishes herself with the knowledge that he would not have been so silent on her behalf. Like Miriam, she is a sister who does not speak as she ought of her brother, or at any rate, speaks notably less well of him than he does of her. Miriam speaks against Moses (12:1), though Moses effectively speaks to God for her (12:13). And yet, though Mary Sidney respectfully attributes the success of the collection to her brother, her own involvement is clear: “I weav’d this webb to end” (102, l. 27, emphasis mine): “I … present” (103, l.33, emphases mine). Sidney describes the work as “Postes of Dutie and Goodwill” (102, l.19) which are owed to her majesty (l. 20). Hence, Mary Sidney’s presentation of the 64 Donne also elaborates on Moses’ meekness and lack of speech calling it “rare modesty.” See Donne, Sermons, vol. 8, p. 152.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

psalms becomes a marker not only of the Queen’s worth, but also of her own worth as a virtuous member of the commonwealth and as a poet. In this way, she evolves from the outsider reluctant to intrude upon the Queen into the authority able to instruct her in the poem’s final lines (l. 96). Sidney obtains authority through the humble pose she adopts—a position inspired by Miriam’s history. Like Donne, I regard Sidney as a Renaissance Miriam. More important are the indications that Sidney regarded the significance of Miriam’s experiences, and recognized the potential of Miriam’s history to shape her own. Though Sidney does not name Miriam in a dedication, her psalms are arguably as inspired by the first prophetess as they are by either King David, Philip Sidney, or England’s Queen. In Exodus, Miriam instructs her brother and company to “Sing unto the Lord,” and she instructs all readers of Exodus to do so as well. In her story lies women’s authorization to engage in such enterprises. We see Miriam’s influence on women throughout the Bible as they engage in song, singing divine praise. Hannah (I Samuel 1, 2), Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11:29–40), and Deborah (Judges 4, 5) are just a few of the women who follow her example. Sidney’s psalms and dedicatory poems document an appreciation of the negotiating that must occur between those in possession of authority and those in quest of it. Mary Sidney’s poems depict a speaker assuming authority, though she does so through the back door—that is, through the position of an outsider, one not given to public voice. This outcast presence is predetermined for Sidney as a female and as a poet because she must submit to others’ linguistic authority before she may assert her own. It becomes her responsibility to manipulate her submissive posture for one that is more commanding. As Miriam paved the way for the voices of other biblical women, so Sidney influences and inspires early modern female voices. In a dedicatory poem preceding “Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum,” Lanyer champions Sidney noting, “a Sister well shee may be deemd, / … / And farre before him is to be esteemd” (28, “The Authors Dreame to the Ladie Marie, the Countesse Dowager of Pembrooke,” ll. 149–52). Lanyer emulates Sidney and humbly presents her volume to the Countesse: And though that learned damsell and the rest, Have in a higher style her Trophie fram’d Yet these unlearned lines beeing my best, Of her great wisedom can no whit be blamed. (30–31, ll. 201–4)

Like Sidney, Lanyer has chosen a divine subject, Christ’s passion, and presents her volume under the guise of modesty. Also like Sidney, Lanyer’s pose is countered by her own quest for authority, which manifests itself in her justification to make public her voice.65 65 Lanyer creates a community of women through her 11 dedicatory addresses to female patrons and her references to biblical women. However, it is clear that hers is the outstanding voice within that community. See Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, “Re-writing Patriarchy and Patronage” in The Yearbook of English Studies 21 (1991), and Lynette McGrath, “Amilia Lanier’s 17th-Century Feminist Voice” in Women’s Studies, 20 (1992).

“Should she not be ashamed?”


I have repeatedly referred to Sidney as a Renaissance Miriam, but there is an essential difference between the two: no historical redactors have managed to largely edit Sidney’s figure out of history, or bury her in shame. Though her involvement in poetry and patronage may have diminished after the death of her husband (Hannay, Phoenix 184), hers was a recognized and powerful presence in her early modern world. Biblical scholars suggest Miriam was also a strong and vibrant presence in her day, whose songs could “reshape public opinion” and serve as “a source of inspiration for new poetic work” (Van Dijk-Hemmes 41). Mary Sidney does these things, too—presenting herself and her discourse as feminine and authoritative, and inspiring others to do so. Herein lies Sidney’s most significant likeness to Miriam: the ability to impart voice to those whom others would leave silent and to do this without shame.

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Chapter 2

“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”: Hannah and the Consequence of Private Prayer A variety of biblical women follow Miriam’s example by engaging in songs of thanksgiving. Hannah voices her song of thanks after the delivery of her first child into holy service. Her lyric is exceptional both for its poetic composition, and for the rhetorical authority it announces.1 Hannah’s song appears all the more remarkable because it follows an unusual performance—a silent performance—of prayer. Hannah’s private devotion marks a critical episode in the Bible since she is the first person who is not identified as a prophet to be shown addressing God in the sanctuary (Hyman 121). Furthermore, she is the first and only woman whose prayer is quoted in the Bible (Dennis 124). Hannah successfully asserts her faith and uses her faith to inspire and legitimize her words. This chapter explores the significance of Hannah’s language and activities as recognized in early modern Protestant texts. Though she appears in only two chapters of the Bible, Hannah represents for early modern Protestants the character of earnest petitioner, exemplary parent, and enthusiastic celebrant of divine glory. And she does this in the character of a woman. A consideration of sex and gender in regard to Hannah’s history is invited by the biblical narrative. The first mention of Hannah identifies her as a wife (I Samuel 1:2), and her story follows her quest to give birth to a male child. Hannah is defined by barrenness; we are twice told within two verses that “the Lord had shut up her womb” (1:5, 6).2 In the first of the chapters in which her story unfolds, Hannah’s actions and exchanges with other characters are exclusively tied to her barren condition: she weeps for want of children (1:7); she is taunted for her barrenness (1:6); she is entreated by her husband to put an end to her grief (1:8). The first time Hannah speaks in the narrative is to pray for a son (1:11). She identifies herself before God and his priest as a “handmaid” (1:11) and as the “woman that stood … here praying” (1:26), associating her language and faith

1 For an examination of the structural principles of Hannah’s story and their relations to the poetic composition of Hannah’s psalm, see Uriel Simon, Reading Prophetic Narratives (Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1997), pp. 7–33. 2 Unless otherwise indicated, the Old Testament translations in this chapter are from The New Jerusalem Bible, Harold Fisch, English ed. (Jerusalem, 1997). In those instances where a different translation is cited, the biblical text used is that which is most relevant to the examined literary work.

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


with her female role.3 Hannah celebrates the birth of her son and the fulfillment of her obligation to God in gendered terms: “The barren has born seven; and she that has many children has become wretched” (2:5). Hannah’s victory is accomplished and celebrated through language. As John Lloyd observed in 1671, she cures her barrenness with a vow and a prayer (18); hence, language is as fundamental to her sex as the womb she sought to restore. The success of Hannah’s petition and the unique posture she assumes before God were recognized by the rising Protestant Church of England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Protestant ministers admired the bold sincerity of Hannah’s convictions and the success of her private communications. The Protestant Church emphasized the role of private prayer in forging an immediate relationship with God. The appropriateness of Hannah’s tale to the Protestant cause exceeds the narrative’s accent on private prayer, however, for her tale concludes with God’s destruction of an ancient priestly house to make way for a new order of religious leadership. Hannah’s story exposes priestly corruption; when considered before a backdrop of Reformation politics, the problematic behavior of the priests within the narrative easily fueled Protestant distrust of the “popish priests” associated with the Roman Catholic Church (Bell C2v). Thomas Bell, for example, describes Catholic priests as “impostors, and coozners” whom “many sillie and simple soules, doe repute for saints and men of God” (F2v).4 Hannah’s experiences parallel with uncanny precision those faced by members of the early modern English order. Her story depicts an emerging spiritual autonomy; she redefines her relationship to God and insists upon the righteousness of her position. Similarly, it was an “increasingly intimate involvement with God,” writes Patrick Collinson, which contributed to the rising autonomy of individuals in Protestant England (11).5 Hannah’s story also recognizes female power and presence; even the narrative’s preoccupation with barrenness was shared by a country ruled by a Virgin Queen.6 Perhaps most significantly, Hannah’s tale documents its own reformation. This chapter investigates Hannah’s emergence as a paradigm for Protestant expression and belief. I argue that the use of this biblical woman as a model of 3

It is necessary for Hannah to identify herself as “the woman who stood here …”

‫( ָהאֺשָה‬hā išāh) since there is no gender-neutral term such as “person” in Biblical Hebrew. ֺ4 The second book of Bell’s text itemizing popish tyranny distinguishes the orders c

of Catholic priests, labeling them all a “cursed brwd” (Er). Bell’s complaints against the Catholic Church are largely grounded in the behavior of its priests. See Thomas Bell, An Anatomie of Popish Tyrannie (London, 1603), pp. 55–105. 5 Debora Shuger also discusses the Renaissance perception of selfhood as the assumption of an identity marked by its distinction from others. See Debora Shuger, Habits of Thought in the English Renaissance (1990; Toronto, Buffalo and London, 1997), pp. 93–7. 6 Elizabeth’s bout with smallpox in 1562 was viewed by some as punishment for her childlessness: “the want of your marriage and issue is like to prove ... a plague.” See Lacey Baldwin Smith, This Realm of England 1399 to 1688 (Lexington and Toronto, 1988), p. 167; Smith provides no source for this comment.

“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”


subjection affected Protestant notions of gender in relation to divinity and the self. I then consider the influence of Hannah’s narrative on texts by early modern women who use it to testify to divine approval of female language and maternal authority. Because Hannah is a character who succeeds in both linguistic and non-linguistic enterprises, appropriations of her story reflect cultural attitudes and anxieties toward female expression. The Biblical Hannah Hannah’s story, found in the first two chapters of the First Book of Samuel (I Samuel), does not immediately appear to document female history. We are presented with the oft seen history of the patriarchal line, in this case that of Elkanah, “a man of … mount Efrayim” (1:1). The discussion of Elkanah’s wives moves the narrative’s focus to women: “And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah; and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children” (1:2). The story thus far is not exceptional, for the Bible frequently introduces women through presentation of their maternal histories. When we learn that Hannah is Elkanah’s favorite wife despite her barrenness, we are still not surprised, for in true biblical fashion the wife most beloved is the wife who is barren.7 Indeed, Elkanah’s regard for Hannah, coupled with her lamented infertility, signal an approaching birth of some consequence (Alter, Narrative 85). Also familiar in biblical narrative is the harassment Hannah receives from the fertile wife:8 “And her adversary provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb” (1:6). In what is usually regarded as a compassionate gesture, Elkanah tries to comfort Hannah, asking, “why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?” (1:8).9 Where Hannah’s tale does begin to appear remarkable is in her response to her husband’s question, for we are immediately told that Hannah “rose up after they had eaten” and went to pray in the sanctuary at Shiloh

7 The most notable example of this is Jacob’s love for Rachel (Genesis 29:18). He served 14 years so that he might marry her though “they seemed to him but a few days for the love he had to her” (29:20). Rachel’s barrenness is noted in 29:30. Rachel is Jacob’s second wife; his first is her sister Leah whose womb “the Lord ... opened” (29:31). 8 In the Book of Genesis Leah’s taunting of Rachel is suggested in Rachel’s claim, “With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed” (30:8). In addition, Sarah’s maid Hagar reportedly despised her mistress when the maid recognized her own ability to conceive while her mistress could not (Genesis 16:1–7). 9 Uriel Simon is extremely impressed by Elkanah’s sympathy towards his wife: “Elkanah rushes to help her, and with soft words endeavors to persuade her that there is no point in crying, fasting, and being despondent, since his love for her is better than ten sons” (Reading Prophetic Narratives 14).


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

for a son (1:10).10 At this point in her narrative Hannah has been addressed by both Peninnah and Elkanah, but the first time we hear her voice is in her address to God: Also she vowed a vow and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look upon the affliction of thy handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thy handmaid, but wilt give to thy handmaid a man child, then I will give him to thee all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head. (1:11)

Unbeknownst to Hannah, she is observed by Eli the priest, who “sat upon a seat by the gate post of the temple of the Lord” (1:9). While the Bible relays some of the contents of Hannah’s vow, it also gives a curious description of Hannah’s posture: “Now Hannah, she spake in her heart: only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore, Eli thought she had been drunken” (1:13). The priest tries to shame Hannah: “How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. And Hannah answered … , No my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord” (1:14–15). Eli instructs Hannah to go in peace and adds his wish that God grant her petition (1:17). And God does; Hannah gives birth to a son, the prophet Samuel, and once he is weaned she keeps the promise she made and “lends him to the Lord” (1:28), taking him to serve God in the sanctuary. Hannah’s story concludes in I Samuel, chapter 2, the first ten verses of which comprise an elaborate song of thanksgiving that celebrates Hannah’s own voice as much as it does her God: “My heart rejoices in the Lord, my horn is exalted in the Lord … because I rejoice in thy salvation” (2:1). Her thanks are well received since we are told: “And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters” (2:21). The remainder of the biblical chapter reports the sins of Eli’s sons, prepares us for Samuel’s divine selection, and foretells the destruction of the priestly house of Eli. Hannah and the Protestant Faith Though there are no additional biblical references to Hannah outside the introductory chapters of I Samuel, Hannah’s tale does more than historicize the birth of a prophet. She participates in precisely the sort of ideological struggle in which the Protestant culture of Reformation England was engaged. She redefines the method and purpose of prayer and establishes new grounds for the relationship between God and his followers. Furthermore, she exhibits proficiency in determining those positions, first as a bold petitioner craving God’s attention, and then as a mother. In essence, Hannah renegotiates previously established bounds, an ambition that consumed the English Renaissance. As Shuger explains in Habits of Thought in 10 At this time the ark of the covenant was kept in Shiloh (I Samuel 4:3). Elkanah and his family made a yearly pilgrimage there to offer sacrifice and engage in celebration (1:3).

“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”


the English Renaissance: Religion, Politics and the Dominant Culture (1990), a central problem in early modern England was the placement of boundaries, especially concerning relations “among the sociopolitical order, the self and God” (11). This obscuring of boundaries was notably influenced by the Reformation and the shifting notions of secular and spiritual authority. The primary goal of Protestantism to “establish for all the faithful an intense and personal relationship between the individual and God” (Sinfield 7) heightened demands for spiritual interiority. Shuger historicizes this urgency: “The private recesses of the individual anima replace the medieval church as the primary point of contact between God and persons” (Habits 12). Barbara Kiefer Lewalski recognizes that a consequence of such spiritual autonomy is the “potential for destabilization in its insistence on every Christian’s immediate relationship with God” (Writing 8). Hannah’s story epitomizes the struggle and change described by Shuger and Lewalski. Though Hannah’s private devotion does take place within the walls of the established sanctuary, her prayers are distinct from the realm of religious activities in which her community is engaged. The private nature of her prayer is emphasized, for we are told that Hannah rushes into the house of the Lord, ignoring the priest who was sitting on the steps. She prays privately, without the aid of a spiritual leader. Though Hannah will engage with the priest (she is forced to do so once he interrupts her prayer), she is initially determined to confront God alone. Hannah later worships communally with her family (I Samuel 1:19), but only after she has performed her private, prioritized devotions. It is interesting, too, that though Hannah prays within the sanctuary, it is not until she leaves its confines that the narrative confirms contact between Hannah and God. When God reaches out to Hannah, he does so during a most intimate moment: “Now Elkanah knewe Hannah his wife; and the Lord remembred her” (Geneva, 1:19).11 That God’s remembrance was a direct result of Hannah’s prayer is evident in the language of the narrative. Hannah beseeches God to “remember me” (1:11), which is precisely what he does (1:19).12 Shuger’s investigations of the Renaissance show that the private sort of faith exhibited in Hannah’s tale is essential to Protestant believers. She observes that “both ethical and theoretical concerns are subordinate to the need for intimate 11 All “Geneva” citations refer to the Geneva Bible (1560; Madison, Milwaukee, and London, 1969). 12 Hannah’s petition that the Lord “remember me” ‫ת ַני‬ ַ ‫[ ו ְז ַכ ְר‬ûzĕkartanî] shares the ֺ ֺ same Hebrew root as God’s activity “and the Lord remembered her” ‫ה‬ ָ ‫[ ַו יְזְכ ֶר‬wiyizkĕre(h)]. ֺ The verb root is ‫[ זָ כַ ר‬zākar], meaning “remember,” specifically “remember persons ... with kindness, granting requests, protecting, etc.” See Francis Brown et al., A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford, 1951), pp. 269, 270. The commentary of the Anchor Bible explains the use of ‫[ זָ כַ ר‬zākar] in this context as “more than a simple calling to mind. Remembering in the religious terminology of Israel ... referred to the benevolent treatment of an individual or group by a god, often ... in response to a specific plea.” See The Anchor Bible, I Samuel: A New Translation with Introduction, Notes and Commentary, ed. P. Kyle McCarter, Jr. (Garden City, 1964), p. 62.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

contact with God” (Habits 12). A subordination of ethics may also be found in Hannah’s story, particularly if our concern is with the subordination of early modern ethics and gendered behavior. As Charlotte Otten explains, “Since males ruled over females in domestic, ecclesiastical, and civil life, the only appropriate response of the female … was obedience” (11). Women were to show most obedience to their husbands (127), but Hannah does not. Elkanah instructs his wife that his love is more significant than that of ten sons (1:8), but Hannah clearly disagrees. Her immediate flight to the sanctuary to ask God for a son is a rebuff of her husband’s directive. Her private communion with God also undermines her husband’s authority according to early modern precepts since “the husband or father became the priest, or bishop in his household” (Crawford 42). Husbands are designated the religious leaders of their wives by St. Paul: “Let your women kepe silence in the Churches … if thei will learne anie thing, let them aske their housbands at home” (Geneva, I Corinthians 14:34, 35). One might argue, of course, that Hannah’s subversive behavior is countered by her relentless desire for motherhood, thus reinforcing an early modern belief that bearing children was a woman’s “primary calling” (Otten 221). Indeed, motherhood is Hannah’s great ambition: “I praied for this childe,” she declares, “and the Lord hathe giuen me my desire which I asked of him” (Geneva, I Samuel 1:27). As a mother, Hannah gains influence; instead of directing her emotions and activities, Elkanah bows to Hannah’s proficiency where their child is concerned. And Peninnah disappears from the narrative entirely. This seeming disparity between Hannah’s independence in seeking God, and her dependence upon socially prescribed achievements is nonetheless in keeping with early modern notions of selfhood. This “peculiar duality” (Shuger, Habits 94) of self is illustrated in William Perkins’s “A Dialogue from the State of a Christian Man:” Every person is a double person and under two regiments. In the first regiment I am a person of mine own self, under Christ and his doctrine … In the temporal regiment, thou art a person in respect of another. Thou art husband, father, mother, daughter, wife, lord, subject and there thou must do according to thine office.13 (382)

The “private self,” as Perkins describes it, is most closely associated with God. This is certainly true for Hannah. Her private moments are spent in prayer. This privacy is stressed because, though the Bible does reveal Hannah’s vow inside the sanctuary (1:11), we are also told that she “continued praying” (Geneva, 1:12), and no one except God is privileged to learn the full content of that prayer. Perkins’s second regiment, recognized as an individual’s position within a “hierarchical sociopolitical order” (Shuger, Habits 95), is also in evidence in Hannah’s character. When she is not praying, Hannah is defined in relation to others—first as a wife to Elkanah, and then as mother to Samuel. After her private petitions, Hannah’s 13 This passage is cited by Shuger in her examination of duality in relation to the “discontinuous structure” of George Herbert’s The Temple. See Shuger, Habits of Thought in the English Renaissance, p. 94.

“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”


activities are performed exclusively for her son’s benefit. For example, she abstains from the pilgrimage to Shiloh in order to nurse her son (I Samuel 1:22). She later delivers Samuel to the sanctuary (1:24–8), celebrates his delivery into holy service (2:1–10), and visits him at the sanctuary each year (2:19). The last mention of her character within the narrative in I Samuel reiterates her maternal function by remarking on her five subsequent children (2:21). Though Hannah is ultimately successful in both her private and social functions, it is her spiritual will, exemplified by her private prayer, that influenced and attracted the Protestant Church. John Preston, “Doctor in Divinity, Chaplaine inordinary to his Majesty, Master of Emmanuel College … and sometimes Preacher of Lincolnes Inne” uses Hannah’s behavior to define “what a right prayer is, as God accepts” in The Saints Daily Exercise (1629) (2). According to Preston, God is prevailed upon to hear a petition “when the prayer of a man is not onely that which the vnderstanding dictates to him, but when the whole soule, the will and affections goe together with his petition” (7). Preston makes no secret of the source of this effective posture, and encourages his Protestant parishioners to follow Hannah’s example: “And so pray, that the heart goe together with the petition, also this is the meaning of that when a man poureth forth his soule before the Lord. So Hannah saith of her selfe; I am a woman troubled, &c. And powre out my soule before the Lord” (7). Preston continually instructs his congregation in their responsibility to pray from the heart as Hannah did, and not rely on shallow words and ceremony: when a man powreth foorth his whole soule (that is) his will, and affections, when they goe together, when there is no reservation in his mind; but when all within him is opened and explicate, and exposed to the view of the Lord. (8)

Despite Preston’s attempt to maintain the masculine, or gender-neutral subject (“the prayer of a man,” “when a man poureth forth his soule” [7, emphases mine]), Hannah’s narrative insists on reminding us that it is a woman who initiates this stance. The Protestant obligation to expose the soul in prayer is derived from this female petitioner. It is Hannah’s distinction. So effective is this woman’s posture, that Preston discounts all others: “when the soule is powred foorth … that makes prayer to be hot and fervent, wheras otherwise, it is but a cold and dissipated thing, that hath no strength or efficacie in it” (8). Preston’s reliance on the precise language of the Bible to describe the method of righteous prayer suggests that the zeal he extols originates with Hannah. The reward for the private prayer Preston advocates again leads him to the early chapters of I Samuel. In A Treatise of Effectual Faith (1630), Preston remarks on the effectiveness of Hannah’s courageous, bold posture (108). Instead of pointing to her reward of a son, however, Preston describes her “peace of conscience” (104): Take faith in any thing else, and you shall see so much faith, so much quiet in you. For example, Hannah … when her petition was granted, that she believed it, saith the Text, she wente away, and tooke meate, and looked no more sad. That was an argument that she believed, she took meate and looked no more sad. (110)

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


The granting of Hannah’s petition to which Preston refers is Eli’s declaration that Hannah “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant thy peticion that thou has asked of him” (Geneva, I Samuel 1:17). Preston interprets Eli’s statement as a declaration of an auspicious future. And yet, as Preston presents this scene, Hannah’s optimism and good cheer are the result of her own abilities, and not those of the priest who attempts to comfort her. According to Preston, it is because Hannah is able to “take faith” that she can “see faith,” or see her way to peace. Preston’s repeated emphasis on the Bible’s description that Hannah “loked no more sad” (Geneva, 1:48) is depicted as the reward for private prayer.14 Though the biblical Hannah goes on to glory greater than a cheerful countenance, Preston closes her story here, in hope, and secured in her enlightenment achieved through her own devout behavior. Hannah’s empowerment through prayer is central to Preston’s celebration of her. He revisits Hannah’s tale in a number of his sermons, demonstrating her capacity to determine the potency of her petitions. Preston instructs that a prayer’s value is established by the earnest disposition and whole-hearted utterance of the speaker. He invokes Hannah to illustrate this point, stressing her autonomy and her female identity: When Hannah comes to aske a sonne of the Lord (he hath given to many with lesse a do, but) he would not grant it her till her spirit was travailled, till she prayed earnestly with contention and violence that Eli thought she was drunk: No, said she, but I am a woman troubled in spirite: they must be earnest, those prayers that God will here at thy hands; and if they be not heard, go and mende thy prayers. (185)

Hannah’s individuality is emphasized. Preston indicates that it was Hannah’s own knowledge of a troubled spirit, her own prayers of contention, her own experience of humiliation that made her prayers effective. She had to endure these sufferings as an individual, and not by proxy. This focus on Hannah’s individuality forces the issue of her sex. Though Preston’s treatment of her does not appear to attend to her sex, the more explicit his references, the more evident is the attention to gender fixed in the biblical narrative. Preston presents Hannah as a woman, and one who would have a child. He also remarks that she is a woman unlike others. In a deceptively subtle aside, Preston tells us that while many women are given children easily, Hannah is not. This narration directs his audience to view Hannah not merely as an individual, but as an individual woman separate from a larger female population. In context, Hannah’s is an expressly female autonomy, her individuality before God is rooted in her desire to explore the possibilities of her 14

In a sermon preached upon the Penitentiall Psalmes, Donne also associates Hannah’s prayer with peace of mind, a “serenitas Conscientiæ, That brightnesse, that clearnesse, that peace and tranquility, that calme and serenity, that …. security of the conscience.” See John Donne, The Sermons of John Donne, ed. Evelyn M. Simpson and George R. Potter (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1958), vol. IX, p. 263.

“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”


sex. Preston uses Hannah’s behavior to promote a general autonomy in prayer; nonetheless, his illustration is dependent upon a decidedly feminine identity. Critics attending to gender politics and the Protestant Reformation might argue that Preston’s reliance on Hannah to promote Protestant virtue is evidence that the faith advances the position that women are equal to men in God’s view. In his discussion of gendered subjectivity in religious discourse, Michael Schoenfeldt writes that “the vision of the common subjection of all humans before God could begin to undo the very hierarchies of class and gender that appeared to be sanctioned by the conventionally masculine and monarchical God” (“Gender of Religious Devotion” 209). The dismantling of these gender hierarchies is thwarted, however, when examples of subjection are presented in rigidly feminine forms. The unusually stubborn nature of the feminine pronoun within Hannah’s narrative, in particular, undermines assertions of gender neutrality issued from early modern pulpits. And it is her subjected pose that is held up for example again and again. Hannah’s subjectivity is largely marked by disparagement and humiliation, features often underscored in biblical women’s narratives. As Ilana Pardes observes in Countertraditions in the Bible (1992), biblical women’s stories frequently document a character’s transition from “bitterness and humiliation to happiness and restoration of faith” (111).15 The first chapter of Hannah’s story is a testament to female humiliation. Peninnah humiliates Hannah with her provocations (1:6), and the narrative suggests that this is a frequent occurrence.16 Humiliation is also inherent in Hannah’s barrenness. Biblical scholar Leila Leah Bronner explains that “The barren woman was arguably the person with the most tenuous status in biblical society ... . Barrenness was regarded as a reproach ... believed to be a curse from God” (88). Early modern culture drew similar conclusions from a woman’s barrenness: “the barren wombe is … a curse” (Brinsley 62).17 That humiliation is intrinsic to barrenness is perhaps best evidenced by the declarations of the biblical mother Rachel, another second and favorite wife, in The Book of Genesis. Upon giving birth to her long-awaited first child, Rachel declared, “God has taken away my shame” (30:23, emphasis mine). The nature of Hannah’s situation, then, made her all too familiar with shame even before her humiliating confrontation with Eli. Protestant considerations of Hannah’s character recognize the significance of humiliation to Hannah’s posture; indeed, her grief and shame contribute to her sanctity as much as her pious prayer. We see this in Preston’s emphasis on Hannah’s travailed spirit, and it is especially evident in John Donne’s admiration for her. In 15 Pardes makes this claim while examining Naomi of The Book of Ruth. However, she also references Sarah and Hannah as women who experience similar transformations. See Ilana Pardes, Countertraditions in the Bible (Cambridge and London, 1992), pp. 109–12. 16 Alter argues that I Samuel 1:7 “clearly announces that the ... confrontation of the co-wives was habitually enacted, from one year to the next” (The Art of Biblical Narrative 83). 17 This passage is cited in Patricia M. Crawford, Women and Religion in England 1500–1720 (London and New York, 1993), p. 14.

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


a sermon preached at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Donne likens Hannah’s sufferance to that of God’s disciples: He suffered his Apostles to be thought drunk; They were full of the Holy Ghost, and they were thought full of new wine. A dramme of zeal more then ordinary, … makes us presently scandalous Ministers … But Hannah praid, and was thought drunk, and this grieved her heart; so it must us, when you ascribe our zeale to the glory of God, and the good of your souls, to an inordinate passion, or sinister purpose in us. (Sermons X:125)

Donne’s reference to Hannah is provocative. Like Preston, he views her behavior as an example of extreme devotion. Unlike Preston, Donne elevates Hannah from the position of individual petitioner to a status on par with the Apostles and the clergy.18 It is Hannah’s grief to which Donne is most attentive, and with which the clergy are able to identify. That grief would be associated with Hannah is not surprising, given the Bible’s description of her weeping (1:7, 8), and her confession of a “sorrowful spirit” (King James, 1:15).19 And yet, Hannah’s acknowledged despair is not the grief over barrenness specifically identified in her narrative (I Samuel 1:7), but a presumed grief stemming from Eli’s accusation of misconduct. This presumption of Hannah’s grief assumes impressive proportions. In his Monument of Matrons (1582), Thomas Bentley elaborates on Hannah’s reaction to Eli’s accusation, describing her as “vexed in mind to see herself thus interpreted in her prayers and more floundered by the rash judgment of so grave a man” (lamp 7:159). Less dramatically, Donne notes that Eli “grieved [Hannah’s] heart” (Sermons X:125). It is precisely her endurance, however, that intensifies Donne’s admiration of Hannah. In his view, those most devout are willing to forfeit their dignity and power in God’s service: If we be besides ourselves, it is for God; and so long well enough … we are mad for the love of this soul, and ready to doe any act of danger …, any act of diminution of our selves in the ways of humiliation, to stand … and pray and … be reconciled to God. (125)

Hannah’s endurance of shame makes her worthy of comparison to Christ’s apostles (and to Donne himself). Hannah’s humiliation and the reverence it warrants provide the basis for Donne’s sermon, for he repeatedly likens the ministry to a humbled and humiliated state (120, 121). Donne calls for humility in priests and calls it a “blessed effect” (121). He educates his parishioners on the humility required of God’s preachers and claims it worthy of respect: “Having therefore said thus much 18

We are discouraged in this sermon from viewing Hannah as representative of both ministers and congregants because Donne distinguishes between these groups at the start of his address: “There are two kinds of persons, we and you, The Priest and the People.” See Donne, The Sermons of John Donne, vol. X, p. 20. 19 All “King James” citations refer to the Holy Bible, containing the Old Testament and the New, Newly Translated out of the Original Tongues (Oxford, 1632).

“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”


to you … of all those waies of humiliation which we insisted upon, and ingaged ourselves in, we pray you and entreat you and the respect which should come from you … be ye reconciled to God” (134). Donne’s remarks to parishioners on their obligation to ministers points to an anxiety surrounding attitudes toward the clergy. In numerous ways, his sermon is haunted by a general suspicion of priests, a backlash of Reformation propaganda. Donne confronts his audiences’ apprehension of church men and appeases them with another properly humbled, humiliated, and Hannah-like pose: If therefore our selves, who are sent, be under contempt, or under persecution, if the sword of the Tongue, or the sword of the Tyrant be drawn against us, against all these ... we defend with no other shield, we return with no other sword, but Tears and Prayers ... . (122)

This depiction of ministers in “tears and prayers” likens devout ministers to Hannah. Her weeping is emphasized by a double reference,20 and her private prayer soon follows. Renaissance illustrations of Hannah, such as that in Hans Holbein’s Icones Historiarum Veteris Testamenti (1547), often depict her in this posture (see Figure 2.1). That Donne aligns Protestant ministers with Hannah and not with the high priest in the story is telling, pointing to the ways in which Hannah’s narrative documents the impotence and corruption of an older priesthood. As priest, Eli is obviously flawed. He errs in attributing drunkenness to a most devout individual, unable to recognize earnest prayer. While he ultimately wishes Hannah success with her petition, he does so without any inkling of her desires. In the words of Robert Alter, “the priest here plays a peripheral and perhaps slightly foolish role” (Narrative 86). But Eli’s ineptitude proves dangerous. We learn in I Samuel, chapter two that he has made priests of his corrupt sons, who “make the Lords people to transgresse” (King James, 2:24). Eli tries but cannot alter his sons’ inappropriate behavior: “they hearkened not unto the voice of their father” (King James, I Samuel 2:25). Should we not recognize Eli’s inadequacy, the biblical narrator directs our attention to it, introducing “a man of God” into the story who delivers God’s criticism of Eli. God’s wrath is expressed as anger towards corrupt priests: And this shall be a signe unto thee, that shal come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they shal die both of them. And I wil raise me up a faithful Priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart, and in my minde: and I will build him a sure house, and he shale walk before mine Anointed for euer. (King James, I Samuel 2:35)

Eli and his lineage are representative of the old priesthood, obtuse and inadequate, while Hannah’s son Samuel emerges as the model of righteous leadership. 20

The King James Authorized Version of the Bible reads, “therefore, [Hannah] wept and did not eat” (v. 7); and “she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto Lord, and wept sore.” See The Holy Bible, containing the Old Testament and the New, Newly Translated out of the Original Tongues, I Samuel 1:10.

Fig. 2.1

Hannah Weeping from Icones Historiarum Veteres Testameni (1547) by Hans Holbein. By permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”


The narrative’s contempt for corrupt priests links Hannah’s story to a central issue of the Protestant Reformation, namely the distrust of priests of the Roman Catholic Church. Donne’s alignment with Hannah in his sermon distances him from the activities of the suspicious priesthood. Though Donne does not explicitly impugn Eli, or even mention him by name in this sermon, he invokes his presence in the reference to Hannah’s grief at false accusation (Sermons X:124) and in the distinction he draws between those ministers who are sent by God to serve and those who feign service (122). Instead of charging Eli’s house with these crimes, Donne charges another corrupt house, one he identifies as the “Church and Court of Rome” (126). Donne contrasts those humbled, Hannah-like ministers of the Protestant Church with Catholic priests. In doing so, he attributes numerous crimes to the Catholic clergy, most of which focus on greed. Claiming “they are sent with many summs of Indulgencies at once” (126), he accuses them of striving “to exhaust their treasures, to alien their subjects, to infect their Religion” (127). In the Bible, Eli’s sons engage in similar corruptions. They exhaust the sanctuary’s treasure by stealing sacrificial offerings (I Samuel 2:15–17). They alienate their subjects by threatening those who will not do as they command (2:17). Eli also hears of his sons’ lechery (2:22) and accuses them of corrupting the faithful: “Do no more, my sonnes: for it is no good report I heare, which is, that ye make the Lords people to trespasse” (2:24). Donne’s alignment with Hannah allows him to present himself and fellow Anglican ministers as the antithesis of selfish priests, biblical and contemporary: “But when we seek … no other Indulgencies …, but the application of [Christ’s] Merits to your souls, when we offer all this without silver and without gold, … wherein are we … advancers of own owne ends?” (Sermons X:127). Those whom Donne champions appear in the image of Hannah’s eldest prophetic son, who was “in favor with the Lord, and also with men” (I Samuel 2:26). Donne associates the Protestant clergy with a sacred brand of humiliation exemplified by Hannah. He closes his sermon with an earnest petition of his own, though he directs it toward his congregation rather than his God: “This is the summe and the end of all, That when God sends humble and laborious Pastors, to souple and applicable Congregations; That we pray … you receive us in Christ’s stead” (Sermons X:139). Here Donne’s humility empowers his audience. They are tasked with the recognition and reward of piety. Hannah’s tale proves this a mark of divinity, and the Geneva gloss stresses this point: “So that to obey good admonitions is Gods mercie, to disobey them is his just judgement for sinne” (122). By aligning himself and fellow Anglican ministers with Hannah, Donne places himself in subjection to both God and his congregation. According to Gail Kern Paster, Donne’s description of churchmen in tears depicts them in a “passive and feminized state” (9).21 His emphasis on humiliation and disparagement, 21

Paster is specifically discussing a 1623 Lenten sermon in which Donne describes men as a sponge filled with tears. Nonetheless, “man’s …. reduction to tears” is a familiar theme to Donne readers. See Gail Kern Paster, The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England (Ithaca, 1993), p. 9.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

experiences frequently found in biblical women’s histories, further marks his gendered stance. In his reading of Donne’s Holy Sonnets, Schoenfeldt challenges the view that Donne adopts a distinctly feminine persona “as if the experience of and desire for submission were intrinsically feminine” (“Gender of Religious Devotion” 222). In the sermon examined here, however, Donne’s reliance on a biblical woman to describe his subjection does feminize his stance because he proffers himself as a representative of God’s church, also traditionally represented as feminine.22 A feminized posture modeled on Hannah is also promoted in Daniel Featley’s Ancillia Pietatis: or, the Hand-maid to Private Devotion, first published in 1626. Suzanne W. Hull describes Featley’s text as a “popular devotional guide probably used largely by women, though … reputed to have been helpful to Charles I” (168).23 Hull’s uncertainty regarding Featley’s intended audience is likely due to the feminine behaviors described within the text. And yet, the prayers Featley proposes often assume male speakers, making an exclusively female audience unlikely. One prayer, for example, reads, “Father, I have sinned … Yet though I am unworthy to be called thy sonne, thy son in thy bosome is worthy to obtaine a pardon …” (624–5, emphases mine). Moreover, prayers specific to women reflect their audience in their titles. We find a section titled “The Child-bearing Womans Devotion,” for example, which begins with Hannah’s vow to God in the sanctuary. Certainly we expect to find Hannah invoked in this type of prayer. Featley instructs the praying female to recite, “I will open my mouth in thy praises. Thou hast made good thy promises unto mee, therefore I will make good my vowes unto thee” (678). The references to Hannah are unmistakable here. More striking, however, are the details of her history that surface throughout Featley’s devotional guide, beginning in its earliest pages. In his preface, Featley argues for the “urgent necessity of PRIVATE DEVOTION” (A3v). He describes his own encounters with “those waters of strife” (the Roman Church), and his search for “the waters of Shiloh” (A3v). Featley alludes to Hannah’s experience immediately. Private devotion has its origins with Hannah, and Shiloh is the location of the sanctuary in which she makes her vow to God. Featley repeatedly references the tears and grief indicative of Hannah’s experience and affirms their part in winning God’s grace (A4v). He encourages “a plentifull shower or showres of tears … to revive the spirit of the humble” (594). Like Preston, Featley relies upon Hannah’s language to illustrate the penitent’s posture before God: “Let us pour out our souls in prayer to God … never giving 22 The Church was repeatedly characterized as feminine. Crawford explains, “The true church was the ideal bride, wife, mother while the false was a whore” (13). 23 Hull largely bases her view of Featley’s readership on the evidence that the title of his text was expanded in 1630 to read “Presenting a Manuall to her Mistresse, furnished with Instructions, Hymns and Prayers.” I suggest, however, the “mistress” of devotion may also refer to the penitent’s feminized soul. See Suzanne W. Hull, Chaste, Silent and Obedient: English Books for Women 1475–1640 (San Marino, 1982), p.168.

“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”


over, till either we feel comfort in our souls or at least satisfie our consciences that we have performed this holy duty in sincerity and truth” (609, emphasis mine). While performance of this task is not an intrinsically feminine activity, Featley follows this instruction with further recognition of Hannah’s history. A devotional prayer begins, “O Lord … I … run with weeping eyes … I retire therefore into my selfe, I return to the closet of my heart … I vent my desires in sighes; I voyce my prayers in groanes; I pour out my complaint in teares” (622–9). Featley directs his readers to reenact figuratively Hannah’s episodes. He also encourages them to simulate Hannah’s fasting; they profess to abstain “from all dainty meat” till they “relish againe the food of life” (630).24 Another prayer unexpectedly petitions God to “Renew in me what is decayed” (631)—a reminder of Hannah’s sealed womb. Featley’s “Hand-maid to Devotion” is none other than Hannah herself, whose feminine plight and posture dominate his instruction. Featley’s text directs the penitent to adopt a voice of subjection and frailty: “I am … weake as a reed, unstable as a reed, hollow and empty” (630); “I am thine” (622). The desperate and private voice emphasized by Featley, Donne, and Preston in their considerations of Hannah attends exclusively to the early episodes of her history, in which her character is marked by grief and her voice is restricted in its scope. The Bible tells us that Hannah’s voice “was not heard” (King James, I Samuel 1:13), making her character appear to abide by Paul’s edicts for women’s silence within the church. By glorifying Hannah’s internal prayer and neglecting her bold song of thanksgiving, these writers create models of scriptural behavior that discourage female speech. To punctuate only Hannah’s silent activity is to endorse early modern restrictions on female behavior. As a result, those who imitate Hannah’s posture imitate also the feminine characteristics assigned to the humbled pose they praise. This feminized subjection promoted and demonstrated by Protestants—ministers and parishioners, male and female—both responded to and perpetuated the depiction of a masculine God. According to Schoenfeldt, the God of Reformation Protestantism “became progressively masculinized” (“Gender of Religious Devotion” 210); most sixteenth- and seventeenth-century believers regarded the deity as male-gendered (Crawford 12). This apparently masculine God affected apparently feminine followers. Patricia M. Crawford explains in Women and Religion in England: 1520–1700 (1993), “a more masculine deity provoked a more gendered response: a more masculine God emphasized the feminine, the weaker, passive and dependent characteristics of the believer” (12). Therefore, while Protestant men and women were equally subjected to God’s authority, that subjection was representative of an established gendered behavior in response to a gendered divinity. Hannah’s narrative facilitates the Protestant depiction of a masculine God not only because she provides a characteristically feminine stance to emulate, but also because her situations and exchanges with God easily accent masculine features. 24 The biblical narrative makes clear Hannah’s disregard of the “worthy portion” of meat given to her by Elkanah. We are told she “did not eat” (I Samuel 1:7).

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


This is apparent in her appeal to God for a child. In the narrative, God enables Hannah to conceive—“he remembers her” (I Samuel 1:19). Her feminine position also fosters a masculine God in a way similar to that of the female lover in the Song of Songs. The Protestant reading of that poetic book underscores the erotic love between the male and female characters as Christ’s love for his church. The immense longing on the part of the feminized church is representative of people’s “longing and desire for union with God” (Crawford 13). Like the female lover of the biblical poem, Hannah is overwhelmed by desire. This immense longing completes Hannah’s subjection; she is not only under God’s authority, but also has thoroughly exposed herself to him. It is not surprising that such a posture would become the model of subjection for a faith that bid its followers to “desire God day and night … to … comfort us in all our tribulations … and patiently to abide his leisure” (Tyndale’s Old Testament 7). A biblical woman was used to demonstrate the subjected Protestant pose because women were naturally creatures of subjection, according to early modern ideology. This view found support in readings of the Book of Genesis in which Eve meets with the punishment “thy desire shal be subject to thy husband, and he shal rule over thee” (Geneva 3:16). As John Bunyan reminds his late seventeenth-century audience, “Women …whenever they would perk it and lord it over their husbands, ought to remember that both by creation and transgression they are made to be in subjection to their husbands” (II:483, emphasis mine).25 Statements such as this enable critics to argue that “it was impossible for men and women to talk of their beliefs about God without reference to a set of ideas about female inferiority and weakness” (Crawford 170). Despite the apparent logic in the assumption that equality before God would lead to an equality between the sexes, the subjected posture of the male was based upon—and therefore relied upon—a more familiar female subordination. As Crawford unhesitatingly writes, “For all their talk of … equality, priests and ministers of both the Protestant and Catholic churches believed in female inferiority and subordination” (41). If Patrick Collinson’s observation that the people of sixteenth- and seventeenthcentury England were “living, in a sense, in the pages of the Bible” (Birthpangs 10), then they also must have been living with the contradiction that characterizes that ancient text. Hannah herself is a font of inconsistency. Biblical scholar Uriel Simon goes so far as to ask if the Hannah in I Samuel, 2 is the same character as that in chapter 1 (32). While Hannah’s history does feature a subjected female, hers is an empowering subjection. Crawford defines feminized subjection as the display of “obedience, passivity and dependence” (15). But Hannah is not passive in her quest for God, or her child. She obeys no one in the narrative, save herself. Perhaps the greatest contradiction lies not within Hannah’s narrative, but in the application of it, for Hannah is essentially used to teach a mode of prayer, and those lessons are broadcast by a church that embraces the direction, “Let woman learne in silence with all subjection. I permit not a woman to teache” (Geneva, I Timothy 2:11, 12). 25

This passage is cited in Crawford, p. 9.

“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”


Hannah and the Privileging of the Female Voice But such contradictions do not go unnoticed. In Women’s Speaking Justified (1667), Margaret Fell uses Hannah and her story to challenge the silencing of women in the church: “See … how Hannah prayed and spake in the Temple of the Lord … and … How she rejoyced in God” (15). Fell’s consideration of Hannah focuses on Hannah’s rhetorical skill as evidence that the female sex is able to perceive and celebrate the divine. Jane Donawerth in “The Politics of Renaissance Rhetorical Theory by Women” observes that Fell is an able rhetor in her own right, “appropriating for women the tradition of sermon rhetorics” (261). Fell relies upon biblical verse to argue in support of women preachers and prophets. In her hands the biblical text “renders Fell’s female gender no longer a mark of inferiority” (261). Indeed, Fell astutely notes that women surpass men in the skill of preaching and prophecy since Jesus trusted women to deliver the message of his resurrection (6, 7). Despite her emphasis on Christ and the women who attended him, Fell also relies on women of the Old Testament to demonstrate that “the Spirit of the Lord was upon Daughters as well as Sons” (14). Rather than privilege Hannah’s more private voice, Fell attends to her song of thanks in I Samuel, chapter 2. She quotes that song in its entirety, concluding, Thus you may see what a woman hath said, when old Eli the priest thought she had been drunk, and see if any of you blind priests that speak against women’s speaking can preach after this manner, who cannot make such a Sermon as this woman did, and yet will make a trade of this Woman and other Women’s words. (15)

Fell associates Eli’s crimes with those priests opposing women’s speech; they share his dull perception. While Fell is less subtle than Donne in her discussion of Hannah and Eli, the two share many of the same arguments. Fell aligns herself with the pious heroine and uses Hannah’s narrative to characterize current Reformation activities. Fell associates the Roman Church with the rank of corrupt priests, blaming even the Anglican Church’s blindness and prohibitions on the Catholic church: “for the pope is the head of the false church, and the false church is the pope’s wife, and so he and they that be of him, and come from him, are against women’s speaking in the true church” (17). Both Fell and Donne accuse the Roman Church of not recognizing and appreciating piety, but whereas Donne uses Hannah to speak for an elect group of ministers, Fell uses Hannah to redeem the voices of her sex. It is clear, too, that both preachers attend to Hannah to respond to humiliation; Women’s Speaking Justified was penned while Fell was imprisoned in 1667 for holding Quaker meetings in her home (Donawerth, “Politics” 261). Though not an Anglican at the time she wrote this pamphlet (Fell converted to Quakerism in 1652), Fell recognizes the contradictions inherent in the Anglican Church’s simultaneous endorsement of Paul’s teaching while acknowledging the Bible’s affirmations that men and woman are alike to Christ: “there is nether male nor female: for ye all are one in Christ Jesus” (Geneva, Galatians 3:28). Fell addresses St. Paul’s injunction against female speech, concluding that those whom

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


he silenced were those who had not “had the revelation and Spirit of God poured upon them” (9). Fell uses Hannah to challenge ecclesiastical law. She explains, “women led by the spirit of God are not under the Law, for Christ in the male and in the female is one” (13). Fell identifies this “spirit” as a divine light and presents it as a mark of God and his select:26 “And where he has poured fourth his Spirit upon them, they must prophecy, though blind priests say to the contrary, and will not permit holy women to speak” (13). The blind priests repeatedly criticized by Fell are themselves references to Hannah’s narrative. The First Book of Samuel represents Eli as one who literally lacks sight; we are told in I Samuel that his “eyes had begun to grow dim, that he could not see” (3:2). Fell’s holy women are the antithesis of such figures, their vision a necessary remedy to the blindness of those feigned devout men. Hannah’s vision is accented in Fell’s regard of her as a prophet (13) and this characterization is not unique to Fell (Gillespie 73). Rembrandt’s 1640 series of portraits of his mother presents her as “the Prophetess Hannah” (see Figure 2.2). Though Hannah is never specifically identified as a prophetess in the Bible, Fell’s evidence for her claim maybe found in a prediction in Hannah’s song: “The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces … the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; … and exalt the horn of his anointed” (King James, I Samuel 2:10). Hannah’s prophetic abilities are confirmed in the very chapters containing her story. We witness the breaking of God’s adversaries, and the selection of Samuel to prophecy. If, like Fell, we consider Hannah a prophet, we should recognize that her divinity is not a result of God’s having spoken to her, as is true of most male prophets, but of her having spoken to God and the evidence of God’s hearing. Far from confining Hannah’s skills to the recesses of private prayer, Fell uses Hannah to legitimize and encourage women to voice their divine messages. As Fell so thoroughly argues, Hannah’s history indicates the sanctity of female speech. Decades before, Rachel Speght had a similar appreciation of Hannah’s linguistic virtue. Speght references Hannah in her Certaine Quares to the Bayter of Women, which was published along with A Mouzell for Melastomus in 1617. In these works, Speght replies to Joseph Swetnam’s Araignment of Lewde, idel, froward, and unconstant women, which was published in 1615.27 Speght uses Hannah to negate the claim that women will “not give thanks for a good turne” (34). She, too, privileges Hannah’s public voice: “I demand whether Deborah and Hannah were not women, who both of them sang hymnes of thanksgiving unto 26

Fell writes, “the true light now shines, the morning -Light, the bright morning Star, the Root and Off-spring of David.” Fell is quick to extend God’s light to a feminine figure: “The holy Jerusalem is descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, and her light is like a Jasperstone, clear as Christal.” See Margaret Fell, Women’s Speaking Justified, Proved and Allowed of the Scriptures (London, 1667), p. 11. 27 In the introduction to her edition of Speght’s writings, Barbara Kiefer Lewalski suggests that Speght was solicited by Swetnam’s publisher to respond to his previously published attack against women in hopes of boosting sales. This would explain the twoyear lapse in Speght’s response to Swetnam. See Rachel Speght, The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght, ed. Barbara Kiefer Lewalski (New York and Oxford, 1996), p. 15.

“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”

Fig. 2.2


Rembrandt’s Mother as the Prophetess Hannah by Rembrandt van Rijn (1631). Rijksmusem, Amsterdam.

the Lord” (34). Speght’s assertion seems simple enough—women thank those who help them—but in referencing Hannah’s psalm she calls our attention not only to the genre of the thanksgiving song, but also to the song’s content. The first two verses of Hannah’s song read, “My heart rejoiceth in the Lord … my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies … Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth” (I Samuel 2:1–2, emphases mine). Hannah’s song is not a mere thanks, but an example of a woman’s victory over an oppressor. And this victory is achieved through language and speech, much like that victory for which Speght strives in her replies to Swetnam’s misogynist attacks. In fact, Speght introduces her complaint against Swetnam by charging that he “opened his mouth against


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

noble as well as ignoble” women (5, emphasis mine). Unlike the speaker in the Psalms who frequently asks God to show his strength by destroying the enemy, Hannah’s poetic voice defines success as a rhetorical triumph—the enemy’s speech is suppressed, the female victor’s mouth is opened and operative. References to the potency of Hannah’s voice are all too clear in biblical annotations to this song. In John Downame’s 1651 commentary, Hannah’s enemies are described as “so confounded with shame that they shall not mutter or have a word to say, though now in their pride and arrogancie they are full of bragging and boasting” (MMM6). Hannah’s narrative does more than predict the enemy’s silence. She demonstrates her ability to curtail men’s arrogance during her initial exchange with Eli. Though the priest accuses Hannah of drunk and disorderly conduct in the sanctuary, her defense of her behavior silences him: “No my lord, but I am a woman of sorrowful spirit ... Count not thy handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto” (King James, I Samuel 1:15, 16).28 Hannah’s words and emotion humble Eli; his endorsement of her petition is a sign of his realization of his error. This is Hannah’s victory; she wins Eli’s favor— circumventing his authority to obtain it—while he is left ignorant of the petition to which he has added his prayer. As Trevor Dennis observes, “Eli’s blessing … shows no real understanding of her” (127–8). That lack of understanding is precisely what Fell and Speght would have their opponents recognize, for it is indicative of the ways in which the early modern patriarchal order misunderstands and excludes women. Hannah’s narrative reveals the injustice of her exclusion from things such as motherhood, mirth, and accepted forms of prayer. The narrative focuses on Hannah’s worthiness, and shows the destruction (or disappearance) of those who oppose her.29 Both Fell and Speght use Hannah’s history to accentuate their own righteousness, and their opponents’ ignorance. Fell’s “blind priests” are unable to comprehend the duty of one enlightened by God’s spirit. Speght charges Swetnam with a plethora of misunderstandings, from his misuse of grammar and logic, to his ignorant presumption of the female mind. This is Swetnam’s greatest offense, and it is most similar to that committed by Eli: “As for your audacitie in judging women’s thoughts, you thereby shew yourself an usurper against the King of heaven, the 28 “Daughter of Belial” (I Samuel 1:15) ‫בל יָעַל‬ ְ ‫[ ַבת‬bat bĕliy al] reflects the language ֺ ֺ ֺ “worthlessness.” See Brown et al., of the Biblical Hebrew. ‫בל יָעַל‬ ְ [bĕliy al] literally means ֺ ֺ as “wicked woman” in the Geneva Bible, and “daughter of p. 116. This phrase is translated unthriftiness” in Tyndale’s Pentateuch. 29 Peninnah’s disappearance from the narrative is interesting. One midrash constructed to explore Peninnah and Hannah’s relationship claims that for every child Hannah bore, Penninah buried two children, based on Hannah’s claim in her song that “the barren has born seven; and she that has many children has become wretched” (I Samuel 2:5). The midrash has Peninnah plead to Hannah to save her last two children’s lives, thus making Hannah responsible for a total of seven children (as her song indicates), instead of the five assigned to her within the narrative. See Leila Leah Bronner, From Eve to Esther: Rabbinic Reconstructions of Biblical Women (Louisville, 1994), pp. 97–8.



“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”


true knowledge of cogitations being appropriate unto him alone” (34). Adroitly, Speght portrays women’s meditations as holy things, implying that only God (and women) are capable of fathoming the depths of their discourse. While Hannah’s narrative begins with her silence, her story demonstrates her increasing awareness and application of voice. The biblical narrative targets Hannah’s voice through its events and through its language. We are told that “only her lips moved” (I Samuel 1:13, emphasis mine); “Eli marked her mouth” (I Samuel 1:12, emphasis mine); her mouth is enlarged (I Samuel 2:1, emphasis mine). Attention is drawn to her speech acts: “She vowed a vow” (I Samuel 1:13, emphasis mine); she declares, “I have spoken” (I Samuel 1:16, emphasis mine); and her story is littered with “Hannah answereds” and “Hannah saids.” Hannah speaks more than anyone else in the narrative. As much as it provides a history of Samuel’s birth, Hannah’s story is about herself and her rhetorical activities. The very name “Samuel” (chosen by the prophet’s mother) draws our attention to Hannah’s linguistic enterprise; the biblical narrative indicates that “Samuel” ‫[ ְֺשמוֺאֵל‬šĕmû ēl] means “I have asked him of the Lord” (I Samuel 1:20).30 Her son’s name is a perpetual marking—a constant reminder that he is the child of the woman who spoke to God. The recognizable symbols of Hannah—the lips, the pouring forth of the soul, the mouth, and private prayer—appear in Anne Locke’s Meditation of a penitent sinner: c

Lorde, loose my lippes, I may expresse my mone And finding grace with open mouth I may Thy mercies praise, and holy name display (Locke, n. sig31)

References to mouths and lips occur elsewhere in the Bible, most notably in the Psalms and Proverbs. However, Hannah is the first biblical woman to refer to her 30 The King James version of I Samuel 1:20 reads, “Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord.” However, the name Saul ‫שאוֺל‬ ָֺ (sā ûl) seems to more closely reflect this meaning. “Samuel” ‫[ ְֺשמוֺאֵל‬šĕmû ēl] translates to “Name of God” or “His-name-is El.” Biblical scholars suggest that the explanation of the name here may reflect a narrative describing the birth of King Saul. As I have found no early modern scholarship noting the narrative’s inaccuracy in defining Samuel’s name, however, we might assume the majority of early modern readers understood Samuel to mean “asked of God.” For an extensive etymology of Samuel, see The Anchor Bible, I Samuel: A New Translation with Introduction, Notes and Commentary, ed. P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., p. 62; also Rev. S.R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Book of Samuel (1889; Winona Lake: Alpha Publications, 1984) 16–18. 31 Locke’s poems appear on end pages following her published translations of Calvin’s sermons. These end pages are not number-paginated. See A.L. [Anne Locke], Sermons of John Calvin, Upon the Songe that Ezechias made after he had bene sicke, and afflicted by the hand of God, conteyned in the 38 Chapter of Esay, Translated from French (London, 1560), end pages.



Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


own lips and her own mouth—to draw attention to her speech. Furthermore, in both the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, Hannah’s tale precedes the Psalms and Proverbs which contain similar references; that her posture is so often imitated reinforces its effectiveness. That speech itself is the height of Hannah’s glory may be confirmed by the writings of Elizabeth Grymeston in 1604. Grymeston echoes Hannah in her private meditations, one of which contains “sixteen sobs of a sorrowful spirit” (Otten 293, emphasis mine). Protestant meditations describe the engagement of an individual’s soul with the Word of God; they were overwhelmingly popular publications in Protestant England, replacing the manuals of the Roman Catholic faith (Otten 277).32 While women were less likely to publish their meditations than were male authors, women addressed God frequently and fervently in these private exercises. They recorded their thoughts for themselves, for other women, and for their children (Otten 279). Though Grymeston attends to Hannah’s private prayer, she recognizes the potency of the voice it contains. In a posture of grief and repentance, Grymeston compares herself to Hannah: Inconsolable tears if Anna shed, Who in her son her solace had forgone: Then I to days, to months, to weeks, to years, Do owe the hourly rent of stintless tears. (Otten 298)

Grymeston’s ability to identify with if not surpass Hannah’s grief for an unborn son is likely the unfortunate result of Grymeston’s repeated losses; only one of her nine children was living at the time she penned these prayers in 1603 (Travitsky 51). And yet, though Grymeston characterizes Hannah with weeping and misery, she sees this posture as an avenue to more profound expression. Simon in Reading Prophetic Narratives (1991) claims that “it is quite impossible” to make the language of Hannah’s psalm “compatible with her character” (32). But Grymeston would disagree. She adopts Hannah’s meditative anguish in an effort to achieve what Hannah achieved—not a pregnancy, but an audience with God, and a most effective mouth: “purge my mouth from all uncleanness … direct the words of my mouth that they may be pleasing unto thee, and profitable for me: Lord hear my voice” (Otten 298–9, emphases mine). Grymeston tries to negotiate with God as Hannah does; but instead of offering God a son, she offers God a song, a symbol of Hannah’s power: “instruct thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise … I will magnify thy holy name” (Otten 299). That a song of praise is enough to please God shows Grymeston’s recognition of Hannah’s rhetorical prowess; Hannah’s song completes her story. Her tale might have ended with her delivery of


Posing as a Protestant in Elizabethan England, Grymeston was actually a recusant, according to Charlotte Otten. However, Otten writes that her meditations “resonate with Protestant modes and themes.” See Charlotte Otten (ed.), English Women’s Voices: 1540– 1700 (Miami, 1991), p. 282.

“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”


Samuel to the sanctuary, but it does not. Hannah’s story ends with her own words (and the five additional children God awards as a result of them). Hannah and the Linguistic Authority of Mothers Grymeston’s Miscelanae, Meditations, Memoratives, published posthumously in 1604, was intended for her son’s instruction: “I leave this portable veni mecum for thy counsellor, in which thou maiest see the true portraiture of thy mothers minde” (Travitsky 52). Grymeston’s use of motherhood as the grounds upon which to raise her voice is itself a reference to Hannah’s story. As mentioned at the start of this chapter, Hannah is noticeably silent in her narrative until she ventures into the sanctuary to pray for motherhood (I Samuel 1:11). While early modern women such as Fell and Speght capitalize on Hannah’s rhetorical ability, Grymeston appears to recognize not only Hannah’s expression of prayer, but also the ambition it contains and the situation that prompted it.33 Hannah’s narrative establishes a relationship between maternity and articulation, as if conception required varying modes of intercourse. Grymeston is not the only early modern mother to use Hannah’s history to secure a mother’s right to speak. In 1622, Elizabeth Brooke Joceline penned a guidebook to her child during pregnancy in which she clearly appreciates Hannah’s maternal role and the authority it represents—an authority Joceline associates with language. Before examining the connection between motherhood and linguistic authority in Joceline’s text, it is worth pointing out the tremendous similarities between Joceline’s situation and Hannah’s own. When Joceline’s husband published her writing in 1624, he described its origin: “privately in her closet between God and she, she wrote these pious Meditations; whereof herself strangely speaketh to her own bowels” (a7). Towrell Joceline acknowledges, but does not apologize for, his wife’s unusual posture which seems less unusual when considered in the wake of Hannah’s tale. Further likenesses between the author and Hannah are constructed by Mistress Joceline herself. Not only does she share Hannah’s intense and private devotion, but also her purpose. Joceline describes herself as “having long, often & earnestly desired of God that I might be a mother to one of his children” (1).34 Joceline does not mention any explicit vows made to God in conjunction with that desire, but she emphatically encourages her child, if a son, to devote himself to God: “I humbly beseech almightie God thou maist bend all thy actions and … serve [God] as his Minister” (3, 4). Joceline anticipates


Speght does briefly acknowledge Hannah’s longing for a son “which she full oft and earnestly had desired” (34). 34 According to Travitsky, Joceline had been married over six years before giving birth to her first child; fears of barrenness likely affected her prayers. Joceline died nine days after giving birth to her daughter. See Betty Travitsky (ed.), The Paradise of Women: Writings by Englishwomen of the Renaissance (New York, 1989), pp. 60–61.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

her son’s regard of this proposal as “a most contemptible office,”35 but nonetheless insists upon her will: “I would have thy onley end should bee to doe Gods service” (7). She stresses the necessary piety of such a post, writing, “I desire thee that … thou wilt not seeke after the livings of the Church, nor promotions …, but I would have thee so truly an humble and zealous Minister … without desire of any thing to thy selfe” (6, 7). In other words, Joceline wants her son to be like Samuel, and not like Eli’s Hofni or a Phinehas. Like Hannah, Joceline takes command of her child’s religious upbringing, identifying it as a maternal obligation. In the volume’s prefatory letter to her husband, Joceline explains, “Mine own deare love, I no sooner conceived an hope, that I should bee made a mother by thee, but with it entered the consideration of a mothers duty … I mean in religious training of our childe” (B). Joceline disguises her dominance by identifying it as a brand of obligation. However, this passage also demonstrates a clear assertion of authority and it is an authority to which her female body exclusively entitles her. Her argument reflects her physical condition. She writes, “I … conceived an hope” (B, emphasis mine); her use of the language of pregnancy makes the expectations documented in her text as vital as the child in her womb. Joceline capitalizes on an exclusive female power. Indeed, Paster argues in The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England (1993) that women did experience “temporary but genuine female empowerment” in pregnancy and childbirth (165). As an expectant mother, Joceline determines her child’s relationship to the divine, as Hannah did for Samuel. In addition to her vow, the Bible makes clear that it is Hannah who delivers Samuel to the sanctuary (1:24). I Samuel 2:11 reveals that Elkanah was present on this journey to Shiloh but he is absent from this most significant event.36 Simon’s point that the men in Hannah’s narrative play “supporting roles” is no where more evident than in this episode (45). Elkanah is a spectator to his son’s upbringing, advising his wife to “do what seemeth thee good” (King James, I Samuel 1:23). He acknowledges that a mother’s sense of what is best exceeds his own. Joceline indicates her expectation of a similar respect from her husband: “If it be a son, I doubt not but thou wilt dedicate it to the Lord as his minister” (B5). Joceline’s assumption of Hannah’s posture draws startling attention to the intimate connection between motherhood and female expression that lies at the heart of Hannah’s experience. Like Hannah, Joceline uses the success of her private meditations to legitimize a public voice. Joceline does engage in the

35 On the profession of the ministry, Joceline writes, “It is true that this age holds it a most contemptible office, fit only for poore mens children, younger brothers, and such as have no other means to live. But for God’s sake bee not discouraged ... . If it will please him to move your heart with his holy spirit, it will glowe and burne with zeal to do him service.” See Elizabeth Joceline, The Mothers Legacie, to her unborne Childe (1625; Edinburgh and London, 1852), pp. 4–6. 36 This is understood because at the conclusion of Hannah’s song, the narrative tells us “And Elkanah went to Rama to his house” (I Samuel 2:11).

“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”


standard, self-effacing apology of early modern women who dared write: “I may perhaps be wondered at for writing in this kinde considering there are so many excellent bookes, whose least note is worth all my meditations” (9–10). However, her humility and inexperience quickly become a path to grace. She belittles the text but soon presents her behavior as the ultimate form of maternal care: ... when thou seest men purchase land, and store up treasure for their unborne babes, wonder not at mee that I am carefull for thy salvation ... . Who would not condemne mee if I should bee carelesse of thy body while it is within me? Sure a farre greater care belongs to thy soule ... (8, 9)

We are to appreciate that a mother’s concern for her child’s salvation—a salvation imparted in her written pages—takes precedence over others’ censure. Empowered by her maternal obligation, Joceline writes, “not the feare this may come to the worlds eie, & bring scorne upon my grave, can stay my hande from expressing how much I covet thy salvation” (10, 11). This mother’s mouth, like that of a biblical mother before her, is “enlarged over her enemies” because she “rejoices in … salvation” (I Samuel 2:1). Joceline follows Hannah in her private devotions and in the desire to deliver her son into God’s service. Also like Hannah, Joceline acknowledges her ability to obtain grace through a language explicitly tied to motherhood. Maternal duty inspires and requires her voice; she “could not chuse but manifest this desire in writing” (7, 8). By presenting herself as eager to perform the rites of motherhood, Joceline circumvents the requirements for women’s silence. As Elaine Hobby explains in The Virtue of Necessity (1989), “women had to find a repertoire of devices to make their writing a ‘modest’ act … claiming that the dictates of modesty were prompting them to write” (9). Joceline’s modest device is the child she carries. Whereas Joceline uses Hannah’s history to authorize her address to her child, Elizabeth Clinton, Countess of Lincolne uses Hannah to authorize an address to mothers. In The Countess of Lincolnes Nurserie, Clinton relies on Hannah to promote breast-feeding: “shee did not put [Samuel] to another to nurse, but nursed him her owne selfe untill she had weaned him … knowing that this duty of giving her childe sucke, was so acceptable to God” (4). One might suspect Clinton of access to the Babylonian Talmud, which also connects breast-feeding to Hannah. In this ancient text, Hannah further presses God: “These breasts that Thou hast put on my heart, are they not to give suck? Give me a son, so that I may suckle with them” (Hyman 126). Clinton’s intention with her Nurserie is to put mothers “in minde of a duty, which all mothers are bound to performe” (A3). The maternal care that Hannah demonstrates prompts Clinton’s speech. Further, Hannah’s narrative highlights a patriarchal recognition of these rites of motherhood. It is in response to Hannah’s declared intention to abstain from the Shiloh pilgrimage in order to nurse her son to which Elkhannah replies, “Do what seemeth to thee best” (1:23). Clinton’s text responds to both medical and social stigmas attached to breastfeeding. As Paster explains, early modern medical attitudes express ambivalence towards the female body and “emphasize a gendered distribution of credit and

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


blame, praise and shame” (167). Medical science promoted the belief that the first flowings of breast milk were impure, and advised new mothers to seek experienced nurses for their children (194). Social attitudes towards the practice were largely based upon class since women who could afford to hire wet nurses were expected to do so. Breast-feeding was regarded as “difficult and burdensome” for the aristocratic female because she would need to be constantly available to the child (202). In addition, husbands discouraged their wives from breast-feeding because it was believed breast milk could be contaminated by sexual intercourse, and “husbands would be under a prohibition on marital sex” (Otten 181). Alarmed by such views, Clinton regards it a most “monstrous unnaturallnesse” for women to ignore their nursing responsibilities (10).37 Though seeming merely to prompt women to do their duty, Clinton’s text rather prompts rebellion in that she replaces a woman’s obligation to her husband with a mother’s obligation to her child and endorses this argument with biblical example. Clinton confesses her fault in not breast-feeding her own children, and insinuates that it was due to her obedience to her husband: “I know & acknowledge that I should haue done it, and hauing not done it, it was not for want of will in my selfe, but partly I was overruled by anothers authority” (16). Clinton uses her experience in motherhood to sanction her speech. Her text is a warning to mothers; in it Clinton claims that her neglect of breast-feeding “resulted in the death of one or two of my little Babes” (18). In order to prevent other mothers from making a similar mistake, Clinton relies on the histories of biblical mothers to argue her position.38 Like Hannah, Clinton likens motherhood to a kind of consecration. In the song of thanksgiving following her delivery of Samuel to the sanctuary, Hannah identifies herself as one of God’s select. She begins her song by declaring, “my horn is exalted in the Lord” (I Samuel 2:1), and concludes the piece with the claim that “the Lord shall … exalt the horn of his anointed” (2:10, emphasis mine). In her own estimation, Hannah is a woman blessed. Clinton directly ties divinity to maternity: “Oh consider, how comes our milke? is it not by the direct providence of God?” (10). Clinton extends a similar authority to nursing women, claiming, “God worketh in the very nature of mothers” (8). Clinton’s text appears increasingly remarkable for the boldness of its claims. I digress from my discussion of Hannah for a moment to marvel at the author’s use of biblical mothers’ histories. In addition to Hannah, Clinton references Eve, Sarah, and the Virgin Mary. The author establishes an intimacy between God and these mothers, noting that each of these biblical heroines became mothers as a direct result of divine association. Conception is figured as an enterprise between 37

Clinton also attacks female vanity as the cause of women’s neglect: “it is objected, that it is troublesome; that it is noysome to ones clothes; that it makes one looke old, &c.” See Elizabeth Clinton, The Countess of Lincolnes Nurserie (Oxford, 1622), p. 13. 38 Clinton’s inclination to seek biblical support was a standard practice. Paster writes, “In religious discourses, particularly after the Reformation, the mother’s obligation to nurse her own child was clear” (198).

“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”


women and God. For example, while Adam is undoubtedly the father of Cain and Abel, Eve nonetheless declares, “I have acquired a manchild from the Lord” (Genesis 4:1), thus removing Adam from the process of creation. We see God announce his part in Sarah’s unexpected pregnancy. When she laughed at the news of her approaching child (18:11), God asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh …? Is anything too hard for the Lord? … Sarah shall have a son” (18:13, 14). Hannah, too, is obviously indebted to God for the birth of Samuel, given her direct petition and the narrative’s note that “the Lord remembered her” (I Samuel 1:19).39 Last, but by no means least, is Clinton’s reference to the Virgin Mary, whose “womb bare our blessed Saviour, so her papps gave him sucke” (Clinton 5). The Bible announces that Mary was “found with childe of the holie Ghost” (Geneva, Matthew 1:18). Clinton’s disregard of biological fathers is arguably learned from the biblical histories of those women she celebrates. Noteworthy, too, is that a number of the biblical women Clinton admires are those who challenge their husband’s authority. I have already reviewed the ways in which Hannah neglects her husband’s counsel. In addition, Sarah, “whose daughters it is our glory to be” (Clinton 3), was a woman known both for beauty and wisdom. So sensible was she that God instructs Abraham, “all that Sarah has said to thee, hearken to her voice” (Genesis 21:12). One of the most blatant biblical challenges to patriarchal authority is found in the character of Rebecca, whose mothering Clinton briefly examines, though it is unclear if this foremother nursed her twins Essau and Jacob.40 In Genesis, Rebecca encourages her son Jacob to deceive his father and obtain the blessing due to the first-born son. When the deception is discovered, Isaac “trembled very much” and accuses Jacob of cunning behavior (27:35). The biblical narrative makes plain, however, that the trick is due to Rebecca’s cunning rather than Jacob’s. She undermines her husband’s authority to fulfill God’s purpose.41 These biblical women’s careers are not detailed within Clinton’s short text, but her references to their behavior, particularly their behavior as mothers, evoke these episodes. Hannah, described by Clinton as one “so graciously heard of God” (5), appears no more privileged than any other biblical mother in the Nurserie, except that it is the boldness of her voice which resonates in the text’s final passages. Clinton encourages women to thank God for their fortune: 39

Simon argues that Hannah’s selection of the name Samuel for her son asserts that if God had not granted Hannah’s petition, then her son would not have been born (Reading Prophetic Narratives 23). 40 Clinton appears to rely on the popular assumption that Rebecca did not breast-feed her sons because Rebecca herself had a nurse who accompanied her to her husband’s house (Genesis 24:59). The popular logic seems to be that if Rebecca had a nurse then she would use wet-nurses for her sons. Clinton, nonetheless, challenges that belief, arguing that a nurse might be one who helped raise Rebecca, and not necessarily one who suckled her. See Clinton, pp. 12–13. 41 Rebecca’s behavior appears to respond to God’s declaration that her “elder [son] shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23).


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England ... you may consider that when your child is at your breast, it is a fit occasion to moue your heart to pray ... and to give thanks for your child, and for your ability & freedome unto that, which many a mother would have done and could not ... they that are fitted euery way for this commendable act, haue certainly great cause to be thankfull. (21)

Hannah’s prayer of thanks is her definitive expression, and of all Clinton’s examples of biblical mothers, only she is depicted in the posture Clinton describes. Clinton’s recommendation that mothers “seeke to honour God” has Hannah as its source (21). This female author also identifies motherhood as an opportunity for expression. Hannah’s associations with motherhood are essential to Protestant considerations of her character. Hannah did more than pray to God for a son. The Bible emphasizes her fond mothering: “[Hannah] made [Samuel] a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice” (I Samuel 2:19). By and large, Hannah’s mothering is marked by sacrifice, originating with her vow inside the sanctuary.42 In the letter The Answere of a Grieved Mother to a Seduced Son (published in 1627), a Protestant mother asks “how few are those HANNAHS? who give their children backe to the Lord ... ? who breed their children as they ought; as they are bound to doe?” (Travitsky 64).43 This act of “returning” her child to the God who enabled his birth is a mark of Hannah’s honor. Simon stresses the importance of this deed, arguing that Hannah’s “desperate act is not her prayer ... but her vow” (15). The critic keenly observes that Hannah demands “no more than the experience of pregnancy and childbirth while waiving in advance any pleasure or benefit from her son” (18). Hannah’s offering is certainly a sacrifice, but it is also a sign of authority and it is an authority obtained through speech. The influence Hannah anticipates in motherhood enables her to make her vow and to negotiate with God on her own behalf, and on behalf of her son. Note, too, that though Hannah first vows to “give [her son] unto the Lord all the days of his life,” when she actually delivers Samuel to Eli she declares that she has “lent him to the Lord” (I Samuel 1:11, 28, emphasis mine).44 The Geneva Bible does not articulate Hannah’s deliverance of Samuel to 42 Hannah is given due attention in a 1689 text on holy sacrifice. Her sacrifices are identified as a “sorrowful spirit” and her coveting of children. See John Bunyan, The Acceptable sacrifice, or, The excellency of a broken heart shewing the nature, signs and proper effects of a contrite spirit, (London, 1689), p. 68. 43 According to Betty Travitsky, the writer, known only as “EZ.W.,” blames herself for her son’s seduction into Catholicism. Here, Hannah is representative of the ideal Protestant mother, and the child who leaves her nest is subject to the corruption of the Roman Church. See Travitsky, p. 64. 44 McCarter’s commentary in the Anchor Bible notes the word-play reflected in Hannah’s declaration. The Biblical Hebrew reads: ‫שאוֺל ַליהיה‬ ָֺ ‫( הוֺא‬hû šā ûl layhyh), “He is dedicated (or lent) to God.” Thus, the word ‫שאול‬ ָֺ (šā ûl) again appears, referencing the discrepancy in v. 20 with the translation of the prophet’s name. The sentence literally reads,




“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”


God as a loan, but both Tyndale’s Pentateuch and the King James Bible do reflect the distinction of the biblical Hebrew.45 Hannah’s latter declaration prevents the full forfeiture of her first born. His success, therefore, will always be a reflection of his mother’s conscientiousness. That Hannah’s loan to God is an impressive mark of maternal influence is evidenced by the words of Mistress Bradford, mother of Martyr John Bradford.46 The prayer Bradford’s mother recited shortly before his death in 1555 is preserved in Bentley’s Monument of Matrons, and emphasizes Hannah’s maternal authority: “As Hanna did applie, dedicate, and give hir first child and sonne Samuel unto thee ... even so doo I deare father, beseech thee ... to accept this my gift” (lamp 2:215). Bradford’s prayer demonstrates her belief in the force of a mother’s words as if John Bradford’s martyrdom is the result of his mother’s application rather than the unfortunate consequence of a bloody battle over faith. Because, like Hannah, Bradford vows her son to God before he is taken from her, she too never loses interest in her son’s grace. She depicts that grace as exceeding life’s store, asking God to give her condemned son “grace alwaies trulie to serve thee, and thy people as Samuel did” (Bentley, lamp 2:215). While the pathos of Bradford’s prayer is evident, equally clear is her attempt to determine her son’s spiritual destiny. Her effort to achieve that authority comes in the offering of her son as a “gift.” Bradford’s imitation of Hannah’s sacrificial act demonstrates that she attributes Hannah’s and Samuel’s success to the potency of Hannah’s vow. The story of Hannah in I Samuel ably supports such a belief. The significance of Hannah’s maternal behavior is evident when we recognize the disastrous effects of Eli’s performance as father. The biblical narrative instructs readers to regard the parenting of both Hannah and Eli by juxtaposing their experiences.47 Immediately following Hannah’s song of thanksgiving commemorating her commitment to God and the delivery of Samuel to the sanctuary is Eli’s discovery of “all that his sons did to all Israel” (I Samuel 2:22). Like Hannah, Eli is a parent who dedicated his children to God. His sons are priests. However, Eli’s indulgence of his sons’ corruption reveals that his commitment to them surpasses his commitment to his

“He is Saul to God.” See The Anchor Bible, I Samuel, p. 63. [Note the word “dedicated” or “lent” has the same Hebrew root as “asked for.” See Tanakh / The Holy Scriptures (Philadelphia and Jerusalem, 1985), p. 418, fn. j.] 45 Tyndale’s Pentateuch reads, “therefore also I lend him the Lord, as long as he may be lent the Lord” (I Samuel 1:28). The King James Bible has essentially the same translation: “Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord as long as he liveth, he shall be lent to the Lord” (I Samuel 1:28). 46 According to Travitsky, Mistress Bradford’s Christian and maiden names are unknown. See Travitsky, p. 37. 47 Eli’s episode with his sons comes on the heels of Hannah’s maternal success: “And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bore three sons, and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord. Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did to all Israel” (I Samuel 2:21–2).


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Lord. This is the source of God’s anger (2:29), and all of Eli’s house is destroyed as a result: Wherefore, the Lord God of Israel sayth, I said thine house and the house of thy father shulde walke before me for ever: but now the Lord saith, ‘It shal not be so: for them that honour me, I wil honour, and they that despise me, shal be despised.’ (2:30)

In contrast, Hannah’s courage to uphold her promise to God is her most impressive act of piety. Protestant minister Thomas Gataker acknowledges this in his sermon “A Wife in Deed,” published in 1623. He presents Hannah as a mother to be emulated, encouraging his audience to “doe ... as Anna did with her sonne Samuel, as she had him of God, so she bestowed him on God againe” (66). *** As an ideal mother, Hannah promotes the Protestant view of the ideal woman. Unlike the Catholic Church, which advocated virginity as the perfect state for womankind, the Protestant faith envisioned the archetypal lady as one dedicated to the rearing of her young (Crawford 39). In this way, Hannah potentially replaces the Virgin Mary in Protestant considerations of a mothering figure. Like Mary, Hannah owes her motherhood to God’s good will, but her narrative does not confuse the depiction of motherhood with a virginal pose. Hannah continues to recreate her role as mother subsequent to Samuel’s birth; it is the last word we have of her, and it is a sign of grace: “And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived ...” (Geneva, I Samuel 2:21, emphasis mine). The two maternal figures function similarly in other ways as well. Mary’s position as “intercessor” between Catholic penitents and Christ is superseded in the Protestant faith by Hannah’s example of an individual’s ability to communicate directly with God. Hannah’s posture removes the need for a divine intermediary—virginal, maternal, or otherwise. Furthermore, both women’s approach to the deity is contingent upon motherhood. Mary’s advantage with Christ was reportedly due to the understanding that “a son could deny his mother nothing” (Crawford 47), and Hannah’s posture, which so warranted God’s attention, was adopted in her pursuit of a son. Hannah’s story self consciously draws attention to female speech, and not merely the speech of one female. In Sarah Laughed: Women’s Voices in the Old Testament (1994), Dennis argues that Peninnah’s presence is not merely adversarial, that in fact, it is Peninnah’s verbal cruelty in the form of her undefined provocations of Hannah in I Samuel 1:6 that drives Hannah to the sanctuary to make a vow with God (121). A similar suggestion appears in seventeenth century biblical commentary in which it is made clear that Elkhanah, though he appears not to know the source of his wife’s grief, in fact recognizes that they are caused by “Peninnah’s spitefull upbraidings” (Downame MMM2). Regardless of whose words a reader chooses to privilege, it is clear that the majority of the words spoken in Hannah’s story are women’s words; more specifically, they are mothers’

“My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies”


words. Hannah’s private vow expresses her desire for motherhood. Her song of thanks celebrates God for bestowing that advantage upon her. Fell and others may rightfully consider Hannah a prophet gifted with God’s spirit, but it is a spirit aroused by maternity. While the voice of the Prophet Miriam inspires women to celebrate God’s victories, Hannah’s voice empowers women to celebrate God’s achievements as well as their own. Hannah demonstrates to early modern women how, in motherhood, they can challenge the social demands of silence and obedience. Silence is confounded first by the duty to petition God for a child.48 While these prayers may be private, they appear increasingly un-silent given their potent audience. Next, the celebrations of a child’s birth enlarge the mouths of those who sound them, in the Bible and in the early modern period.49 In The Hand-Maid to Private Devotion, Featley directs new mothers to pay the following tribute to God: “I will open my mouth in thy praises. Thou hast made good thy promises unto mee, therefore I will make good my vowes unto thee. Thou hast given me the fruit of my womb, therefore will I returne unto thee the fruit of my lips” (678). Clinton identifies such thanksgiving as a “freedom” (21), and so it is; Hannah enjoys it in her narrative. Hannah suggests that the sounding of her voice is evidence of God’s blessing: “He will keep the feet of his pious ones, and the wicked shall be silent” (2:9, emphasis mine). Hannah’s voice assures her grace. Joceline acknowledges the liberties she takes in her creation of a text, but uses the privilege of motherhood to legitimize the task. Instead of obediently silencing herself, she uses her text to command obedience from others. She writes, “dear childe, reade here my love, and if God take mee from thee, be obedient to these instructions, as thou oughtest to bee unto mee” (11, emphasis mine). Empowered by the expression of motherhood, these women have the potential to transform their worlds, in a sense, as Hannah did. Clinton reminds her reader that the child at her breast is “perhaps one of Gods very elect” (17). Certainly Hannah’s child, whose birth was devised and glorified by his mother’s language, did more than bring his mother joy. Hannah’s prayers produced a prophet privileged with speech: “and the Lord was with him and let none of his wordes fall to the ground” (Geneva, I Samuel 3:1). 48

Featley’s “Child-bearing Womans Devotion” section of Hand-Maid to Private Devotion encourages would-be mothers to recite a dozen biblical quotations in favor of reproduction, such as “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, Gen 1.28.,” and “Notwithstanding she shall be saved in child-bearing ... . I Tim. 2.15.” See Featley, p. 660. 49 Perhaps the most notable of these is “The Thanksgiving of Women after Childbirth, Commonly Called the Churching of Women” presented in The Book of Common Prayer. This brief ceremony commonly took place a month after a woman was delivered of her child. She was often accompanied by the women who assisted with the birth. See John E. Booty, ed., The Book of Common Prayer, 1559 (Charlottesville, 1976), p. 314. According to Cressy and Ferrell, this service “focused on the woman’s deliverance from the pain and peril of childbearing, not on her delivery of a child.” See David Cressy and Lori Anne Ferrell (eds), Religion and Society in Early Modern England (London and New York, 1996), p. 54.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Those early modern Protestants who reference Hannah all acknowledge the grace bestowed upon her, whether they credit that grace to her devoted stance, desperate heart, or the prominence of her speech. Grace is inherent in her character; the Hebrew root of the name Hannah ‫ח נָה‬ ַ [hannā(h)] is the verb ‫[ ָח נַן‬hānan], ֺ understood as “yearn towards, ֺ meaning “show favour, be gracious,” and is also long for” (Brown et al. 335). Bentley acknowledges this and extends the definition to one associated with divinity: “his grace, or fauour” (lamp 7:158, emphasis mine). Secondary Hebrew meanings include “be shown favor or consideration,” “seek or implore for favour” (336). These definitions are all relevant to Hannah’s story, in which her grace is one prompted by her ardent longing for God’s consideration. The noun form of the word, ‫[ ֵחן‬hēn], signifies “favour, grace” (336). This definition ֺ also enlightens those confronting Hannah’s narrative. While the word primarily pertains to the “form and appearance of a woman,” the secondary meanings deal specifically with linguistic grace, “of speech, lips” (336). Therefore, Hannah’s grace is as much a consequence of her language as it is her posture, regardless of which events in her narrative a reader chooses to attend. I began this chapter with the observation that Hannah succeeds in both linguistic and non-linguistic enterprises. In fact, her narrative encourages us to confront alternative discourses. It is curious that the definition of ‫[ ֵחן‬hēn] (cited above) ֺ one’s lips (336). distinguishes between the grace of one’s speech, and the grace of Hannah’s prayer was not audible in the sanctuary, but we are specifically told that her lips are active: “her lippes did moue onely but her voyce was not heard” (Geneva, I Samuel 1:13). Hannah’s very name implies there was grace in this movement, and God evidently responds to it. Thus, even in her apparent silence, Hannah engages in a linguistic enterprise (in so far as we define linguistic as “of or pertaining to language” [OED VIII:992]). Though Hannah’s private discourse is not a language the priest can understand, an early modern reader might question whether it was necessary for the priest to do so. According to The Book of Common Prayer, it is the minister’s duty to be understood, to “use such a language ... as is most easy and plain for the understanding, both of the readers and hearers” (16). Members of the church, however, have no such obligation. When praying privately, the text instructs that individuals may “say the same in any language that they themselves do understand” (17). As we can see in Hannah’s narrative and in early modern considerations of her story, the language of prayer may be a private language, but it is a potent language. It is a language Protestant men were taught to imitate. It is also a language that a woman might discover in the confines of a closet—“her candle being …lighted from the lamp of the sanctuary” (Joceline a2)—but that has applications and significance well beyond it.

Chapter 3

“Give ear o princes”: Deborah as a Model for Female Authority “Who hath not heard of Jewish Deborah / Judith, and Jael that slew Sisera?” (I.G. D3v). When “I.G.” published these lines in 1605 in his pamphlet An Apologie for Womenkind, he could assume his audience’s recognition of these biblical heroines, and particularly the prophetess who makes possible the other characters’ tales.1 Deborah was an especially prominent figure in sermons and pageant displays during the reign of Elizabeth I, who held the throne from 1558–1603. The Queen was hailed an English Deborah from the start of her reign until after her death.2 Her progress through the city of London the day before her coronation included a stop at Fleet Street, where, seated beneath “A Palme Tree,” a “semelie and mete personage richlie apparelled in parliament robes, with a sceptre in her hand, as a Quene” was presented to the young Elizabeth as “Debora the iudge and restorer of the house of Israel” (The Quenes Maiesties Passage 53, 54). Though, as was the custom, a child will approach the new Queen to explain the meaning of the pageant, it is hardly necessary. Elizabeth is identified with the illustrious Deborah, the commander who will lead her nation into battle against Israel’s enemy, and restore faith to the chosen people. She is a judge to whom the children of Israel come for guidance (Judges 4:5), one divinely raised to save them “out of the hand of their oppressors” (Geneva 2:16).3 Though a number of historians note early modern England’s regard of Elizabeth as an English Deborah, little study has been made which actively investigates Renaissance perception of this biblical character. Instead, scholars presume an audience familiar with the biblical heroine’s history, or provide cursory explanations of it themselves. When discussing Elizabeth as a Deborah, for example, Elkin Calhoun Wilson describes the character as a “Hebrew prophetess” (64) who 1 Jael appears in the biblical narrative to fulfill Deborah’s prophecy that Sisera will be delivered “into the hand of a woman” (4:9). Judith’s history is commonly regarded as an embellishment of Jael’s historical tale. See Susan Ackerman, Warrior, Dancer, Seductress, Queen: Women in Judges and Biblical Israel (New York, 1998), pp. 49–51. See also Nehema Aschkenasy, Eve’s Journey: Feminine Images in Hebraic Literary Tradition (Philadelphia, 1986), pp. 171, 172. 2 As Sir John Neale writes, “In the thoughts of … Englishmen Elizabeth, even before her accession, had been their Deborah.” See The Quenes Maiesties Passage through the Citie of London to Westminster the Day before her Coronation, ed. James M. Osborn (1558; New Haven, 1960), p. 13. Elizabeth is also referred to as Deborah in eulogistic poetry. See Elkin Calhoun Wilson, England’s Eliza (New York, 1939), p. 370. 3 All “Geneva” citations refer to The Geneva Bible (1560; Madison, Milwaukee, and London, 1969).

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


“brings sweet peace to a troubled land” (88).4 Although accurate, this description does not convey the complexity of Deborah’s position as judge in Israel, nor does it communicate the intricate relationships between women and power that are featured in Deborah’s biblical story. Moreover, Wilson’s description fails to reveal the “remarkable … ways in which Judges’ women can be depicted in defiance of traditional gender expectations” (Ackerman 5).5 Expectations of gendered behavior are nowhere more challenged in the Bible than in the Book of Judges, and that challenge is particularly apparent in chapters four and five, in which the narrator tells Deborah’s and Jael’s stories, and Deborah praises Jael’s victory. This narrative exposes a system of female authority which celebrates and relies upon language; Deborah’s history not only challenges requirements for female silence, but also makes female speech necessary. Eloquent women emerge in the biblical pages of her history and support one another through song and rhetorical activity. This chapter investigates early modern references and allusions to the women who appear in Deborah’s story, paying greatest attention to the prophetess herself. My attention is fixed on the ways in which her character becomes a model of feminine authority in early modern England, and how that authority is controlled by the early modern men and women who recommend her. Because the most well known Renaissance references to Deborah are those that associate the prophetess with the Elizabethan queen, I begin by unpacking the characterization of Elizabeth as Deborah, exposing the anxieties and consequences implicit in this comparison. I then examine how speech functions to indicate Deborah’s authority in some early modern readings of her story, and the corruption of Deborah’s speech in others. The latter half of this chapter presents Deborah’s rhetoric as a discursive model. Deborah juxtaposes a celebration of God with a celebration of valiant women, while unabashedly criticizing those who ignore God’s call. Similar patterns appear in early modern women’s writings; in prophetic tracts, pamphlets, and poetic works we repeatedly find women coupling celebrations of God and womankind while broadcasting male weaknesses. Deborah in Biblical Prose and Poetry Deborah’s story is found in the Book of Judges, a biblical book filled with stories of war and deception. Judges presents portraits of a number of female characters, ranging from prophetess to apparent prostitute. These complicated women have 4

Wilson’s text contains a chapter dedicated to examining Elizabeth as Deborah, though Deborah’s biblical story is not told. Instead, Wilson lists references to Elizabeth which associate her with things divine. See Wilson, pp. 61–95. 5 In her recent volume, Michelle Ephraim explores the ways in which Deborah and other Jewish women of the Old Testament represent Elizabeth I on the English stage. Such representations, Ephraim argues, are for the purpose of allowing early modern audiences to “take possession of the scripture” or to capture the mystery associated with the Hebrew Bible. See Reading the Jewish Woman on the Elizabethan Stage (Aldershot and Burlington, 2008), p. 5.

“Give ear o princes”


been the subject of much critical investigation. Susan Ackerman in Warrior, Dancer, Seductress, Queen: Women in Judges and Biblical Israel (1998) observes that Judges women stand in “striking contrast” to women appearing elsewhere in the Old Testament (6). This is especially evident in women’s participation in politics and war (5). The Book of Judges’s opening emphasizes the Children of Israel’s repeated transgressions. We are told that they “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2:11), that they “forsook the Lord God of their fathers ... . Wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them” (2:12, 15).6 In the midst of this chaos, God is described as pitying the Israelites, and his love is evidenced by his raising up of judges to save the Children of Israel from their plunderers. Deborah is one such savior, appearing in direct response to the Israelites’ need. Their oppressor is identified as King Jabin of Canaan, whose military captain was Sisera, who had “nine hundred chariots of iron” (Judges 4:3). The narrator tells us that the Israelites had been suffering under Jabin (and Sisera) for 20 years. Immediately following this information, the narrator introduces Deborah. She is described as “a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth,” who judged Israel at that time (4:4). Hers is an image of accord: “And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah ... and the children of Yisra’el came up to her for judgment” (4:5). Although the Israelites seek out Deborah’s aid, suggesting their respect and admiration for her, it is Deborah who seeks Barak, the head of the Israelite army. She reminds him of his duty: “Has not the Lord God of Yisra’el commanded, saying go and gather your men to Mount Trevor, and take with thee ten thousand men ... . And I will deliver [Sisera] into your hand?” (4:6, 7). This general is immobilized without Deborah. He replies, “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go” (4:8). In heroic fashion, Deborah agrees to accompany Barak and his men into battle but warns the general that he will not be rewarded for his cowardice: “thou shalt scarcely attain honour on the journey that thou goest; for the Lord shall yield Sisera into the hand of a woman” (4:9). That the enemy’s death will be caused by a woman is considered a sign of disgrace both for the slain man and for Barak;7 nonetheless, Barak and Deborah proceed into combat accompanied by 10,000 Israelite soldiers. 6 Unless otherwise indicated, the Old Testament translations in this chapter are those found in The New Jerusalem Bible, Harold Fisch, English ed. (Jerusalem, 1997). In those instances where a different translation is cited, the biblical text used is that which is most relevant to the examined literary work. 7 In a subsequent episode in Judges, Abimelech, an ambitious man who procures a position as king, attempts to retain his title by killing off his 70 half-brothers, and battling various peoples. As punishment for this, God has a woman drop a stone atop Abimelech’s head, which crushes his skull. In order to prevent a woman’s victory over him, Abimelech immediately directs his armourbearer to slay him “so that men should not say of me, a woman slew him,” implying the disgrace of such a death (9:54). William E. Phipps claims this episode testifies that the “ultimate humiliation” was to be killed by a woman. See Phipps, Assertive Biblical Women (Westport and London, 1992), p. 43. Ackerman notes that the stone-thrower, referred to as the Woman of Thebez, remains “nameless, and beyond Judges 9, and II Samuel 11, forgotten” (49).

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


At this point in the narrative, it is easy to assume that the female hand into which Sisera would be delivered is Deborah’s own. But that assumption changes with the appearance of Jael. After the narrative relates the defeat of Sisera’s army, we are told that Sisera himself flees on foot. He arrives at the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was peace between the house of Heber and King Jabin. Jael goes out to meet the frightened Sisera and encourages him to trust her: “Turn in, my lord, turn into me; fear me not” (4:18). Sisera enters her tent and she covers him with a blanket. He asks for a drink of water, and Jael gives him milk. Sisera then instructs her to stand in the door of the tent and to deny having seen him if anyone should ask (4:20). Jael’s next move is unexpected: “Then Jael, Heber’s wife took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him, and drove the tent peg into his temple, and fastened it to the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary” (4:21). Sisera dies, and in the following moment, Barak is also greeted by the watchful Jael, who promises to show him the man he seeks. And she does. This chapter concludes with the narrator’s telling of the Israelites’ defeat of King Jabin. The prose narrative offers no justification for Jael’s deed, nor does it celebrate her success. That is left to Deborah. Deborah’s story is punctuated by her victory song in Judges, chapter 5, in which the prophetess celebrates God’s deliverance of the enemy into Israel’s (and a woman’s) hands. Though Deborah’s song is shared with a male voice, that of Barak, it becomes apparent that hers is the primary voice. The Bible reads, “Then sang Deborah and Baraq the son of Avino’am on that day,” but the Hebrew verbal form of “sang” is feminine singular.8 The psalm begins in a familiar fashion, in which the psalmist announces her intention to praise God: “Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes: I will sing to the Lord; I will intone a melody to the God of Yisra’el” (5:3). While we might easily imagine a pair of voices in these opening lines, most biblical translations, including those in early modern Protestant England, suggest that the song shifts to feature Deborah’s voice: “The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Yisra’el/ until I Deborah arose, / I arose a mother in Yisra’el” (5:7, emphases mine).9 After reciting additional selfcongratulatory lyrics, including Deborah’s assertion that “The Lord made me have dominion over the mighty ones” (Judges 5:13), the speaker chastises those who did not heed God’s call against Jabin’s forces:


Jonneke Bekkenkamp and Fokkelien van Dijk also recognize this. See Bekkenkamp and van Dijk, “The Canon of the Old Testament and Women’s Cultural Tradition” in Maaike Meijer and Jetty Schaap (eds), Historiography of Women’s Cultural Traditions (Dordrecht, 1987), p. 97. 9 The JPS Tanakh does translate Judges 5:7 as “Deliverance ceased, / Ceased in Israel, / Till you arose, O Deborah, / Arose, O mother in Israel!” (emphasis mine) with a note explaining that ‫מ ֺתי‬ ְ ‫( ָק‬qamĕtiy) is an “archaic second-person singular feminine.” See ֺ Tanakh / The Holy Scriptures (Philadelphia and Jerusalem, 1985), p. 384. The early modern vernacular Bibles with which I am working, including Tyndale’s Pentateuch, the Geneva, Bishops’, and King James Bibles all translate this line as “I arose.” See Judges 5:7.

“Give ear o princes”


Why did Dan remain by the ships? Asher continued on the seashore, and abode by his bays. .. Curse Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse bitterly its inhabitants; because they did not come to the help of the Lord (5:17, 23)

Barak’s hesitancy to follow God’s command without Deborah by his side makes his an unlikely voice for such criticism. Only the actions of Deborah and Jael seem wholly devoted to the Israelites’ purpose, and the singer of the thanksgiving song—be it Deborah or one of the voices she directs to accompany her (5:11)— recognizes this. The second half of the song turns its attentions toward Jael. She is depicted as God’s human aid10 and described as “blessed above women” (5:23). The song elaborates on Jael’s activities, and is especially attentive to Sisera’s collapsing at Jael’s feet (5:27). In Deborah’s final verses she introduces other women into the story, with a bizarre shift in scene from Jael to Sisera’s mother and her waiting women. Sisera’s mother laments the time her son takes to return from battle. She is comforted by her “wise ladies” who console her with images of Sisera’s victory, which include the alarming abuse of women from the defeated forces (5:28–30). Deborah’s song, indeed her biblical history, concludes with the observation that “the land was quiet / for forty years” (5:31). The English Deborah It is easy to see why sixteenth-century English Protestants would associate their young Queen with this biblical heroine. Their world was in turmoil from the violent and bloody reign of the late Catholic Queen Mary, and people turned to the Bible, expecting the sacred text “to supply solutions for pressing problems” (Hill 4). In the Bible, Deborah herself is one such solution. She is a remedy to a predicament reflected in the Israelites’ disobedience punctuated by their worship of false gods. In the Book of Judges, the Israelites “followed other gods, even the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed vnto to them, and provoked the Lord to angre” (Geneva 2:12). To those Protestants who suffered or converted during Mary’s reign, the accession of a Protestant Queen to the throne marked the return of a Protestant England’s independence from the corrupting influence of the Roman Church. In this sense, Elizabeth is decidedly a Deborah, a force sent by God to save his “chosen people of England” (King 410). 10

In a most poetic passage, Deborah presents the forces of nature as coming to God’s aid: “the stars in their courses fought against Sisera / The wadi of Qishon swept them away” (5:20). In the next moment she curses much of humankind for not coming to the help of God’s chosen nation. Her reference to Jael follows, suggesting Jael is blessed because she does support God’s cause. See Judges 5:20–24. Ackerman, however, identifies Deborah herself as “God’s human counterpart in the war against Sisera” (38).

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


God’s deliverance of redeemers in the form of judges and princes is hardly unique to the histories of either Deborah or Elizabeth, but the appearance of these saviors in the feminine form occurs infrequently in the Bible, and, at the time of the sixteenth century, even less often in the record of the British throne.11 Elizabeth is reminiscent of Deborah because she is a woman privileged with a position of political and religious leadership in a culture dominated by men. Like Deborah, the Elizabethan Queen was responsible for the government of her people and was also “Supreme Governor” of the Church of England. Her father Henry VIII was regarded as the “Supreme Head” of the Church of England but Elizabeth was denied that title, evidencing the “different attitudes toward queenship” (Levin, The Heart and Stomach 3). Still, according to the Mayor of New Windsor in 1568, Elizabeth had “soveraigne power to establish religion within the lande” (Progresses II:475). She had the responsibility of dispensing God’s word while upholding social and civil obligations. Deborah also holds a combined religious and legal authority: as prophetess she would transmit the word of God to the Israelites; as judge it was her responsibility to render legal decisions.12 The challenge a woman’s reign posed to early modern notions of gender and gendered behavior was palpable. Writing against female rule during the reign of Elizabeth’s half-sister in the early months of 1558, John Knox reveals unsettling attitudes toward a woman on the throne. In his pamphlet The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women,13 Knox rails, “To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire above any realm, nation or city is repugnant to nature, contumely to God, a … subversion of … all equity and justice” (42). Knox does acknowledge biblical instances of female leadership, and names Deborah as the first of such examples (64).14 In his view these biblical women’s experiences “do establish no common law,” but rather are evidence of God’s potent and miraculous work (65). Thus, a woman who did find herself in a miraculous situation continues to bear the burden of her sex which was “by nature weake, / Because her sex no otherwise can be” (Progresses II:549). For 11

With the exception of Matilda’s “disputed reign” in the twelfth century, Mary Tudor and her sister Elizabeth were the first female monarchs in British history. See Carole Levin, The Heart and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power (Philadelphia, 1994), p. 2. 12 Phipps notes that it was also Deborah’s responsibility to boost the morale of her people. See Phipps, p. 42. 13 This “Monstrous Regiment” included Mary Tudor, Mary Stewart, Mary of Guise, and Catherine de Medici. Though his primary difficulty with Mary may have been her Catholic faith, Knox clearly saw her sex as a weakness, and one against which he could launch the most effective attack. Marvin A. Breslow writes that Knox’s audience was primarily England and Scotland. See Breslow’s Introduction in John Knox, The Political Writings of John Knox, ed. Marvin A. Breslow (Washington, 1985), p. 24. 14 Knox also references Huldah, a prophetess who is recognized for outstanding wisdom. In her narrative, she is able to interpret a text for the king. For Huldah’s narrative, see Kings 22:14–20, and II Chronicles 22–8. For Knox’s reference to Huldah, see The Political Writings of John Knox, p. 64.

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all her victory, Deborah cannot elude the early modern presumption of feminine weakness. In a sermon celebrating Deborah and Jael’s deeds, John Donne concludes that “God by weake meanes doth mighty workes” (4:181, emphasis mine). Even John Aylmer, who argues against Knox’s views in his 1559 pamphlet An Harborovve for Faithfull and True Subjects against the late blowne Blaste,15 summarizes Deborah’s history with the observation that “[God] saved his people by the hande of a woman poore … God worketh in weakness” (B3v, emphases mine). The Renaissance comparison of Elizabeth to Deborah does not prevent Elizabeth from yielding to those defects ascribed to her sex.16 The coronation pageant on Fleet Street exemplifies the attempt to model Elizabeth after Deborah. This display appears complimentary but ultimately reveals an anxiety on the part of the English people. Representing Deborah in Elizabethan costume, the pageant identifies the worthy female as God’s gift to the Israelites. The child who explains the pageant relays the Israelites’ turbulent situation: Jaben of Canaan king had long by force of armes Opprest the Israelites, which for gods people went But god minding at last for to redresse their harmes, The worthy Debora as judge among them sent (Quenes 54)

The divinity inherent in Deborah’s character extends to the occupant of the English throne. As Aylmer observed, “where such [Deborahes, Judiths, and Elizabethes] be is no token of God’s wrath” (G3v). Elizabeth’s accession is hailed as divine ordination. The recorder of the pageant writes, “princes be set in their seate by gods appointing … god hath so wonderfullie placed [Elizabeth] in the seate of government over this realme” (Quenes 63). The pageant holds up Deborah’s divinity and history for the new Queen: In war she, through gods aide, did put her foes to flight, And with the dint of sworde the bande of bondage blast, In peace she, through gods aide, did always mainteine And iudged Israell till fourty yeres were past. (Quenes 54)

15 The full title of Aylmer’s text reads, An Harborovve for Faithfull and True Subjects against the late blowne Blaste, concerning the government of Wemen, wherein be confuted all such reasons as a straunger of late meade in that behalfe with a breife exhortation to OBEDIENCE. It was published in London in 1559. 16 This might explain Elizabeth’s continual attempts to fashion herself after male heroes. As Levin writes, Elizabeth presented herself as both king and queen of England. In order to do this she “used male analogies with which to compare herself.” See Levin, The Heart and Stomach of a King, p. 131. Leah S. Marcus also discusses Elizabeth’s “set of symbolic male identities” which confound notions of gender. See Marcus, “Shakespeare’s Comic Heroines, Elizabeth I, and the Political Uses of Androgyny,” Women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Literary and Historical Perspectives, ed. Mary Beth Rose (Syracuse, 1986), p. 137.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

The maintenance of peace for which Deborah is praised is of the utmost urgency to the English nation, and to the woman on the threshold of its rule. Indeed, fundamental to the association of Elizabeth with Deborah is their common goal of reuniting a disgruntled and disjointed people. Elizabeth was about to assume command of a country divided by religion, and the people looked to her for reconciliation. In the festivities surrounding her coronation, Elizabeth is characterized as a uniting force.17 Deborah’s ancient people were also divided, and early modern commentary applauds Deborah’s skill at reuniting disparate groups. In 1599, Anthony Gibson wrote, “Deborah … wrought meruailes, for the conservation of [her] people” (B7). This conservation is described by Nehama Aschkenasy as an effort “to reconcile different social elements and unite them into a harmonious whole” (167).18 Deborah’s political success provides an avenue for the citizens of London to express the nation’s hopes for the new Queen. The pageant concludes, A worthie president, O worthie Queene, thou hast, A worthie woman iudge, a woman sent for state. And that the like be to us endure alway thou maist Thy loving subiectes wil with true hearts & tonges praie. (Quenes 54)

The pageant’s use of Deborah’s history informs Elizabeth of the nation’s expectations. If, indeed, Elizabeth’s rule is directed by God, then her people have cause to expect the same sort of bounty under Elizabeth as that enjoyed by the Israelites during Deborah’s reign. The comparison of Elizabeth to Deborah is a commendation, but the final lines of the child’s speech also reveal an insecurity on the part of the seemingly loyal subjects. They pray that the Queen will prove herself worthy of the comparison they make; they do not assert her abilities, but hope for them.

17 Such sentiment is apparent in a pageant song featured in a display uniting the Houses of York and Lancaster: Both heires to both their bloodes, to Lacastre the king The Queene to Yorke, in one the two houses did knit, Of whom as heire to both, Henry the eyght did spring, In whose seat his true heire thou quene Elsabeth dost lie Therefore as ciuill warre, and shede of blood did cease When these two houses were united into one So now that iarre shall stint, and quietnes encrease, We trust, O noble Queene, thou wilt be cause alone See The Quenes Maiesties Passage, pp. 34, 35. 18 Judges 4 concludes with the announcement that “the hand of the Children of Israel prospered, and preuailed against Iabin the King of Canaan” (Geneva 4:24). The Children of Israel are comprised of twelve tribes that collectively thrive after Sisera’s defeat. Prior to this victory it is evident that some tribes are more willing to risk battle than others; those less willing are identified and chastised in Deborah’s song. Deborah specifically rebukes the tribes of Gilead, Dan, and Asher. See Judges 5:16, 17 in The Geneva Bible (1560; Madison, Milwaukee, and London, 1969), p. 110.

“Give ear o princes”


Visually, the Fleet Street pageant also undermines the new Queen’s authority for the described display indicates a manipulation of Deborah’s story. The prophetess in the pageant is dressed in Elizabeth’s parliamentary robes. She is posed with six personages representing the nobility, clergy and citizenship of England (Quenes 54). The description posted above the pageant reads, “Debora with her estates, consulting for the good gouerment of Israel” (54). The pageant recorder evaluates the display with the hope that “[Elizabeth] might by this be put in remembrance to consult for the worthie gouernment of … her people” and “to use aduise of good counsell” (54). Those familiar with Deborah’s tale will find this reading curious. In the Bible Deborah never receives advice; she only offers it—most notably to a male military commander. This citizen’s interpretation of Deborah’s story obscures her advisory position. The pageant presents Deborah surrounded by men; is she advising them, or is she listening to their advice? Regardless of the biblical history featuring a woman’s wisdom, this author regards the scene as a cue for Elizabeth to seek aid from knowing, male sources. England presents its Queen in the image of Deborah, but she appears more restrained and dependent than she who judged Israel. The marginal notes in the Geneva Bible emphasize Deborah’s competent judgment, defining it as the “Spirit of prophecie, resolving of controuersies, & declaring the wil of God” (110). But while the Deborah of the pageant may possess fewer gifts, the citizens she redeems are no less worthy. By fashioning its Queen as a Deborah, the English nation fashions itself as God’s chosen people. Though they are often led astray in the biblical text, the Israelites remain a people worthy of redemption. Fashioning Elizabeth as a Deborah allows English citizens to imagine that their nation may be rescued from its troubled political plight. At the start of Elizabeth’s reign, England was involved in political tension with France, Scotland, and, of course, the Church of Rome. Deborah symbolizes hope and restoration. Her success is her people’s success; the Israelites were united in victory and rewarded with peace. The depiction of Elizabeth as Deborah is an extension of early modern England’s identification with the Israelite nation. Thus, the Fleet Street pageant is a national tribute as much as it is homage to the new queen. The association of Deborah with national achievement is even more pronounced in a pageant commemorating the twentieth year of Elizabeth’s reign. In Norwich in 1578, England’s female monarch again confronts the Bible’s female judge. Here, Deborah addresses the Queen and emphasizes Elizabeth’s continued obligation to her people (Progresses II:147). Deborah reveals her history and passes her legacy onto Elizabeth: But He that neyther sleepes nore slackes such furies to correct, Appointed me Debora for the Judge of his elect: And did deliver Sisera into a Woman’s hande. I slewe them all, and so in rest his people helde the lande. So, mightie Prince, that puisaunt Lords hath plaste thee here to be, Continue as though hast begon, weede out the wicked route, Upholde the simple, meeke and good, pull downe the proud and stoute,


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England Thus shalt thou live and raigne in rest, and mightie God shalt please. Thy state be sure, thy subjects safe, thy commonwealth at ease Thy God shal graunt thee length of life, to glorify his name, Thy deedes shall be recorded in the book of lasting fame. (147)

Elizabeth is promised fame of biblical proportions, and yet personal fame is not the Queen’s reward for achievements. Instead, Elizabeth’s Deborah-like behavior will be reflected in her nation’s prosperity. The land is identified as belonging to the people; national safety and peace recur in the list of benefits accompanying holy conduct. Discursive Authority and the Female Prophet While the representation of Deborah within each of these pageants associates her with victory and divine appointment, she is removed from the linguistic authority that characterizes her story in numerous early modern readings. Deborah does address the Queen in the Norwich pageant, but she also justifies her voice, as if acknowledging the boldness of her act: “Myselfe (oh peerlesse Prince) do speake by proof of matter past” (146). Though the heroine claims her accomplishments give her the right to speak, she does not identify an accomplishment as speech itself. But the practice Deborah routinely performed was a discursive one; speech is at the heart of her experience. Deborah challenges the Renaissance gender ideology that located women in silent and subservient positions. We observe an early modern discomfort with this challenge but the uneasiness only accentuates the linguistic authority unmistakable in Deborah’s tale. Deborah’s strong ties to language are recognized by Thomas Heywood in his 1640 text The Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts of Nine The Most Worthy Women of the World: Three Jewes, Three Gentiles, Three Christians. Heywood depicts Deborah’s success as a series of verbal triumphs. She is Heywood’s first subject in the volume. He begins, As for our worthy Jewesse now in quest, The sequent tractate, can describe her best. He that made man the womans Head, that she Despis’d of her superiour might not be: Rais’d from her sex brave Dames (by Text allowd) Least she might prove dejected, or be proud. If any one this Maxime shall gaine say, Let him but reade Barach and Deborah. (2)

Deborah is endorsed by God, and more interestingly, by a “Text”—the biblical text. Heywood presents Deborah as one authorized by language; her character exists courtesy of textual authority. It is not surprising that Heywood should present a character born of language to profoundly engage with it. Immediately, Heywood educates his readers that Deborah’s essence is discursive, and commends the appropriateness of her name:

“Give ear o princes”


The name Deborah in the originall, implyeth a Word, or a Bee, neither was her name any way averse to her nature, for as she was mellifluous in her tongue, when she either pronounced the sacred oracles of God, or sat upon any judicatory causes amongst his people: so she had also a sting at all times, upon any just occasion to wound and be revenged on his enemies. (6)

Heywood’s definition of Deborah’s name shows an astute perception of biblical Hebrew. The Hebrew word ‫( ְדבוֺ רָה‬dĕbôrāh) literally translates to a “bee” or “swarm of bees” (Brown et. al 184). However, the Hebrew root of Deborah, ‫( ָד ָּב ר‬dābār), means “speech, word” (Brown et. al 182). When we pair the two definitions, we find (as Heywood has found) a woman distinguished by potent, or “stinging” speech. Heywood’s synopsis of Deborah’s history is actually a catalogue of her discourse: first to Barak, then to his army, and then to God and the people. Repeatedly he writes, “she be spake him” (10), “having thus spoken unto him” (10), “I spake unto thee” (11), “she … said again” (11). We are told that Barak was “put in ... mind of the words of Deborah,” illustrating that it is not what Deborah does that impresses others, but what she says (18). Heywood’s examination of Deborah presents profound speech as a decidedly feminine characteristic. Deborah’s words are depicted as oracles; on the other hand, Barak’s words represent “his owne weaknesse and disability” (11). Heywood embellishes Barak’s utterances, but those additions only add to our disdain of him. Barak becomes impudent: “if ... I shall not have thy company in this adventure; impose this charge on whom so ever else thou pleasest, for I for mine owne part wil not bee the undertaker” (11). While Deborah’s language is referred to as “sweet oratory,” Barak’s language is taken as evidence of his “distrusting in God’s almighty power” (11). Thomas Bentley also emphasizes Barak’s fear and protestations: “Barak seeing his owne weakenesse ... desired Deborah the Prophetesse ... to assure him of Gods will from tyme to tyme” (lamp 7:138). Language works against the featured male in the story, while it continually promotes Deborah’s holiness. A most revealing endorsement of female language appears in Heywood’s discussion of Deborah’s song of thanksgiving. First, he omits Barak’s participation in the song altogether.19 Heywood then notes Deborah’s impressive language within her psalm and draws his readers’ attention to her linguistic strategies. In discussing Deborah’s description of Sisera’s death (“He bowed him downe at her feete, hee fell downe, and lay still at her feet, hee bowed him down and fell, and hee had suncke downe, hee lay there dead” [19]),20 he explains, “By ... so often iteration 19 The Geneva Bible also assigns Judges 5 the title “The Songe of Deborah,” without mention of Barak, while the The King James Bible titles the section “The song of Deborah and Barak.” See The Geneva Bible (1560), p. 110; and The Holy Bible, Containing The Old Testament and The New, Newly Translated Out of the Original Tongues by his Majesties Special Command (King James version), (Oxford, 1632), p. O2r. 20 Heywood’s version of this biblical verse appears to be his own, though it is similar to the King James description which reads, “At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell; where he bowed, there he fell down dead.” See The Holy Bible (King James version) Judges 5:27.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

of the same words, [Deborah] strived both to magnifie [Jael’s] act, and eternize her memory” (19). Despite Deborah’s accolades to Jael, the psalmist remains the authority in Heywood’s estimation, and it is she to whom Heywood ascribes greatest significance (19). Heywood acknowledges that Deborah’s song does “eternize [Jael’s] memory,” but follows that acknowledgment with the claim: Neither did this great honour done unto Jael, any way take off or denigrate from the merit and magnanimity of Deborah that any man need question which of them did better deserve the name of a Worthy. The precedence and priority undoubtedly belong to her who was a Prophetesse, a Judgesse, and a mother in Israel ... . (19)

Heywood closes his encomium of Deborah by reminding us of the potency of her language, and by self-consciously utilizing it: “I conclude of her with her owne words in her holy song, after so glorious a conquest: so let all thine enemies perish O Lord, but they that love him, shall be as the sunne when he riseth in his might” (19). Equally aware of Deborah’s verbal prowess, Shakespeare assigns his Deborahlike character in King Henry VI, Part I a kind of linguistic authority but hers is an authority defiled. This play dramatizes England’s conquests in France around the year 1430. A key player in these events is “Joan la Pucelle,”21 or Joan of Arc, the soldier who inspired French troops and led them to victory at Orleans. As a figure representing both France and the Catholic Church, we might expect to find Joan’s character defamed in Shakespeare’s story. Less expected is Shakespeare’s use of Deborah as a vehicle through which Joan’s character may be both celebrated and condemned. Shakespeare’s Joan, crafted in the latter half of Elizabeth’s reign, is likened to Deborah within moments of her appearance on stage. After meeting and battling with Joan, Charles, the French Dauphin (and later King) exclaims, “Thou art an Amazon, / And fightest with the sword of Deborah” (I, ii, 104, 105). The talents Joan displays in this scene warrant such a likeness, but the similarities between these women are not limited to Joan’s skilled use of weaponry. Following the French triumph at Orleans, Charles praises Joan as a “glorious prophetess” (I, vi, 8), and adds that all the priests and friars in his realm “Shall … sing her endless praise” (I, vi, 20). Though Deborah is not explicitly named after Act I, scene ii, the comparison of Joan to a prophetess extolled in song fortifies the comparison initiated with the earlier reference. Moreover, Joan’s characterization in the image of Deborah is enhanced by the depiction of Charles as Barak. Only after Joan offers herself as a “warlike mate” (I, ii, 92), and “guard” (I, ii, 127) does he agree to fight for Orleans rather than surrender to the English (I, ii, 128). On his way into battle the Dauphin says, “No prophet will I trust if she prove false” (I, ii, 150), implying that his decision to engage in combat is owing to Joan’s encouragement. 21 “ La Pucelle” is a French term meaning both “virgin” and “slut.” See William Shakespeare, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, 4th edn, ed. David Bevington (New York, 1992), p. 499.

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Throughout the drama, Joan’s power is rooted in speech. Joan describes her victory at Orleans as evidence that “Joan la Pucelle hath performed her word” (I, vi, 3). Act five demonstrates her reliance upon “ancient incantations” (V, iii, 27). When she is captured by the English, the Duke of York commands his prisoner to “hold thy tongue” (V, iii, 42). La Pucelle’s words threaten both the French and the English not only because of the divine selection they would seem to mark, but also because they are problematic given the early modern belief that female speech signaled a lack of chastity. Casting Joan in Deborah’s image entitles her to rights of language, but at the same time her reliance on language makes her suspect and vulnerable.22 We see this immediately upon Joan’s entrance. When she approaches the Dauphin, his counselor remarks, “women are shrewd tempters with their tongues” (I, ii, 122). Indeed, Charles will capitalize on the deception inherent in feminine speech. To make a traitor out of the Duke of Burgundy, Charles encourages Joan to “enchant him with ... words” (III, iii, 40), thus associating female speech with corruption. Joan’s rhetoric is effective, but it also appears ungodly. Burgundy claims, “she hath bewitched me with ... words” (III, iii, 58); he does desert the English explaining, I am vanquished. These haughty words of hers Have battered me like roaring cannon-shot And made me almost yield upon my knees. (III, iii, 78–80)

The imagery of Burgundy’s surrender recalls another female victory in Judges, chapter five where Sisera’s defeat is described as an emasculating fall. Joan’s response to Burgundy also alludes to Jael’s story. Joan remarks, “turn and turn again!” (l. 85). The command refers to Burgundy’s ability to turn from his English loyalties, but it also reminds us of Jael’s brief instruction to Sisera, “Turne in, my Lord, turne in to me” (Geneva, Judges 4:18). The seductive language of Jael, coupled with the image of a prostrate Burgundy, prepares us for the Joan who emerges in her final scene.23 In Act V, scene iv, a captured Joan is condemned to death. Surrounded by Englishmen, she is accused of being a sorceress (V, iv, 1), and she behaves as one. Still, it is her language to which these men turn to justify their accusation against her. In this scene, la Pucelle speaks in contradictions. At one moment she is a staunch defender of her virginity, “Chaste and immaculate in every thought” (V, iv, 51); in the next she claims to be with child to avoid execution (V, iv, 62). 22

Gabriele Bernhard Jackson writes that Joan’s character becomes “a regrettable sign of the times” because her refusal to keep silent blackens her reputation. See Gabriele Bernhard Jackson, “Topical Ideology: Witches, Amazons, and Shakespeare’s Joan of Arc” in Kirby Farrell, Elizabeth H. Hageman, and Arthur F. Kinney (eds), Women in the Renaissance: Selections from English Literary Renaissance (Amherst, 1990), p. 89. 23 Robert Alter detects a “hint of sexual double meaning” in Jael’s beckoning (which Alter translates as “come in”), and notes that Jael’s language is used elsewhere in the Bible to refer to a man’s sexual entry. See Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Poetry (New York, 1985), p. 49.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Leah S. Marcus applies the contradictory depiction of Joan as both virgin and whore to early modern regard for Queen Elizabeth and the problematic spectacle of a “woman on top” (Puzzling 67). The spectacle of Joan is enhanced by the number of men she reports to have seduced. She names two possible fathers of the child, and the Duke of York suggests a third. Called “liberal” (V, iv, 82) and a “strumpet” (V, iv, 84), the maid turns whore before our eyes. The English do not delay her execution in light of her professed pregnancy and blame Joan’s language for her demise: “thy words condemn both thy brat and thee” (V, iv, 84, emphasis mine). While the French find hope in Joan’s discourse, the English are threatened by it. Joan’s potent words turn committed servants into traitors and virgins into whores. She is described to the English Commanders as a “holy prophetess” (I, iv, 102), but once they hear her speak she becomes graceless (V, iv, 14), wicked (V, iv, 16), and vile (V, iv, 16). And yet, though the play undercuts Joan’s claims to divinity, the paralleling of Joan with Deborah continues through her final moments. As Heywood notes, Deborah concludes her psalm with the wish that those who love God will “be as the sunne when he riseth in his might” (Geneva 5:31). Before exiting the stage, Joan inverts Deborah’s blessing to a curse: “May never glorious sun reflex his beams / Upon the country where you make abode” (V, iv, 87, 88); the Duke of York responds by calling her a “foul accursed minister of hell” (V, iv, 93). Shakespeare locates both the source of English scorn and French praise in Joan’s language. The early modern belief that feminine virtue could be determined by a woman’s relationship to speech enables the playwright to move from a depiction of a woman as a prophet to a delineation of her as whore and witch. A heroine’s linguistic activities leave her vulnerable to such a characterization. Thomas Bentley does not present so dramatic an aversion to women’s speech, but his consideration of Deborah is fraught with similar tension. In The Monument of Matrons, Bentley writes that the name “Deborah” signifies “a word, a Bee, good utterance, a babler, speeche” (lamp 7:137). Like Heywood’s, Bentley’s definition shows a knowledge of Biblical Hebrew, but his definition is curious because nothing in the Hebrew root of the name connotes a particular brand of speech. The divinity inherent in Deborah’s words likely prompts Bentley to define her name as a “good utterance” (137). Revealingly, however, he corrupts that definition with the term “babler” (137). The most common definition of “bable” in the sixteenth century was “to talk excessively or inappropriately; to chatter, prate” (OED I:848); it also meant “to repeat or utter with meaningless iteration; to speak foolishly or incoherently” (848). The connotations of the word are inherently negative. Bentley’s definition of Deborah’s name highlights a difficulty in reckoning the biblical character’s history with early modern attitudes towards women’s discourse. (One might say he undermines the potential of a feminine utterance with babble of his own.) No one could accuse the biblical Deborah of babbling, however. Her history is distinguished by her articulate wisdom and the people’s reliance upon it. In Murder and Difference: Gender, Genre and Scholarship on Sisera’s Death (1988),

“Give ear o princes”


Mieke Bal examines language as the source of Deborah’s authority, concluding that the complexity of Deborah’s character makes it impossible to distinguish her linguistic performance as poet from her judicial function: [Deborah] has saved Israel by her faith, by her contact with Yahweh ...; by her clairvoyance, her poetry, by her good judgment. The power of her song is testimony to this; there is nothing the right word cannot do. Thus she offers, for whoever knows how to listen, an explanation of what it means to judge: to pronounce the right word in a given situation. It means, in other words, to establish order in the chaos by means of the right word. (56, 57)24

Sixteenth-century assessment of judicial authority also associates good judgment with wise speech. In his disputations of Knox’s tract, Aylmer characterizes judgment as enlightened discourse: “A woman may be no judge? she opened her mouth and uttered her wisdom” (E3v, emphases mine). Here Aylmer cites The Book of Proverbs: “She openeth her mouth with wisedome, and the law of grace is in her tongue” (Geneva 31:26). A marginal note in the Geneva Bible elaborates on this verse: “Her tongue is as a boke whereby one might learne manie good things: for she deliteth to talke of the worde of God” (277). Alymer links the proverb to Deborah’s history, adding, “Deborah judged and that lawfully” (H4r). In 1601, Richard Vennard recognizes Deborah’s song as evidence of superior judgment in his “A Prayer for the prosperous Successe of hir Majestie’s Forces in Ireland.” Using Deborah’s history to characterize Elizabeth, Vennard prays that his Queen might “Circumvent that rebellious Sissera, that [her] judgment (like a naile), may pierce into the braine of his malitious practises” (Progresses III:541). Vennard’s prayer that the Queen’s judgment will prove as effective as Jael’s tent peg registers the potency of Jael’s deed, while privileging Deborah’s (and Elizabeth’s) skill. Furthermore, the author alleges that this skill is one that will be established in lyric. His hope that “our Soveraigne may sing with Debora after the victorie” (541) reiterates a connection between language and female power— Elizabeth’s triumph will be indicated by her song. By equating victory with the Queen’s voice, Vennard compels his petitioners to crave a woman’s words. In his prayer, Vennard transforms the English into Israelites without denying Elizabeth the linguistic power Deborah enjoys. Recognizing the potency of Deborah’s song and judgment extends beyond Elizabeth’s reign. It is plain in John Donne’s “Sermon preached upon the XX. verse of the V. Chapter of the Booke of Judges” (1622) where Deborah’s lyric is presented as a thing divine,25 possessing an intensity beyond nature: “the Song of Deborah were enough, abundantly enough, to slumber any storme, to becalme any 24

Similarly, Barbara Johnson defines judgment as “nothing less than the wielding of power ... through language” (emphasis mine). See Barbara Johnson, The Critical Difference: Essays in the Contemporary Rhetoric of Reading (Baltimore and London, 1980), p. 102. 25 Donne’s regard of Deborah’s song as a divine force echoes Sidney’s argument regarding the divinity of poetry. See Sir Philip Sidney, The Defense of Poesy, ed. Albert S. Cook (Boston, 1890), p. 6.

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


tempest, to rectifie any scruple of Gods slacknesse in the defence of his cause” (Sermons IV:180). Donne aligns Deborah’s voice with God’s own and presents her psalm as a record of sacred loyalties: “God in this Song of Deborah, hath provided an honourable commemoration of them, who did assist his cause” (182).26 Donne alerts his congregation to the divinity of psalms, suggesting that the force of Deborah’s language is owing not only to her divine wisdom, but also to the genre in which it appears: ... the words of God are alwayes sweete in themselves ... but sweeter in the mouth, and in the pen of some of the Prophets ... but sweetest of all, where the Holy Ghost hath beene pleased to set the word of God to Musique, and to convay it into a Song. (Sermons IV:179)

Ultimately Donne uses Deborah’s song to incite his parishioners’ devotion. He encourages them to “purchase a place in Barak and Deborahs Song” (189). Donne’s sermon asserts the merit of Deborah’s language; to have a “roome” in the prophetess’s verse is to earn a place in God’s esteem (189).27 It marks perpetual reward and redemption. Thus, salvation is confirmed in a woman’s—and a poet’s— discourse.28 The judgment Donne recognizes in Deborah’s lyrics is not limited to a recognition of virtue, however. Deborah also criticized those who were unfaithful to God, and Donne is one of many who emphasize the disparagement: “[God] layes also a heavy note upon such, who for collaterall respects prevaricated, or withdrew themselves from his service” (182). This censure is a significant element in Judges 5. Repeatedly, Deborah chastises and berates those who did not come to God’s aid in the battle against Sisera. According to S.D. Goitein, Deborah’s criticism establishes her song within a female tradition of “mockery songs” in the Old Testament (“Women as Creators” 9). In his article “Women as Creators of Biblical Genres,” Goitein identifies women’s mockery songs as a form of social criticism. Fokkelien van Dijk-Hemmes similarly observes that these songs provided a way for biblical women to involve themselves in the changing political situations described in the Bible (Bekkenkamp and van Dijk 32). The Bible places significant emphasis upon the sentiments revealed in women’s mocking verses,29 26

Donne repeats this idea in the sermon: “So in the Song of Deborah and Barake, hee hath laide up a Record for their glorie, who ... assisted his service” (vol. 4, p.186). 27 Donne defines stanza as “a roome, a straine.” See The Sermons of John Donne, vol. 4, 188. 28 Donne’s estimation of the merit of one who is celebrated in song is reminiscent of Mary Sidney’s encouragement of Elizabeth to “doo What men may sing” (emphasis mine). See Mary Sidney Herbert, The Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, vol. 1, ed. Margaret P. Hannay, Noel J. Kinnamon, and Michael G. Brennan (Oxford and New York, 1998), p. 104. 29 The power of these women’s words is seen in I Samuel. King Saul is alarmed by the women’s song because its lyrics depict their love for David as exceeding their love for the King. See I Samuel 18:1–5.

“Give ear o princes”


as do early modern readers. The gravity of Deborah’s criticism is reiterated in the marginal notes of the Geneva Bible. Deborah’s disapproval is emphasized in the note to v. 17: “She reproueth all them that came not to helpe their brethern in their necessitie” (Geneva 110).30 The note for verse 16 reads, “They merueiled y they came not ouer to helpe them” (Geneva 110).31 That Deborah’s criticism moves toward mockery is reflected in early modern annotations of her verses. Her chastisement of the “divisions of Reuben” (5:16), for example, is glossed with the observation that Deborah upbraids them “for being more affected with hearing the bleatings of their sheep them with the out-cryes, groans and complaints of their poor brethren” (Downame 5:16). In his 1671 verse synopsis of the Bible, John Lloyd condenses Deborah’s psalm to focus on her gratitude toward God as well as her indignation toward the indolent tribes: 4 Deb’rah and Barak Jabines Army quail; Jael kills Sisera with a tent nail. 5 Extolling God with song, the Prophetess the backward blames, the forward Tribes doth 6 Falling from God … they grieve (16)

So profound is the effect of Deborah’s criticism on the “Powerfull and Godly Divine” Stephen Marshall that he composed two sermons based on a single line of rebuke. Both written in 1641 and titled “Meroz Cursed,” each of these sermons begins with the verse from Deborah’s song in which the city of Meroz is condemned: “Curse ye Meroz, said the Angel of the Lord, Curse the inhabitants thereof, because they came not to helpe the Lord, to helpe the Lord against the mighty” (Commons 1).32 Marshall presents this warning to at least two distinct audiences—the first to the House of Commons on 23 February, and the second to parishioners at St. Sepulchers on 2 December. It appears, in fact, that Marshall preached this sermon numerous times. In The Life and Death of Stephen Marshall (1680) an unidentified author writes, “he often preach’d the same Sermon over and over again; himself boasted that he preach’d one Sermon (I believe that was Curse ye Meroz,) threescore times” (26). Though Marshall’s sermon attributes the critique of Meroz to an “Angel of the Lord,” he admits to the House of Commons that he finds,

30 Verse 17 reads, “Gilead abode beyonde Iorden: & why doeth Dan remaine in shippes? Asher sate on the seashore and taried in his decayed places” (Geneva, Judges 5:17). 31 Verse 16 reads, “Why abodest thou among the shepefoldes, to heare the bleatings of the flockes? for the divisions of Reuben were great thoghtes of heart” (Geneva, Judges 5:16). 32 The attribution of this curse to an angel is a reflection of the most common biblical translation; the word ְ‫א ד‬ ַ ‫( ַמ ְל‬malĕ ak) means both “angel” and “messenger.”


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


great difference among Interpreters who this Angel of the Lord Should be. Some think it was Deborah the Prophetese who penn’d this Song. Some think Barak the Generall was likewise at this time inspired by the Holy Ghost ... but all agree ... that this curse came not from the private spirit of Deborah ... but was pronounced by the direction of God. (4)

While he obviously considers the biblical verse a potent warning, Marshall distances Deborah’s person as the source of the threatening and critical sentiment. Nonetheless, Marshall clearly views the prophetess’s discourse as appropriate to his cause, which is to remind his audience to “promote the publick good” (24). A fierce Parliamentarian, Marshall defines public good as an empowered commonwealth (24); his plea to “helpe the Lord against the mighty” encourages listeners to rise against the King (Commons 1). Marshall’s purpose is clear: he strove to maintain religious unity during the first years of the Long Parliament. He was a religious reformer who saw Parliament as key to England’s salvation. According to Lawrence Kaplan, Marshall’s “quest for cohesion became the main theme of his numerous speeches and sermons” (245), which explains his partiality toward the episodes in Judges 4 and 5. The sin Marshall most often denounced was that of “not promoting the PARLIMENT CAUSE,” hence the parliamentary cause is presented on par with divine will and distances the monarch from claims of divinity (Life and Death 9). The removal of a religious and inspired female from Marshall’s discussions of the Judges episodes is perhaps due to the discomfort surrounding the Catholic Henrietta-Maria and her influence over her regal husband. It is clear, however, that Deborah’s language profoundly influences the minister and his readings. In his sermons he not only warns of the potency of God’s wrath, but also directs the House of Commons to “Awake, awake” (38)—the command found in verse 12 of Deborah’s song.33 In both of his Meroz sermons, Marshall emphasizes that it is a place never again mentioned in the Bible: “[God’s] wrath was most incensed against Meroz, a people of whom we finde no mention in the whole Book of God, ... but only in this place, upon this unhappy occasion ... as a monument of their sine ... to warne passengers to take heed ... ” (Commons 2–3). Marshall makes clear his identification with those that supported the divine cause, claiming “My heart is toward the Governours of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people” (8), a quotation of the King James translation of Judges 5:9. Furthermore, the minister actually assumes Deborah’s office in her exchange with Barak, encouraging his audience to be as a “godly Generall in an Army” (31) because “some of you may be called, as soldiers, to spend your blood in the ... Cause” (51). Marshall apparently recognizes (and relies upon) the power of Deborah’s words, though he undermines the power of her person. Early in his sermon Marshall 33

The King James Bible translates v. 12 of Deborah’s song as “Awake, awake Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song.” See The Holy Bible (King James version), p. O2r. The Geneva Bible translates the verse, “Vp Deborah, vp, arise, & sing a song.” See The Geneva Bible (1560), p. 110.

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identifies Deborah as Barak’s “assistant” (2). While her discourse is suitable for Marshall’s address, her feminine presence is not. When Marshall returns to the Meroz quotation ten months later in a sermon “Preached on a day of Humiliation,” he overlooks Deborah’s connection to the passage completely. This time, Marshall identifies the commander of the Curse as “The Angel of the Lord, to wit, Christ Jesus himselfe, who is the Angell of the Covenant, and Captaine of the Lords Hoast” (Sepulchers 1). Deborah is removed from the rhetorical situation and from the political events that prompted it.34 Marshall’s application of Judges 5:23 is much more general in this sermon, as he uses the Meroz curse to illustrate the danger of apathy and idleness: “God’s curse is the ruin of those people on whom it lights ... . They are all cursed that helpe not the Lorde” (1, 2). Marshall intends to inspire humility in his parishioners so that they might dedicate themselves to more active support of the Anglican Church (2). The minister advocates prayer as one means of support (5) and presents numerous biblical examples of God’s pleasure at his servants’ words (2). We find mention of Moses (2), Nehemiah (4), Daniel (4), and David (5), but not of Deborah. Her absence from this list is conspicuous, suggesting that though her words are appropriate, she is herself an inappropriate figure for shaming humankind. Sensitivity to Deborah’s admonishments may be as much a result of her sex as it is the gravity of her accusations. As Diane Purkiss argues, “the placing of a discourse of invective ... in the mouth of a woman creates a spectacle of female power;” this spectacle threatens the power and pleasure of a male dominated order (“Material Girls” 90). Prophecy, Pamphlets, and the Feminine Critique Deborah’s skill at criticism and mockery—the effect of which is evidenced in Donne’s, Lloyd’s, and Marshall’s responses to Judges 5—was no less recognized by early modern women confronting her story. Like Deborah, numerous early modern women used their voices to engage in prophecy, celebrate members of their sex, praise their God, and condemn those who offended. Deborah provides biblical authorization for female expression and, more specifically, for a critical feminine voice. The prophetess’s song in The Book of Judges serves as a model for early modern women who desired not only to speak but also to judge and critique the world around them. Though Deborah’s name does not always appear in these women’s tracts, references to her behaviors and rhetorical practices are evident.


The only contextual information Marshall provides for the quotation is that Meroz “was neer unto the place where the Lords people were in danger of their enemies.” See Stephen Marshall, Meroz Cursed for not Helping the Lord Against the Mightie (London, 1641), p. 1.

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


Lady Eleanor Davies, an advocate of Protestantism who prophesied from 1625– 1652, did more than voice her divine visions—she published them, often illegally.35 Opposing King Charles’s forbearance of Catholicism, Davies disseminated more than sixty tracts during her prophetic career and was frequently arrested for her efforts. From 1635–1638 she was confined to Bedlam as a madwoman; she also spent two years imprisoned in the Tower of London (Davies xv).36 In her edition of Davies’s work, Esther S. Cope writes, “Lady Eleanor challenged the hierarchical and patriarchal authority which was the basis of order in family and society and in church and state” (xiv, xv). Cope notes Davies’s reliance on biblical typology (xix), her frequent citation of biblical verses (xix), and her use of Old Testament Prophets as models (xiii).37 Although Davies does not explicitly name Deborah, she invokes her figure by revealing her own prophecies in song:38 I. To Sion most belov’d I sing of Babylon a Song, Concerns you more full well I wot then ye do think upon. (“Given to the Elector” 61)

Since song is a characteristic of biblical female prophecy, Davies’s prophetic lyrics position her alongside Miriam and Deborah. Such positioning seems selfconscious, for even when Davies does not write prophecies in rhyme or verse, she refers to them as “song”: “Thus represented in this Mirror of former times, the present age the visage therof &c ... Not spared by Her whose Song the Worlds farwell these. Disburthened in this ensuing briefe” (“Appeale to the High Court” 78, emphasis mine).39 Among these “songs” is “The Benediction” (1651), in which Davies bestows her blessing on Oliver Cromwell and his efforts in Scotland on behalf of the English Commonwealth (341). Davies’s concern for her nation


Between 1625 and 1652, only two of Davies’s tracts were legally published. As Esther S. Cope explains, prior to 1641 a work was considered an illegal publication if printed by a press not certified with the Stationer’s Company, or not previously read by a designated official. See Cope’s Introduction in Eleanor Davies, Prophetic Writings of Eleanor Davies, ed. Esther S. Cope (New York and Oxford, 1995), p. xii. 36 For a study of Davies’s life and writings, see Esther S. Cope, Handmaid of the Holy Spirit: Dame Eleanor Davies, Never Soe Mad a Ladie (Ann Arbor, 1992). 37 Most often, Davies references the Books of Daniel and Revelation. Davies claimed the Prophet Daniel was responsible for the visions and messages she received. See Esther S. Cope’s Introduction in Davies, pp. xi, xix. 38 Davies takes the designation of song quite seriously here, suggesting her readers refer to “The Tune to, Who list a Soldiers life, &c.” See Davies, p. 61. 39 Readers of Davies may find it helpful to keep in mind Cope’s caution that “readers ... have found the texts of Lady Eleanor’s prophecies perplexing.” Davies believed her prophecies would be understood by those “who had ears to hear God’s message.” See Davies xvii.

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parallels Deborah’s devotion to the Israelites. Like Deborah, Davies prompts a commander to engage in holy battle to secure national salvation: Your interest in the Nations unparaled Troublesom Times: The Flaming Sword for expelling the Man in your hand, which Crowns with no Inferior Honor that Name of Yours: Hereof by her Hand a touch presented ... Armed beside with his Sword ... O: Cromwel, Renowned be Victorious so long as Sun Moon continues of livever. ... And thus with one voice, come and see, O:C: Conquering and to Conquer went forth. (342)

While we witness Davies engage in the popular comparison of England to Ancient Israel, the conclusion to her blessing begs comparison, more specifically, to Deborah’s song. The pronouncement, “thus with one voice, come and see, O:C: Conquering and to Conquer went forth” (342, emphases mine) implies a joining of Davies’s voice with Cromwell’s own, as the two go forward into battle.40 Davies’s song largely features her voice alone, as does Deborah’s; nonetheless, in Judges, chapter five Deborah’s song begins, “Then sang Deborah, and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day” (King James, Judges 5:1)41. The ancient prophetess also celebrates her conquering of the enemy (King James, Judges 5:13). Unlike Deborah’s comrade, however, Cromwell’s name will be crowned “with no Inferior Honor” for accepting the touch of a female prophet’s hand (342). As the preceding quotations suggest, Davies herself is a prominent subject in her writings, and her sex is conspicuous. Davies refers to herself as “Prophetess” (253), signs her publications “the Lady Eleanor” (77), and emphasizes that divine messages are bestowed upon women (107). Among those titles Davies uses to identify herself is that of “Mother” (350). Davies frequently describes herself in a maternal pose, and it is with this posture that Davies forges her most profound likeness to the biblical Deborah. During her earliest moment of self-celebration, the biblical prophetess also refers to herself as a “mother,” specifically, a “mother in Israel”: “The habitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel” (King James, Judges 5:7). The motherhood Deborah claims is generally regarded as a brand of social and cultural authority, and not representative of her status within a nuclear family (Ackerman 38). Early modern English society possessed a similar understanding of this term, evidenced by its use to describe the earlier Virgin Queen. James Aske includes maternal representations of Elizabeth in his poem “Elizabeth Triumphans,” referring to her as “mother dear,” and “the Queen and Royall Nurse” (Progresses II:559). Bishop John Jewel writes his hope that Elizabeth may “live an Olde 40

Davies’s support of Cromwell is evidenced in the tracts she dedicates to him. She likens his victories to holy enterprises. According to Cope, Davies viewed Cromwell’s victories over Charles II as evidence that “the forces of the antichrist would be conquered.” See Cope, p. 158. 41 All “King James” citations refer to The Holy Bible, containing The Old Testament and The New, Newly Translated out of the Original Tongues (Oxford, 1632).


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Mother in Israel” (A4v). Ackerman defines the maternal term as referring to a woman “passionately committed to Israel’s well-being” (43). Similarly, a 1651 biblical commentary explains Deborah’s maternity as political, glossing 5.7 with “Till I as a … Prophetesse, teaching them Gods will, and with no lesse care seeking their good, and tendering them in their miseries, than a loving mother her dear children, have encouraged to this war, which hath freed them out all their calamities” (Downame Judges 5.7). This brand of commitment is evident in Davies’s repeated warnings to the English people: “And so much (Reader) for this flight of ours …where cannot pass over … our cities siege, so to the life their swift doing execution; and dreadful weels motion and thundering voyce … And this of your day drawing near” (“Reader” 236, 237). Like Deborah’s, Davies’s efforts on her nation’s behalf consist of a use of language. In fact, the linguistic functions associated with Deborah’s roles of judge, prophet, and poet resurface in scholarly definitions of the “mother in Israel” designation. A mother in Israel, Goitein explains, is “a woman to whose voice the entire nation pays heed as children listen to the instruction of their mother” (“Women as Creators” 10). According to van Dijk-Hemmes, such a woman is specifically one who may speak with authority (Brenner and van Dijk-Hemmes 50, emphasis mine). Ackerman describes a mother in Israel as “one who uses her skills in persuasive counseling to protect her city from destruction” (41). Davies’s language is integral to her prophetic, maternal calling. According to Cope, Davies’s prophetic office was bound with her career as a writer and publisher: “She considered writing … her responsibility” (xv). The motherhood the Lady Eleanor claims in her prophecies specifically relates to her literary endeavors— time and again she refers to her publications as her children: This Babe, object to their scorn, for speaking the truth, informing of things future, notwithstanding thus difficult to be fathered or licensed … hath under gone; without their Benediction, in these plain Swathe-bands, though commended unto thy hands. (“The Restitution of Prophecy” 344)

This seventeenth-century prophetess is a kind of mother in Israel—her maternity reflects her concern for her country’s well-being, and she establishes that concern via discourse. By her own estimation, Davies’s writing is the greatest evidence of her divinity. To the early modern culture that she addressed, her prophecies were also the greatest evidence of her dissension. In “The Blasphemous Charge Against Her,” Davies’s account of the proceedings against her in 1633, Davies explains that the crimes of which she is accused are in essence literary: the saide Lady Eleanor Dougles ... took upon her (which much unbeseemed her Sex) not only to interpret the Scriptures ... but also to be a Prophetess ... had compiled certain Books ... and ... had ... procured them to be printed without License ... such bold attempts as those ... was thought well worthy to be severely punished ... (253, 254)

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For these offenses, Davies was fined £3,000, and taken to prison where her punishment reflected the nature of her perceived crimes: “the Keeper of the said prison was required and commanded not to suffer her to have any pen, ink or paper to write any thing, in respect that she hath so much abused her liberty in that kinde already” (254). This prohibition confirms that Davies sustained her visionary enterprise through discursive activity. Davies’s efforts sometimes met with punishment; nevertheless, she regarded her prophetic title as license to voice unpopular and often critical perspectives. Though Davies claimed her criticisms were God’s and not her own,42 women engaging in the women’s pamphlet debate cast aspersions and justify their discursive attacks. Asserting their voices as necessary responses to “our pestiferous enemy” (Speght 3), these women frequently present God as an advocate of the weaker sex. In this way, attacks against women become blasphemous. The discursive paradigm introduced in Deborah’s song offers a convenient line of argument for these women, wherein a celebration of female potential is introduced through a celebration of God and his achievements. Because the Bible depicts God’s creation of woman as a gift to man,43 those who condemn women deprecate God’s handiwork and deserve reproach. Two of the women who proffer such arguments do so in response to Joseph Swetnam’s Araignment of Lewde, idle, froward and unconstant women (1615).44 Rachel Speght and Ester Sowernam react to the offenses of this text by striking Deborah-like poses punctuated by critique and mockery. The first of these replies was written by Speght and published two years after the appearance of Swetnam’s tract. A Mouzell for Melastomus, issued with the shorter work Certaine Quaeres to the bayter of Women, was distributed by Swetnam’s original publisher leading some critics to believe that Speght’s response had been solicited to promote a market for Swetnam’s and subsequent publications (xv). Nonetheless, Speght approaches her assignment with wit and wisdom. As the daughter of a clergyman and teacher, Speght fittingly exhibits her knowledge of the Bible and its worthy women. Speght references Deborah directly in the appended work Certaine Quaeres in order to refute Swetnam’s accusation that women are ungrateful: “I demand whether Deborah and Hannah were not women, who both of them sang hymnes of thankesgiving unto the Lord” (34). Speght identifies the cause 42

Cope writes that Davies “left Judgment to God.” See Davies, p. xv. Eve’s creation as a “help-mete” for Adam in Genesis 2:18 is often considered God’s “gift” to Adam by participants in the pamphlet debate. Rachel Speght writes, “[God] created woman to bee a solace unto [Adam], to participate of his sorrowes, partake of his pleasures, and as a good yokefullow beare part of his burthen.” See Rachel Speght, The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght, ed. Barbara Kiefer Lewalski (New York and Oxford, 1996), p. 13. See also “Ester hath Hang’d Haman” in The Women’s Sharp Revenge: Five Women’s Pamphlets from the Renaissance, ed. Simon Shepherd (London, 1985), p. 107. 44 Swetnam’s text was originally published under the name “Thomas Tel-troth.” According to Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, Speght is credited with publicly unmasking his identity. See Lewalski’s Introduction in Speght, p. xiv. 43

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


of Deborah’s gratitude as “her victory over Israels enemies” (34). As I argued in the previous chapter, Speght’s references to women’s thanksgiving songs reveal her understanding not only of a song’s content, but also of a song’s context and construction. Speght confronts her enemy by following biblical example. Like Deborah, Speght presents herself as a blessed spokeswoman. In the preface to Mouzell, she asserts the “Word of Gods Spirit” (4) and classifies Swetnam’s views as “the scumme of Heathenish braines … which the winde of Gods truth must needs cast downe to the ground” (4). “Armed with the truth,” Speght raises this wind with her own breath (4). Though the author does not declare her treatise to be written in praise of God, Speght opens Mouzell by extolling God as “rich in mercie … wisdome, righteousness and true holinesse” (12). She immediately links these attributes with God’s intention to create women, logically asserting “the excellencie of this Structure, I meane of Women, whose foundation and origin of creation, was Gods love” (13). By aligning women with God, Speght has women assume grace by association: “That worke then can not chuse but be good, yea very good, which is wrought by so excellent a workeman as the Lord: for he being a glorious Creator, must needes effect a worthie creature” (18). Establishing the female sex as God’s handiwork, Speght depicts a relationship between women and God, just as Deborah does in her song. In Judges, chapter five, women are characterized as God’s most devoted subjects. Speght appoints women to a similar position, writing that “woman was made … to glorifie God … in using her bodie, and all the parts, powers, and faculties thereof, as instruments for his honor” (19). She specifically references her own endeavor (and those of numerous biblical women), writing that the female voice is employed “to sound foorth [God’s] prayses” (19).45 In her article “Material Girls: The Seventeenth-Century Woman Debate” Purkiss recognizes Speght’s defense of God’s creation and writes, “the whole point is that God does not need defending” (“Material Girls” 93). Instead, Purkiss argues, Speght needs to negotiate a position from which she might speak without shame and does this by “abducting authority from the very discourse [Swetnam] disrupts” (93). I endorse this critic’s assessment of Speght’s rhetorical situation, but further propose that Speght’s strategy is in imitation of the biblical authority she references. As Deborah’s song demonstrates, praising God also involves the praise of those who are dutifully committed to God’s interests. In fact, the majority of Deborah’s song is not spent in praise of God per se, but instead praises those that support him. In Deborah’s experience, these include Jael (v. 24), Reuben’s tribe (v. 15), the people of Zebulun and Naphtali (v. 18), the stars (v. 20), the river Kishon (v. 21), and of course, the prophetess herself (v. 7). The virtue of these divine agents is heightened by the criticism she bestows on those she deems God’s enemies. In true Deborah-like fashion, Speght recognizes that with divine praise comes the duty to admonish those who deny God’s authority or who question 45

Speght offers the prophetess Miriam as an example here. See Speght, p. 19.

“Give ear o princes”


his intentions. Speght, who introduces Swetnam as a “grand enemy among men,” accuses him of blasphemy and of “dishonoring God” (8). While she warns Swetnam of God’s revenge (9), this does not prevent Speght from indulging in a few choice remarks of her own. Katherine Usher Henderson and Barbara F. McManus write that “Although Speght does not neglect invective, her response is for the most part a patient refutation of Swetnam’s charges” (16). Speght’s attempts to humiliate her opponent, however, are more than evident. She describes Swetnam’s thoughts as “excrement” (Mouzell 7), identifies him as a “dunce” (7), a “monster” (4), an ass (7), and alludes to his impotence (31). She is merciless in her critique of his writing and grammar: “by this your hodge-podge of heathenish Sentences, Similies, and Examples, you have set forth your selfe in your right colours, unto the view of the world: and I doubt not but the Judicious will account of you according to your demerit” (8). Apparently, Speght herself is a member of the judicious pack, deeming Swetnam’s tract “unjust,” and deciding to “nip … in the head” his scandalous defamation (3). And in the opinion of this reader, she does. Though in Half Humankind: Contexts and Texts of the Controversy about Women in England, 1540–1640 (1985), Henderson and McManus judge Speght’s defense to be “rather weak” and attribute this weakness to “her especially religious orientation” (17), I contend that it is precisely Speght’s adroitness with a religious text that enables her discourse. Speght’s ability to identify and emulate discursive models is suggested by her attack of misogynist ideals by way of the Bible. Speght’s use of mockery and criticism in this campaign further calls to mind Deborah’s performance. Henderson and McManus recognize the use of humor in the pamphlet debate but note its appearance mostly in the texts of attackers, as the “controversy defenders tended to adopt a serious tone” (37). Speght’s work varies in tone, but its mockery is unmistakable. For example, in Certain Quaeres Speght repeatedly spells the word “as” as “Asse” (and often emphasizes this spelling) when using the word to refer to Swetnam: “hee might not have begotten such a monster in nature Asse your selfe” (34); “where-asse you say … ” (34); “Asse you not onely in this place, but also in others have done” (35). Speght ridicules Swetnam’s claim that it is “Wonderfull to see the made feates of women” by calling him a “wonder-foole” (35).46 Speght earnestly calls upon the histories of biblical heroines to accentuate the merits of the female sex, but she also relies on humor and sarcasm to convey her attitude: me thinkes, great pitty it is, that afore you were borne, there was none so wise as to counsell your father not to meddle with a woman, that hee might have escaped those troubles, which you affirme that all married men are cumbred with. (34)

46 Lewalski attributes all of these spellings and puns to Speght herself. See Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, Writing Women in Jacobean England (Cambridge and London, 1993), p. 164.

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


Speght’s antagonistic approach to Swetnam’s tract is considered all the more remarkable because she asserts her position without pretense. In her edition of Speght’s work, Lewalski introduces the author with the acknowledgment that she is “the first Englishwoman to identify herself, by name, as a polemicist and critic of contemporary gender ideology” (xi). Such unabashed declaration of identity is equally notable in Deborah’s history. Of those biblical women who engage in song, only Deborah identifies herself by name within her poetic discourse (Judges 5:7). The identity of the next pamphleteer to respond to Swetnam is more ambiguous. Published under the name “Ester Sowernam,” Ester hath hang’d Haman was also issued in 1617, some time after Speght’s response.47 Sowernam is regarded as a pseudonym because it parodies Swetnam (“Sour-name,” versus “Sweet-name”); it is unclear if the writer of the tract was even female (Brant 71). In her discussion of the Sowernam tract, Purkiss is less interested in the question of the writer’s sex than she is the writer’s “performance of femininity” (“Material Girls” 85, emphasis mine). According to Purkiss, the author of Ester hath hang’d Haman performs the role of the disorderly woman “for the purpose of signifying disorder” (85). Even in those cases where women did author their tracts, Purkiss writes that they are “women acting women”—that is, they are staging a performance of unruly femininity (85). I agree that these authors engage in performance but rather than brand it a form of disorder, I associate it with an ancient order, one set by biblical precedent. Purkiss credits Sowernam with “putting into circulation the figure of a woman who knows the masculine world” (85), but surely this is the recirculation of such a figure; Deborah not only knows the masculine world, she commands it and prospers within it in her roles as judge, military commander, and prophet. Sowernam contributes to the Swetnam controversy because she claims dissatisfaction with Speght’s defense (“for she vndertaking to defend women, doth rather charge and condemne women” [A2v]). Nonetheless, the tactics Sowernam employs are extremely similar to those used by Speght, suggesting that both women follow a pattern of expression. Sowernam identifies her primary goal “to set out the glory of Almightie God, in so blessed a worke of his creation” (A3r). The intention of celebrating God is self-consciously stressed: “I am not onely prouoked by [Swetnam] to defend women, but I am more violently vrged to defend divine Maiestie” (1). It is through praise of God that Sowernam earns the space to praise women. Sowernam declares her second goal to “paralell [Noble, Honourable, and worthy Women] whose vertuous examples are collected briefly out of the Olde and New Testament” (A3r). Lastly, Sowernam promises “shame and confusion of such as degenerate from woman-hood, and disappoint the ends of Creation” (A3r).


Sowernam refers to Speght in her response: “word was brought mee that an Apologie for women was already vndertaken, and ready for the Press, by a Ministers daughter.” See Ester Sowernam, Ester hath hang’d Haman: or An Answere to a lewd Pamphlet, entitled, The Arraignment of Women (London, 1617), p. A2v.

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We learn that the writer who presents biblical models to her audience follows them herself. Sowernam applauds her sex, and in so doing echoes the words of Deborah: “You are women; in Creation, noble; in Redemption, gracious; in vse most blessed” (A3r, emphasis mine). They are women, Sowernam claims, whom God hath chosen “to worke his most gracious and glorious designes, for the generall benefit of man-kind” (4). For evidence of this, Sowernam directs her audience to the Bible, and to the Book of Judges. She reminds her readers, “When the Children of Israell had beene twentie yeres oppressed by Iabin King of Canaan, Debbora and Iabell, two women; the one wonne the battell, the other slew the Generall” (12). Sowernam focuses on these women’s most masculine enterprises, thereby reinforcing women’s knowledge of the masculine world that Purkiss attributes to Sowernam alone. While Sowernam does not discuss Deborah’s song, she does call to mind Deborah’s linguistic authority as a judge. The latter half of Sowernam’s treatise includes “The Arraignment of Joseph Swetnam.” Assuming a position as legal counselor, Sowernam charges Swetnam for his crimes, to which he enters a plea of “not guilty” (Shepherd 105).48 We eventually learn Swetnam’s trial is to be postponed—out of fairness to the defendant—because the jury, judges, and accusers were mostly “of the feminine gender” (105).49 Nonetheless, Sowernam tells us “it was concluded that myself should deliver before the judges to all the assembly speeches” in response to Swetnam’s attacks (106). Sowernam publicly pronounces Swetnam’s wrongs; like Deborah, she obtains discursive authority through public allegiance. Purkiss notes that Sowernam positions herself as a lawyer in this “kind of festive mock-trial” to indicate that social order may be restored through an inversion of that order (“Material Girls” 88). Though Sowername does not assume Deborah’s position as judge, their skills are not dissimilar—they both aim to restore peace (Judges 5:31). Arise and Sing: Biblical Poetic License While Deborah’s prophetic and judicial functions endow her with discursive authority, it is as poet that she gains greatest literary distinction. Her song is regarded as one of the greatest examples of biblical poetry by both modern and early modern readers (Bronner 174); Philip Sidney praises Deborah for her poetry designed to “imitate the inconceivable excellencies of God” (110). Deborah’s influence on early modern women writers extends, certainly, to lady poets. But Deborah’s song glorifies with a difference—in her poem she lauds female heroes. Given that religious writing has been categorized as the “least oppositional” form for early modern women writers (Trill, Chedgzoy, and Osborne 5), we might refine our notions of religious subjects to include a woman’s coupling of divine celebration with a celebration of extraordinary women. 48 49

I here cite Shepherd’s volume in which Sowernam’s pamphlet appears. Sowernam’s “Judgesses” are “Reason” and “Experience.” See Shepherd, p. 104.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

The text that best demonstrates this practice is Amelia Lanyer’s Salve Deus Rex Judeorum. Published in 1611, Lanyer’s book consists of several dedicatory poems all addressed to female patrons, two letters to readers, the title poem praising the “king of the Jews,” and the commissioned work “The Description of Cooke-ham.” The volume is presented as a poetic celebration of Christ’s passion, but it is intricately bound with, and explicitly relies upon, Lanyer’s celebration of women. Before a reader of Salve Deus actually reaches the title poem, she reads a series of dedicatory poems announcing the excellencies of Lanyer’s female patrons. Indeed, one of the most distinguishing features of this text is the large number of patrons she praises—a total of nine in the most complete collection, including Anne of Denmark; Princess Elizabeth (daughter of Anne of Denmark and James I); Arabella Stuart; Susan Bertie; Mary Sidney; Lucie, Countess of Bedford; Margaret, Countess Dowager of Cumberland; Katherine, Countesse of Suffolke; Anne, Countesse of Dorcet. She further devotes her text to “all vertuous Ladies and Gentlewomen” (48). The dedicatory poems in Lanyer’s “little booke” constitute over one third of its printed pages. Lanyer celebrates a community of active, intellectual, and “blessed” women (15), and she identifies the need for women to praise one another. She explains, Often have I heard that it is the property of some women, not only to emulate the virtues and perfections of the rest, but also by all their powers of ill speaking, to ecclipse the brightnes of their deserved fame: now contrary to this custome ... I have written this small volume ... in commendation of some particular persons of our owne sexe ... And this I have done, to make known to the world, that all women deserve not to be blamed though some forgetting they are women themselves ... speake unadvisedly against the rest of their sexe ... (48)

Lanyer positions herself as a laudatory voice; she calls her work “a womans writing of divinest things” (3). Lanyer offers praise first to her female contemporaries and proceeds to honor ancient women as well. The poet references Deborah, attributing Sisera’s defeat to “the descreet counsell of noble Deborah, Judge and Prophetesse of Israel: and resolution of Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite” (49). It is Deborah’s judgment that most impresses Lanyer (she later refers to her as “wise Deborah that judged Israel” [114]), and the poet extends that sense to all virtuous women. Lanyer instructs her readers that God “gave power to wise and vertuous women, to bring downe [men’s] pride and arrogancie” (49). She directs women to resume the battle against male impudence—a battle in which she engages poetically. Lanyer’s emphasis on female authority, juxtaposed to her praise of Christ (who does eventually surface as a topic)50 has led to some confusion in the classification of her work. Suzanne Hull calls Salve Deus a “strange combination” because it expresses religious feeling while complaining of men’s condemnation of women 50 Tina Krontiris estimates that the subject of Christ’s passion fills about one-third of Lanyer’s printed pages. See Krontiris, Oppositional Voices: Women as Writers and Translators of Literature in the English Renaissance (London and New York, 1992), p. 108.

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(98). But as Elaine V. Beilin notes, the accolades to women which precede “Salve Deus” contribute to the poem’s “central purpose” (183). Beilin writes that Lanyer’s patrons are presented as spiritual models, and thereby relate to the poet’s depiction of Christ’s “sacred merits” (183). Other critical attention to Lanyer’s patron poems has resulted in a distancing of Lanyer’s work from its professed religious subject. Betty Travitsky writes that Lanyer’s work is “superficially” religious (97). Lewalski calls the title of Lanyer’s volume “somewhat misleading” because it “in fact, contains ... a protofeminist defense of women” (English Studies 98). If Lanyer’s title is misleading, it is so only to those unfamiliar with the genre of biblical women’s songs, particularly as it appears in The Book of Judges. Tina Krontiris writes that “Lanyer’s unmistakable female voice constitutes the unconventional part of her work” (111), but to which convention does Krontiris refer? Lanyer’s feminine voice is unusual by early modern standards but not by the standards of the Bible. And it is a knowledge of divinity and biblical history that Lanyer advances in her text. Critics differentiate between what they regard to be religious and social elements in Layer’s work, but the distinction is rather artificial, not only because it does not necessarily reflect early modern perceptions,51 but also because it unnecessarily limits readings of biblical material. Deborah’s song is arguably more political than religious. It celebrates a political victory and emphasizes social unrest among the Tribes of Israel. Like Lanyer’s poem, Deborah’s song also draws attention to issues of gender. The splendid Jael actively engages in a political arena, while Sisera’s mother and her waiting women are removed from engagement and doomed to disappointment and defeat. Jael is a woman who moves beyond the confines of the home—the biblical narrative tells us that “Jael went out to meet Sisera” (King James, 4:18, emphasis mine), and she “came out to meet [Barak]” (King James, 4:22, emphasis mine). For these unorthodox actions, Jael is considered “blessed ... above women in the tent” (King James, 5:24, emphasis mine). In “Sacred Celebration: The Patronage Poems,” Kari Boyd McBride acknowledges that the biblical women Lanyer references are “models of empowerment and of womanhood” (“Sacred Celebration” 66). But the critic does not associate Lanyer’s performance as a writer with these women’s empowering experiences, and she may. Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, argues her entitlement to “attempt the pen” by relying on biblical women’s histories, particularly that of Deborah (24). Finch writes,


Christopher Hill advises that in early modern England the Bible “was directly influential in matters other than—in the modern sense—the strictly religious” (4). He argues that the Bible influenced intellectual and moral life, politics, and the arts and sciences. See Christopher Hill, The English Bible and the Seventeenth Century Revolution (London and New York, 1993), pp. 4–43. Deborah Kuller Shuger reiterates this view, writing that the Bible was “the primary locus for a good deal of what we might classify as cultural, psychological, or anthropological reflection.” See Shuger, The Renaissance Bible: Scholarship, Sacrifice and Subjectivity (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1994), p. 2.

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


A woman here leads fainting Israel on, She fights, she wins, she triumphs with a song, Devout, majestie, for the subject fit, And far above her arms, exalts her wit, Then to the peaceful, shady palm withdraws, And rules the rescued nation with her laws. (25)

In McBride’s view, Lanyer employs a “radical theology” to create a feminine, poetic identity (“Sacred Celebration” 61), but Finch illustrates that at least part of Lanyer’s theology is not radical, but available.52 Deborah’s song makes it acceptable—indeed, sanctified—not only to raise a voice in praise of God, but also in praise of his devoted female subjects, while blasting those who fail to honor God’s ordinances. The men Lanyer criticizes are “Vipers” disposed toward evil (48). She aligns them with those who “dishonored Christ his Apostles and Prophets,” and accuses them of having “tempted the patience of God himself” (48, 49). Lanyer’s salute to Christ imitates Deborah’s praise of the God in the Old Testament. Lanyer indicates that her poem is a tribute to her Lord,53 but the majority of this tribute consists of documenting and celebrating the female heroes who attend him, both in the past and present. It is interesting, too, that Lanyer’s female heroes are not presented in a “masculine” pose, as Sowernam arguably presents her heroines. Lanyer admires her patrons for such things as virtue (28), wisdom (28), learning (28), dignity (28), and “cleare judgment” (33), but in a context which also stresses motherhood (11, 28), beauty (7, 14, 23), innocence (23, piety (7), and “woman’s wit” (11). Similarly, though Deborah herself may assume traditionally masculine roles, the woman she praises does not. Sexual prowess is generally considered to be one of Jael’s major resources; Athalya Brenner regards Deborah and Jael as “the two faces of feminine victory, the political-intellectual together with the sexual aspect” (Israelite 63). The sexual nature of Jael’s victory is communicated in a number of ways. Her entreaty to Sisera, “turn in to me” is regarded as sexual in tone, as is Deborah’s description of Sisera’s death (Alter 49). The Geneva text describes Sisera as falling, sinking and lying at Jael’s feet (5:27). The King James Bible has Sisera bowing to Jael, in addition to lying and falling (5:27). Tyndale’s Pentateuch presents a slightly different translation: “Between her feet he bowed himself, fell down and lay still: Between her feet bowed himself and fell. And whither he 52

McBride concerns herself largely with the theological “trope of hospitality.” She argues that Lanyer carefully crafts an identity as host and “priest” to her sacred guests. See Kari Boyd McBride, “Sacred Celebration: The Patronage Poems” in Marshall Grossman (ed.), Aemilia Lanyer: Gender, Genre, and the Canon (Lexington, 1998), pp. 60–82. 53 Lanyer’s claim repeatedly surfaces within her poem. For example: Therefore humbly for his Grace will pray That he will give me Power and Strength to Write, That what I have begun, so end I may, As his great Glory will appear more bright See Lanyer, p. 64.

“Give ear o princes”


bowed himself, thither he fell brought to nought” (Judges 5:27, emphasis mine). Substituting “between her feet” for “at her feet” is a legitimate translation, and moves us toward a more sexually explicit reading. The Hebrew word for “feet” ‫( ְרָג לים‬rĕgāliym) also means “legs,” and is a euphemism for both male and female ֺ genitalia (Brown et. al 919).54 This euphemism is particularly revealing in the Book of Ruth, for example, in which Naomi instructs Ruth to “uncover Boaz’s feet” (3:4); we are also told that Ruth “lay at [Boaz’s] feet until the morning” (3:14). To emphasize the sexuality of the scene in Judges, Ackerman offers the translation: Between her legs he knelt, he fell, he lay Between her legs he knelt, he fell Where he knelt, there he fell, despoiled 55 (59)

This sexual reading of the scene is not limited to modern audiences. John Milton recognizes Jael’s sexual conquest. In his verse drama Samson Agonistes (the subject of which is drawn from Judges), Milton has his sultry villainess salute Jael. In defence of her betrayal of Samson, Delilah claims, I shall be nam’d among the famousest Of Women, sung at solemn festivals, Living and dead recorded, who to save Her countrey from a fierce destroyer, chose Above the faith of wed-lock bands … … Not less renown’d then in Mount Ephraim, Jael, who with inhospitable guile Smote Sisera sleeping through the Temples nail’d. (600, 601)

Delilah references the biblical tradition of women’s songs (l. 983), and clearly depicts Jael as one to be admired. However, because this praise is issued by a notorious femme fatale, if not prostitute, Jael’s sexuality comes to the fore.56 54

Ackerman also notes the varied meanings of this word. See Warrior, Dancer, Seductress, Queen, p. 59. 55 In addition to the sexuality of this scene Jonneke Bekkenkamp and Fokkelien van Dijk note maternal imagery here as Jael gives birth to Sisera between her legs. See Bekkenkamp and van Dijk, p. 99. 56 While the Bible does not explicitly identify Delilah as a prostitute, J. Cheryl Exum writes that she is frequently assumed to be a harlot, perhaps because Samson visits one at the start of the chapter in which she appears. See Exum, “Feminist Criticism: Whose Interests are Being Served?” in Gail A. Yee (ed.), Judges & Method: New Approaches in Biblical Studies (Minneapolis, 1995), p. 80. Ackerman argues that Delilah’s behavior is very similar to that of the known prostitute Rahav in The Book of Joshua, chapter 2. Ackerman writes that “like Rahav, Delilah barters sexual pleasure for her own well-being and security.” Even without the title of harlot, Delilah is clearly the female antagonist in the Samson narrative. See Ackerman, Warrior, Dancer, Seductress, Queen, p. 231.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Milton’s juxtaposition of these biblical women paints Jael as an alluring, cunning trickster. The connection between Jael and a prostitute also appears in John Legatt’s biblical annotations, which compares Jael’s acts with the behavior of Rahav, a heroic prostitute who assists Israelite spies in Joshua, chapter 2 (4.18). Milton’s reference to Jael highlights another interesting characteristic, one shared by his Delilah. Both Delilah and Jael have their own political agendas in which they favor a national loyalty above a marital one (ll.985, 986). The Bible makes a point of explaining why Sisera runs to Jael’s tent in the first place—her husband is his ally. But Jael evidently has separate political views from those of Heber. She honors no established peace with Jabin and instead supports the Israelites’ cause. Jael’s performance demonstrates that a woman may formulate and follow her own political agenda.57 Deborah’s praise distinguishes Jael for uncommon courage, commitment, and independence. (Perhaps that is why Elizabeth I was presented with portraits of “Jula and Sicera” as a New Year’s Gift in 1578 [Progresses II:79]). Woman of Light Deborah’s voice is last heard petitioning God to enlighten his devoted subjects (5:31). The enlightenment she seeks for God’s followers extends the enlightenment she herself delivers. She praises God and directs others to praise him (5:10, 11). She commends individuals for their efforts and encourages others to imitate them (5:16, 17). She forces her audience to recognize the glory and necessity of aid both divine and human. Deborah’s enlightenment is her most profound gift. If the importance of information is determined by the order in which it is presented, then even more impressive than Deborah’s functions as judge and mother in Israel is her role as ‫שת ַלפּידות‬ ֶ ֵֺ‫ ( א‬ēšet lapydôt). Though this phrase is principally 58 ֺ translated as “wife of Lappidoth,” it also means “woman of flames, of light.”59 As Bal comments, “Deborah, enlightened judge, a woman of action, inspired and inspiring poetess, well deserves such a denomination” (Murder 57). If a description c

57 Some early modern readers of Jael’s story prefer to deny her political independence, however. Donne does not allow Jael a motive, political or otherwise. He claims God effected “his purpose by ... a woman, which had no such interest, nor zeale to the cause; by Jael.” See Donne, The Sermons of John Donne, vol. 9, p. 181. 58 The need to describe Deborah as a wife once she is identified by the impressive title of prophetess has been seen by feminist scholars as biblical interpreters’ and translators’ need to contain Deborah’s character in a more traditionally feminine role. The majority of twentieth-century critics who examine Deborah cannot help but question Deborah’s role as wife (since we learn nothing of her husband) and support a more literal translation of the phrase. See Leila Leah Bronner, From Eve to Esther: Rabbinic Reconstructions of Biblical Women (Louisville, 1994), p. 171. ַ 59 The root of the word ‫לפ ידות‬ ּ ַ (lapydôt) is ‫( לפד‬lpd), which means torch, fire. See Francis Brown et al., A Hebrewֺ and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford, 1951), p. 542.

“Give ear o princes”

Fig. 3.1


Queen Elizabeth I (“The Ditchley Portrait”) by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, 1592. © National Portrait Gallery, London.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

of a fiery woman, or a woman connected to light warrants a likeness to Deborah, Elizabeth I was perpetually fashioned in her image. In a song sung to Elizabeth in Suffolk in 1578, she is greeted as the “starre of comfort” (Progresses II:182). At Norwich that same year it was noted that “the brightesse of [her] Majestie did shine out ... as in a paradise” (167). A 1588 book recording Elizabeth’s praise was titled The Light of Britaine (539). James Aske writes that Elizabeth’s virtues “shine as bright as Sol itselfe” (549, l.73). In the famous Ditchely Portrait (1592), Elizabeth is certainly presented as “the sun when it comes out in its might” (Judges 5:31) —she causes the clouds to dissipate behind her (see Figure 3.1). A brief tribute inscribed on the painting refers to Elizabeth as, “The Prince of light. The Sonne ... of heaven.” As a woman of light, Deborah’s most fiery feature is her speech. Her judgments and song are recognized as “the Word of God” (Donne IV:188), and she speaks freely. Margaret Fell, in her arguments in support of women’s speech, admires the bounty and license of Deborah’s discourse: “What glorious triumphing expression there were from a woman, ... whom Barak did not bid be silent, for she sung and praised God and declared to the church of Israel” (18). Fell also associates enlightenment with women’s speech, since those priests who prohibit women’s speaking are repeatedly described as “blind” (15) and “dark” (18). Though some early modern Bible readers were uncomfortable with Deborah’s prominent discursive powers, they could not deny them. The words of Shakespeare’s Deborah-like Joan la Pucelle are potent, even if owing to darker forces. Though he limits Deborah’s connection to it, a cursed Meroz is an effective trope for Marshall to inspire fear, humiliation, and principled conduct. Thus, Deborah inspired men to action in both the Old Testament and the English Renaissance; to make his parishioners more devoted, Donne promises them a place in Deborah’s song (4:189). But the women with whom Deborah and her story are engaged do not require inspiration, just opportunity. Jael needs no encouragement to attack a sleeping Sisera, nor, apparently, do Davies, Speght, or Lanyer hesitate to “attempt the pen.” Instead, these women clutch at Deborah’s performance as evidence of their right—their duty—to proclaim divine truth as they see it. Perhaps, like Ackerman, these women recognize that “it is only Deborah who receives the command to sing out ... to stand forth and sound the cry of reveille” (Ackerman 31). After all, in Deborah’s song, it is after the prophetess is urged to “arise and sing” (Geneva 5:12) that she achieves “dominion over the mightie” (Geneva 5:13). An outspoken leader, Deborah also directs others to raise their voices “louder than the voice of archers” (Judges 5:11). And early modern Englishwomen do, assuring their place in Deborah’s song and, more importantly, their own.

Chapter 4

“Naked against the enemy”: The Feminization of David S.D. Goitein convincingly argues that biblical song is a “feminine genre” (“Women as Creators” 9), nonetheless, the most celebrated psalmist of the Bible is male. The Old Testament identifies King David as the author of an impressive number of songs in the Book of Psalms, thus marking a notable hero’s engagement in a hitherto feminine activity. Early modern Bible readers believed in David’s authorship of these poems and relied on the psalms for both private and liturgical devotions. Translation and adaptation of David’s psalms was a popular activity. From 1530 to 1600, more than 70 English translations of the psalms appeared in print with various paraphrases surfacing as well (Zim 2, 13). A devotional manual titled Psalmes or prayers taken out of holye scripture saw no fewer than thirteen editions between 1544 and 1608 (28). The popularity of David’s psalms during the English Renaissance makes David a fitting subject with which to conclude this investigation, for while the songs of biblical women influence early modern attitudes toward feminine speech and devotion, David’s biblical songs are most frequently translated and published at this time (2). In Psalm Culture and Early Modern English Literature (2004), Hannibal Hamlin investigates the ways in which translation of David’s psalms “substantially shaped the culture of sixteenthand seventeenth-century England” (1). David’s similarities with those biblical women examined in this study do not end with his writing and performing of songs, however. Many of the contexts in which early modern references to biblical heroines appear also feature references to David’s story in arguing the merits of the “weaker vessel.” His figure surfaces in arguments promoting Elizabeth I’s abilities and in texts surrounding the querelle des femmes. David, we might say, becomes the symbol for an emerging awareness of early modern feminine potential. David’s frequent appearances in tracts advocating female authority reflect early modern negotiations of gender and gendered behavior and reveal a progressive application of Davidic history. Christopher Hill’s observation that the Renaissance Bible “could mean different things to different people at different times, in different circumstances” (5) is evidenced by the varied, and often contradictory, readings of David’s tale. In times of political confusion, David’s history is used to both squash and encourage rebellion, including that surrounding the ill regard of women in a culture dominated by Goliaths. It is likely that the early modern men and women who rely on David to authorize feminine potential aim to transfer to their subjects the divinity and achievement associated with his character. David’s most celebrated virtues include his sincere faith, his loyalty, and his divine selection, precisely those characteristics shared by Miriam, Hannah, and Deborah. What a comparison to King David may also offer the early modern female is the


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

license and authority associated with masculinity. By conferring the entitlements of masculinity onto female subjects, early modern authors bestow upon women privileges their culture denies. Critics such as Carole Levin, Leah Marcus, and Constance Jordan have examined Elizabeth’s I’s reliance on masculine personae to communicate her competence to rule.1 Marcus writes of Elizabeth’s “set of symbolic male identities” which the Queen thought necessary in order to diffuse the anxieties sparked by “her presence as a ‘frail’ woman on the throne.”2 While I agree with those critics who diligently attend to Elizabeth’s selffashioned androgyny, I guard against the assumption that the use of prominent male figures to represent early modern women consistently aims to transfer masculinity onto female subjects. Such an estimate is particularly problematic regarding the use of David’s character. Renaissance considerations of David frequently define him as weak and obedient—two characteristics generally associated with early modern women. The range of David’s experiences and the complexity of early modern interpretations of them potentially prohibit the masculinization of the feminine subjects to whom David is compared. Women who present themselves or who are presented in the image of David engage in a kind of “literary crossdressing.” They put on a Davidic identity in order to position themselves and their issues in a Davidic context. It is precisely this context—the situations and circumstances surrounding David’s character—that makes a Davidic costume suit early modern women’s purposes. The Davidic episode most often featured in these texts is David’s battle against Goliath. Women likened to the David of this incident look to inherit the strength and influence associated with his character. This strength is not an inherently masculine force, however, but one repeatedly linked to divine favor, thereby negating the significance of David’s sex. Moreover, because the circumstances that give rise to these Davidic references specifically promote arguments in praise of women, it is femininity and not masculinity that becomes the dominant subject. Thus, this biblical hero, thrust into the heart of the woman’s controversy, is feminized as a result of his appearance in these contexts. 1 Carole Levin notes that Elizabeth seems especially to have compared herself to the prophet Daniel whose story is told in the biblical book bearing his name (131). Daniel is a figure of legendary wisdom and piety who sees visions of the future. One of his most famous episodes is God’s rescue of Daniel in the lion’s den (The Book of Daniel, chapter 6). For a discussion of Elizabeth’s fashioned male identity, see Carole Levin, The Heart and Stomach of a King (Philadelphia, 1994), pp. 121–48. 2 In her essay on political uses of androgyny, Marcus examines the “ungendering” of Elizabeth I, arguing that Elizabeth disguised herself with a male identity to “advance her goals” (137). See Leah Marcus, “Shakespeare’s Comic Heroines, Elizabeth I, and the Political Uses of Androgyny” in Mary Beth Rose (ed.), Women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Literary and Historical Perspectives (Syracuse, 1986), pp. 135–53. For a discussion of Elizabeth’s androgyny as evidenced in the Siena portrait, see Constance Jordan, “Representing Political Androgyny: More on the Siena Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I” in Anne M. Haselkorn and Betty S. Travitsky (eds), The Renaissance Englishwoman in Print (Cambridge, 1990), pp. 157–76.

“Naked against the enemy”


This chapter explores a selection of early modern texts that introduce David’s character into debates surrounding the female sex. The range of David’s characteristics—from “Sweet Singer of Israel” (Hakewill 8) to fearless warrior— makes his figure a ready vehicle for gender challenges. In the following pages, I examine early modern tracts likening Elizabeth I to David, along with texts in which less prominent women represent themselves in the biblical hero’s image. My consideration of these texts is directed by readings of David’s story featured in sixteenth- and seventeenth- century Protestant sermons and political treatises. By juxtaposing these readings to references found in arguments relating to women, we can appreciate the appropriateness of David’s appearance in an emerging women’s movement. The repeated references to David in this setting invite us to reexamine our assumptions regarding the early modern practice of defining women’s characters via reference to male figures. Though it is generally accepted that such practices are for the purpose of making women seem more masculine, I suggest that the effects of the analogy work both ways, and that a male figure compared to women is potentially feminized by this discourse. This feminizing potential is particularly distinct regarding early modern references to David since he not only appears frequently in literature on the women’s debate but also displays stereotypically feminine characteristics in his biblical narrative. I conclude this chapter by regarding women’s Davidic self-presentation as a kind of literary crossdressing, which, like the actual cross-dressing practices of the early modern period, frequently served to accentuate the wearer’s sex instead of obscure it. David, Women and Goliath The use of David’s figure to affirm women’s abilities is very much in keeping with his biblical record. On the one hand, David is the ultimate masculine hero. His military success is evidenced through phallic dominance of enemy forces: he delivers 100 Philistine foreskins to King Saul (I Samuel 18:25) and his success is rewarded with marriage to the king’s daughter.3 Comparing David’s experiences to those of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century women may strike readers as suspicious, given the power ascribed to the Hebrew King and the lack of power generally assigned to early modern women. However, as Mary Pope reminds her readers in 1647, an examination of David’s tale reveals his reliance upon women who assist or advise him (108). David’s life is saved early on by Michal, his first wife, who orchestrates his escape from the embittered King Saul (I Samuel, 19:11–17). The wise and beautiful Abigail prevents David from the unnecessary slaughter of a homestead (he rewards her with marriage and the recognition that she counseled him well [chapter 25]). The Woman of Tekoa subtly advises David on the sensitive situation concerning his son Absolam (II Samuel, chapter 14). 3 Saul’s offer of Michal to David in return for the foreskins was, of course, one of Saul’s earliest plans for David’s undoing. It was the King’s hope that Michal “may be a snare to him” (I Samuel 18:21).

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


As King, David follows Bathsheba’s direction to establish their son Solomon on the throne (I Kings 1:17). Furthermore, they are women who unabashedly celebrate David’s first victory and broadcast his fame in a frequently referenced song: … the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with timbrels, and a joyful song, and with lutes. And the women answered one another as they danced, and said, Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. (I Samuel 18:6, 7)4

This song’s importance is suggested by the effect it has on the King. It caused him “to view David with suspicion from that day onwards” (v. 9). The women’s song is assigned even greater importance by a later reference. When David flees Saul’s court and seeks asylum with Akhish, King of Gat, Akhish’s servants know of David via the women’s song: “Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul has slain his thousands but David his ten thousands?” (21:12). The women’s attention to David in song is an immediate sign of David’s authority and directly evidences the significance of women’s speech in the Bible. The legendary conquest celebrated in the women’s song is David’s battle against Goliath, a popular subject in sixteenth-and seventeenth-century considerations of the biblical king. In 1612, an Anglican minister uses the David and Goliath tale to remind parishioners of the glory that comes from serving God: “David killed Goliah in his weake strength, with prayer in his mouth, & a peeble stone in his hand; he stroke him on the forehead, for that hee did confront his God” (Leigh, Elizabeth, paraleld …with Dauid 54). Because David’s defeat of the giant Goliath is a prominent theme in early modern texts, the tale is worthy of review. In the narrative Israel is at war with the Philistines, and Goliath is their champion. Saul, King of Israel, has no soldier brave enough to combat the giant until David arrives on the scene. Though an unexpected participant in this battle, the young David announces his intention to fight. 5 Armed with his sling shot, five smooth stones, and the knowledge of God’s favor, David accepts the Philistine challenge. His address to Goliath demonstrates the youth’s confidence in God’s aid:


Unless otherwise indicated, the Old Testament translations in this chapter are those found in The New Jerusalem Bible, Harold Fisch, English ed. (Jerusalem, 1997). In those instances where a different translation is cited, the biblical text used is that which is most relevant to the examined literary work. 5 Initially, they are David’s three eldest brothers who join King Saul and his army in the crusade against the Philistines; David (who is known to Saul as a musician) spends his time going between Saul’s court and his father’s flocks (17:15). David arrives at the soldiers’ camp to deliver breads and cheeses at his father’s request (17:17, 18). David accepts Goliath’s challenge because no one else dared to do so (the Israelite soldiers “fled from [Goliath] and were greatly afraid”). See I Samuel 17:24.

“Naked against the enemy”


Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a javelin: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel ... . This day will the Lord deliver thee into my hand. (I Samuel 17:45, 46)

David’s youth and slight stature make the ensuing triumph surprising. His bold declaration marks him a servant of God, and, to at least one seventeenth century reader, is a source of David’s valor: “In this strength stood righteous Dauid, when he sayd, What is this proud Philistin, that he should revile the host of the liuing God” (Leigh, Palme and Cedar 27). The David and Goliath episode demonstrates the power to be had when graced with God’s favor. And this grace, as writers argue, is available to both sexes. Elizabeth, David, and the Model of Obedience During the reign of Elizabeth I, a variety of episodes from David’s history become popular referents used to encourage support for the Queen and to suggest behavior appropriate for her subjects. Elizabeth was compared to the biblical king both during and after her reign. In 1612, almost a decade after her death, William Leigh preached a sermon in which Elizabeth is “paralleled in her Princely vertues with Dauid” (title page); Leigh’s principal focus compares David’s delivery of the holy ark to his people to Elizabeth’s delivery of “the Religion of her Christ, into the bowels of all her kingdomes” (55). An early and prominent use of David’s character to bolster Elizabeth’s right to the throne appears in John Aylmer’s An Harborovve for Faithfull and True Subjects (1559). As discussed in the previous chapter, Aylmer’s text was written to combat Knox’s tirade against female rule. The author presents heroic and largely female histories to dispute Knox’s view that a woman may not “bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire above any realm, nation or city” (42). While Aylmer uses biblical tales of authoritative women to excellent advantage, he also relies heavily on the figure of David to justify Elizabeth’s position. The David to whom Aylmer largely refers is the innocent and inexperienced David of I Samuel, chapters 16– 18. But Aylmer’s reference to the young David also reminds his audience of the divine selection which prompts David’s entrance into the biblical narrative.6 When the Prophet Samuel meets David, a “ruddy” youth (I Samuel 16:12), he anoints him with holy oil (v. 13) though David was “yet a litle one” (Geneva v. 11).7 The narrative confirms Samuel’s act by noting that “the Spirit of the Lord came vpon David from that day forwarde” (Geneva v. 13). The biblical narrative emphasizes the peculiar nature of David’s anointment by noting God’s instruction to the prophet: “Look not on his countenance, nor on the height of his stature … for it is 6

Provoked by Saul’s disobedience, God directs the prophet Samuel to the house of Jesse the Bethlehemite to seek the next king, telling Samuel, “I have provided for me a king among his sons” (I Samuel 16:1). 7 All “Geneva” citations refer to The Geneva Bible (1560; Madison, Milwaukee, and London, 1969).


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

not as a man sees; for a man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). Early modern theologians interpret this instruction to show how unlikely a choice was David for his appointment (Donne 2: 274). Nonetheless, as John Donne reminds his audience, “David recovers the enemy, recovers the spoile, recovers his honour, and the love of his people” (274). David’s unusual selection serves as precedent for Elizabeth’s own extraordinary grace. In Harborovve, Aylmer’s frequent references to David do not emphasize the biblical King’s masculinity as much as obscure it. David’s first appearance in Aylmer’s text finds the hero sandwiched between valorous women: “[God] saved his people by the hande of a woman poore Deborah. He aduaunced them and ouerthrew the enemies of a poore shepherde and his sling. He cut of the head of the proude captayne Olophernes by the hande of a weake woman” (B3v). Positioning David between biblical foremothers marks a kind of feminization as Aylmer literally sets the “strong and valiant” David (Geneva, I Samuel 16:18) in the ranks of weak and feeble women. Here, David’s physical disadvantage against the giant Goliath is intended to put the future king on par with feminine weakness. Aylmer implies that David’s victory is as unforeseen as those of Deborah and Judith, whose sex is their greatest handicap in fighting Israel’s enemies. Throughout Aylmer’s text, David’s history is applied to Elizabeth’s predicament to defeat the notion that a woman is unable to rule competently. Aylmer uses David’s experiences to quell his audience’s suspicions regarding Elizabeth, her sex, and her ability. Aylmer’s depiction of a weak and disadvantaged David is a fair representation. For all his victories documented in the Bible, David’s heroic career begins with an episode of unexpected potency. David is a mere youth when he conquers Goliath. The Geneva Bible glosses the Goliath battle with the reminder that “by these weake meanes God might only be known to be the autor of this victorie” (129, emphasis mine). Donne uses this episode to argue that God “enables the weakest man to overthrow the strongest sinne” (Sermons, II:187, emphasis mine). David is defined by his weakness, and this vulnerability is a key element in early modern readings. As the Geneva Bible makes clear, David’s victory against Goliath is evidence of God’s favor, reminding readers that sacred authorization lays the foundation for power. The use of David to represent Elizabeth suggests that a woman may also possess an unrecognized potency. Dismissing her potential foolishly denies those gifts bestowed by God, and may prove dangerous. Aylmer associates the wonder of David’s ability to combat Goliath with his contemporaries’ wonder at a woman’s ability to govern a country. We know this because Aylmer identifies Elizabeth’s sex as that which thwarts her subjects’ confidence. Assuming God’s voice, Aylmer asks his audience, Murmur ye at myne anoynted, because she is a woman? who made man and woman, you or I? yf I made hir to lyue, may I not make hir to reigne? If I appynt hir to the office? can I not adourne hir, and make her hable to discharge it? (I1v)

Though his focus is specifically anxiety about Elizabeth’s sex (“Murmur ye … because she is a woman? [I1v, emphasis mine]), Aylmer chooses to parallel Elizabeth to David. David is a male hero, but the Bible’s emphases on David’s

“Naked against the enemy”


youth, beauty, and innocence render him a feminine sort of protagonist and prevent the full force of masculinity from dominating his character. Aylmer’s comparison of Elizabeth to David appears increasingly appropriate when he draws his readers’ attentions to the turbulent times that gave rise to both leaders. Aylmer applies David’s history to the political situation Elizabeth inherits to illustrate the verity of the Queen’s abilities and God’s own: “Our trust is in God, thoughe the French and Scots and the deuil himselfe had conspired against our sovereign ... . In like manner David entered into his kingdom when the Philistins had made a mervelus slaughter in Israel” (O5r). Aylmer uses David’s success to signal Elizabeth’s potential. The author suggests that victory achieved through an unlikely leader reflects sacred endorsement: “let us do our dutie by trusting [God], and he wyl do his, by helping us ... now it is more like the glory shal be his if the victorie be ours: Then if we had some great Goliah, some lustie champion to take the matter in hand” (Miv). The reference to Goliath, of course, associates the skill of the young shepherd with that of the young queen. Here again, the two are united in presumptions of weakness countered by God’s endorsement.8 Aylmer turns the apparent disadvantage of Elizabeth’s sex into a sign of God’s patronage. The point is, the more unlikely the vehicle of English victory, the greater the evidence of God’s work and the greater the privilege of the nation benefiting from it. But a nation that denies its obligation of obedience is unworthy of such privilege. Aylmer interprets the English people’s mistrust of Elizabeth as a lack of piety. Those who are skeptical of the Queen’s abilities, Aylmer suggests, do not recognize the divinity inherent in God’s selection, and thus cannot rightfully take their place among God’s chosen. Cleverly, Aylmer shifts his argument from one which asserts Elizabeth’s virtue, to one which questions the people’s own, and he advances his argument through the continued application of David’s story. Assuming the voice of God once again, Aylmer becomes a player in the dramas of both Elizabeth and David, threatening all disgruntled subjects: ... why then (you of little faithe) ... you are much worse then Saule ... whom I reiected for disobedience. For when I sent my servant David, yonge of age, and no Gyante in stature with his shephoke and his slynge: Saule would have armed hym wyth his owne armoure? But when David threwe it of and wente his waye naked against the enemy, a great hyghe monstere, in comparison of hym: Saule mystrusted not as you do: murmured not as you doo, sayinge, ah this poore boy is not hable to be our champion, and to defende our libertie: but he prayed for him, and wished him well ... . It is I tell you all one ... (I1v)

Though Saul behaves admirably enough in this scene, the comparison of the English people to him is threatening indeed. King Saul’s improper behavior toward God and his impending abuse haunt this passage. Saul represents he whom God 8 Donne similarly interprets David’s success by explaining that “God will alwayes have so much weakness appeare in the Instrument, as that their strength shall not be thought to be their owne.” See John Donne, The Sermons of John Donne, vol. 2, p. 275.

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


deserts: “And Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, and was departed from Saul” (18:12). God informs Samuel that Saul has been “cast away” for his disobedience (Geneva, I Samuel 16:1), and it is then that Samuel is sent to seek a new leader of Israel, namely, David, son of Jesse. Once David is introduced into the narrative, we see the decline of the House of Saul and his government. For Aylmer to insert Elizabeth’s cynical and disloyal audience into Saul’s place warns of a loss of God’s esteem.9 Aylmer uses Saul’s history and David’s complicated rise to power to his Queen’s advantage. Though the audience is the topic of these lines, the representation of Elizabeth as David remains. Her virtue is the antithesis of her people’s disobedience. England’s salvation lies in the people’s recognition of the divinity inherent in Elizabeth’s leadership. While Aylmer clearly presents David as a model for Elizabeth, it is less clear that Elizabeth is meant to profit by comparison to David’s masculinity. Aylmer features David at his most dependent, most vulnerable, and arguably, most feminine moments. In Harbarrowe, David emerges an innocent shepherd (B3v), a poet (Miir).10 At times, Aylmer forges his comparison between Elizabeth and the biblical hero without specifically mentioning David by name, but merely by invoking elements of his history. Aylmer describes David as “servant,” “poore boy,” and “naked against the enemy” (I1v), all of which undermine a presumption of potency. He distances David from association with any manly persona. Aylmer writes, “trust who wyl in their stout kinges: we call vpon our God to helpe our good Quene” (Miir). Because David has been repeatedly depicted as one whose success is attributed to God’s privilege, and because Elizabeth is repeatedly presented in David’s image, David’s character is more closely aligned with the feminine Elizabeth than he is with any of the strapping kings who shrink in comparison to her virtues. In order to make sense of David’s appearance in this context, we must allow David’s kinship to Elizabeth and to the feminine force she is made to represent. David surrenders his masculine identity in favor of one more full of divine promise. Instead of relying on David’s masculinity to confer power onto Elizabeth, Aylmer relies on feminine authorization to ratify the young Queen. In the concluding pages of his tract, Aylmer references an influential parent and calls upon the feminine authority of motherhood to endorse Elizabeth:


Sebastian Benefield uses Saul to warn his congregation against vanity: “Saule exalted himself and an evill Spirite was sent to vexe him.” See Sebastian Benefield, A Commentarie of Exposition Vpon the First Chapter of the Prophecy of Amos (Oxford, 1613), p. 256. 10 Along with Aylmer’s references to David and his encounter with Goliath, David’s presence is established by Aylmer’s quoting of the psalms. When Aylmer refers to one of these poems, he attributes it to the biblical hero with the tag “as David saith.” See John Aylmer, An Harborovve for Faithfull and True Subjects against the late blowne Blaste, concerning the government of Women, wherein be confuted all such reasons as a straunger of late meade in that behalfe with a briefe exhortation to OBEDIENCE (London, 1559), p. N3r.

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Do you not heare how lamentably your natural mother your countrey of England calleth upon you for obediences saying, Oh remember, remember my dear children. ... sticketh to youre mother as she sticketh to you ... . Obey your mistress and mine which God hath made lady over vs, both by nature and lawe. You cannot be my children if you be not her subjectes: I wyll none of you, if you will none of her. (R1r, R2r)

Ultimately, it is this assumed feminine figure who confers power onto Elizabeth. Aylmer has Mother England instruct the English folk in “unfaind obedience to defend me and my governesse” (R2r, emphasis mine), demonstrating that Elizabeth assumes authority over the very voice that authorizes her. Elizabeth emerges as the ultimate feminine force; she is, Aylmer tells us, “the mother and mistris of [the] country” (M5v). Defining Elizabeth as “mistress” and “mother” makes femininity a vital and potent part of her character and colors our perception of those heroes to whom she is compared. The obedience that Aylmer requires the English to show Elizabeth itself follows a pattern laid by David’s story. Elizabethan sermons frequently feature David as a model of obedience, suggesting that the virtue and grace bestowed upon his character are owing to his profound sense of duty toward both God and sovereign. Early modern Protestant accounts extol David for the duty he shows to God, and for his trust in the righteousness of God’s will. “Let this holy ... King David be the patterne of your imitation,” Sebastian Benefield directs his congregation.11 In a sermon on the prophecy of Amos, Benefield refers to David’s profound sense of loyalty, which manifests itself in David’s respect for the “primus motor, even Almighty God, the first mover of all this his affliction” (88). Benefield proclaims David an ideal member of Christ’s Church (43).12 That obedience is at the heart of David’s devout behavior is clear. Benefield instructs his congregation that, “the duties we owe [God] ... are three: to obey him, to serve him, to profit him” (29). David’s behavior shows obedience to be “the principall vertue of all vertues” (Rickey and Stroup 275). The early modern association of David with obedient behavior both reinforces and complicates the comparison to Elizabeth I, for the attributes held up for example to the English people influence our perception of the figure to whom the Queen is compared. This focus on obedience in Renaissance readings positions 11

Benefield’s sermon dates from 1613, 10 years after Elizabeth’s death. Nonetheless, as Leigh’s 1612 sermon paralleling Elizabeth to Dauid, Josua, and Hezekia demonstrates, considerations of Elizabeth, David, and obedience continue. See William Leigh, Queene Elizabeth, paraleld in her Princely vertues with Dauid, Josua, and Hezekia (London, 1612). 12 Benefield is particularly impressed with David’s ability to recognize the divinity inherent in those situations which challenge and afflict him. As an example, Benefield notes David’s acceptance of the railing stone thrower Shim’i whom David encounters in II Samuel 16:5–12: “He curseth because the Lord hath bidden him to curse David; & who dare then say, wherefore hast thou done so?” See Benefield, p. 88.

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


David as yet another in a series of models encouraging submission to masculine authorities, both human and divine. While the comparison of Elizabeth to David is manifestly complimentary, it carries with it the burden of obedience that all early modern women were bound to bear. David’s obedience reveres a hierarchy of power, and he does not challenge this hierarchy regardless of his treatment by those in authority. This response is essential to an understanding of David’s story, for he is not only loyal to his God but also to the King who repeatedly threatens and mistreats him.13 David’s willingness to honor an abusive and unjust sovereign is mirrored in Elizabeth’s brief history prior to her reign. Recall that Princess Elizabeth was imprisoned by her half-sister Mary while Mary held the throne. Elizabeth, like David, was accused of treason. Leigh notes this shared affliction: Dauid persecuted from his youth, so was Elizabeth. Dauid contemned of his brethren, Elizabeth of her sister, Saul a King persecuted Dauid, Marie a Queene ... with Elizabeth. Dauid an exile in the holdes of Engeddi, she close prisoner in the holds of Wodstock. ... Dauid declared his innocencie vnto Saul, so did Elizabeth vnto her sister Mary, Much was suspected by Dauid which they laid vnto his charge, things which he neuer thought, and they euer failed in the proofe. So was it with Elizabeth, her hand yet witnesseth to the innocencie of her soule ... Much suspected by me: nothing proued can be. (Elizabeth, paraleld ... with Dauid 46–7)

Leigh’s comparison of Elizabeth to David reinforces the sanctity of compelled obedience, as both are acclaimed for obeying those who unjustly accuse and abuse them. Of course, some form of obedience was required of all English subjects, male and female, but the requirement for women was most severe given that they must not only obey their God and sovereign, but also their fathers and husbands.14 Given this requirement, the above comparison arguably allays anxieties about a female ruler, since Elizabeth is depicted as obedient to her 13

In her text A Treatise on the Power of the Magistrate, Pope, a Royalist, attacks the Parliamentarian cause. Here, and in her 1649 pamphlet “Behold, Here is a Word, or an Answer to the Late Remonstrance of the Army,” the author uses David’s story as an example of the obedience English citizens are required to show their king: “And we know Saul, and David ... were not without their failings: yet they were not reproved by any of their own subjects.” See Mary Pope, Behold, Here is a Word, or an Answer to the Late Remonstrance of the Army (London, 1649), p. 8. 14 I refer here to Richard Greene’s 1587 text on “faeminine perfection” in which he identifies the “three especial virtues” intrinsic to women of quality: chastity, silence and obedience. See Richard Greene, Penelope’s Web (London, 1587), p. i.

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holy father. Comparison to David reinforces a prescript essential to early modern notions of feminine behavior. A striking example of David’s use as a model of obedience occurs in “An Homily Against disobedience and wilfull rebellion” (1571), which was included in a 1623 collection titled Certaine Sermons or Homilies appointed to be read in Churches, In the time of the late Queene Elizabeth of famous memory.15 This homily has been described as “frankly political,” designed to subdue rebellion against Elizabeth (x). The “Homily Against disobedience” is a sermon in six parts; part two is dedicated to a discussion of David and the duty he demonstrates to both religious and secular authorities. So powerful a representation of obedience is David, that the author of the homily writes, “This one example of the good subiect David ... may suffice, and for the notableness of it serve for all” (288).16 The homily establishes David an exceptionally devoted subject: But yet how evill soever Saul the King was, and out of God’s fauour, yet he was obeyed of his subject David, the very best of all subiects … the most obedient and loving in peace, and alwayes most true and faythfull to his Soveraigne and Lord. (285)

David’s character evokes the feminine traits of weakness and obedience and confers those traits onto the Queen through comparison. Instead of enabling Elizabeth to escape the enforced limitations of her sex, David’s figure reminds us of them. While David is victorious in his battle against Goliath, it is his initial weakness that makes the battle the unprecedented glory that it is. Comparing Elizabeth to the young David may appear an inspiring celebration, but it is relatively guarded praise. The biblical hero will mature and potentially shed those characteristics which render him weak and feminine; Elizabeth will not. “What? throwinge stones?”: David as a Model of Resistance Readings that emphasize the virtue of David’s obedience and his reward for such behavior are certainly true to the biblical narrative. And yet, the Bible is a text renowned for the contradictions it contains, thus making possible alternative readings of the same story. The very episodes used to demonstrate David’s profound obedience are referenced to promote him as a model of resistance. By 15

Appearing in a collection of sermons popular during Elizabeth’s reign, this homily is designed to promote obedience to Elizabeth, “God’s vicar on earth.” See Certaine Sermons or Homilies 1547–1571, ed. Mary Ellen Rickey and Thomas B. Stroup (1623; Gainesville, 1968), p. x. The author of this homily is not known for certain. Rickey and Stroup suggest that Bishops Jewell, Grindall, Pilkinton and Parker are responsible for most of the sermons in this text (vii). 16 This confidence in David causes the author of the homily to return to his character as an obedient example in part four as well. See Certaine Sermons or Homilies 1547–1571, p. 300.

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


fleeing from Saul (which he does early on in I Samuel, chapter 19), David thwarts the King’s intentions. In 1642 John Goodwin presents this Davidic behavior as a model to those who would contradict their sovereign’s views. David’s unusual mixture of obedience and resistance is presented by Goodwin in the pamphlet Anti-Cavalierisme, or, Truth Pleading.17 While he acknowledges the required display of obedience to the English throne, Goodwin also acknowledges the corruption of royal privilege demonstrated by King Charles and his men. A strong Parliamentarian, Goodwin uses David’s story to justify a collective resistance to those who represent a corrupt king: David … being unjustly persecuted by Saul, and those gracelesse and base flatters that assisted him in that ungracious designe, and being in danger of his life by them, did he either sit still, to see whether God would in an extraordinary and miraculous way protect him or no? Or did he submit himself to Sauls mercy and lay downe his life at his feet? No, but on the contrary, he provided himself with weapons, the best that were to be had. I Sam. 21.8.9. And willingly entertained for the safeguard of life, and to make resistance against Saul and his party, all the help of men he could come by, making himselfe an head or Captaine over them. I Sam. 22.2. (12)

Note that it is not merely Saul whom Goodwin presents as David’s enemy; David is described as a man tormented by the King’s brood of “gracelesse and base flatterers” (12) bent on David’s destruction. Goodwin’s argument attends to the Bible’s use of pronouns. He quotes David: “The Lord forbid that I should … stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anoynted of the Lord, vers. 6” (15, emphases mine).18 Goodwin’s skillful use of David’s story provides the means to contradict authority by resisting those who function in its name, without betraying the authoritative figure himself. Goodwin maintains that David “respected and honoured Saul very highly” (15); Saul’s men were another matter: “certainly David in defending himselfe against Sauls Cavaliers with armes and men, neither offended God, nor wronged Saul himselfe in the least measure” (15, 16).19 Goodwin strengthens his position by pointing to the punishment the King’s men received at God’s hand: “So the men of Israel that obeyed the commandement of Saul in giving their assistance to him for the persecuting of David, were punished together with Saul fleeing and falling down before the Philistines” (20). Unlike the voice 17

The full title of Goodwin’s pamphlet reads, “Anti-Cavalierisme, or, Truth Pleading As well the Necessity, as the Lawfulness of this present War, for the suppressing of that Butcherly brood of Cavaliering Incendiaries, who are now hammering England, to make an Ireland of it.” 18 John Goodwin further argues that David’s resistance is just in God’s sight since David “made it his earnest prayer unto God daily to be kept from sinne.” See Goodwin, Anti-Cavalierisme, or, Truth Pleading (London, 1642), p. 15. 19 Saul’s response to David in I Samuel 24:5 confirms this report, and Goodwin matterof-factly concludes, “And if Saul against whom the offense (if any) had beene committed, iustifieth him, who shall with any colour of inequitie condemne him?” See Goodwin, p. 16.

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in the “Homily against disobedience,” Goodwin implies that glory does indeed await those who would “rise … against a Prince hated of GOD” (Rickey and Stroup 287). Goodwin justifies self-preservation for individuals devoted to God regardless of the risk of contradicting royal orders. Though David will eventually find himself king, it is David the heroic civilian whom Goodwin praises, describing him as “a man after Gods own heart, who being but a private man, strengthened himselfe as well as hee could, both with men and armes, yea with Goliahs sword to boote, to defend himselfe against ... unjust and bloody persecution” (34). Essential to Goodwin’s argument is the recognition that David is not condemned in the Bible as either a “Traytor or Rebell” (34). In a clever reference to David’s psalms, Goodwin recounts David’s flight from Saul’s court, reminding his readers that “It is ever honourable to fly with such wings as these” (35).20 It is this spirit of resistance, I suggest, that makes David so attractive a figure to women determined to defend their sex in the early modern pamphlet wars. In writings by these women, references to David and his valiant campaign against Goliath appear with surprising frequency. One of the most extended applications of David’s character appears in Rachel Speght’s A Mouzell for Melastomus (1617). As mentioned previously, Speght’s tract attacks Joseph Swetnam for the views he presents in his Araignment of Lewde, idle, froward and unconstant women (1615). The popularity of Swetnam’s tract inspired Speght’s reply, lest “the vulgar ignorant might have beleeved his Diabolicall infamies to be infallible truths” (3). In Mouzell, Speght recruits David into her army of biblical heroines whose service is required to refute Swetnam’s misogynist claims. Repeatedly, Speght likens herself to David both in word and deed. In her “Address to all vertuous Ladies” she explains, “I have adventured to sling this stone at vaunting Goliah … to comfort the mindes of all Hevahs sex” (4). Speght demonstrates that her strength and David’s have a common source. David boasts that he comes to Goliath “in the name of the Lord” (I Samuel 17:45); Speght claims to represent the “winde of Gods truth” (4). Armed as she is with “Gods Spirit” (4), Speght assumes numerous voices in her text, all of which endorse her social and literary efforts. Her address to Swetnam is followed by three poems “In praise of the Author and her Worke.” Though each poem is signed with a different name (“Philalethes,” “Philomathes,” and “Favour B.,” respectively), Speght is recognized as the sole author of these verses.21 The first of these poems, attributed to the “lover of truth” (Philalethes), begins by referencing the story of David and Goliath:

20 Images of wings and flight appear in Psalms 17, 18, 36, 55, 57, 61, 63, 68, 77, 78, 80, 90, 91, 104, 107, and 139. 21 In her edition of Speght’s work, Barbara Kiefer Lewalski writes that that the Philalethes, Favour B., and Philomathes poems were likely written by Speght herself based on the appearance of an unusual Latinism (“obtrectation”) that Speght often uses. See Rachel Speght, The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght, ed. Barbara Kiefer Lewalski (New York and Oxford, 1996), p. xxvi.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England If little David that for Israels sake, esteemed neyther life nor limbe too deare, In that he did adventure without dread, to cast at him, whom all the hoste did feare, A stone, which brought Goliah to the ground, Obtain’d applause with Songs and Timbrels sound. (10)

The diminutive “little David,” a reference to the description of David in I Samuel 16:11, emphasizes not only the stature of the biblical hero in comparison to his foe, but also echoes the youth and inexperience with which Speght identifies herself in her own opening address. In fact, Philalethes’s first stanza neatly summarizes the majority of Speght’s descriptive statements: Speght apologizes for her “imperfection both in learning and age” (5) and presents her response to Swetnam as a deed she does for the greater good of womankind (4). Similarly, the Philalethes poem depicts David’s crusade as one undertaken for the sake of the Israelite nation.22 David’s ability to “adventure without dread” echoes Speght’s boast that she is “out of all feare, because armed with the truth” (4). We learn that these heroes’ bravado stems from their religious conviction, and such conviction is worthy of praise. Like David, Speght “Obtain’d applause with Songs” since these very poems function to celebrate and commemorate her victory (10). The second stanza of the poem attributed to Philalethes explicitly links David’s activities to those of Speght. The “If” which begins the piece prepares us for this comparison, implying that recognition of David’s story assures support for Speght’s activites: Then let another young encombatant receive applause, and thankes, as well as hee: For with an enemie to Women kinde, she hath encountred, as each wight may see: And with the fruit of her industrious toyle, To this Goliah she hath given the foyle. (10)

Speght positions David’s story as prologue to her own discursive combat. She asserts the merit of her engagement (deserving thanks “as well as hee” [l.8]) and indicates the magnitude of her cause. By comparing David’s battle on Israel’s behalf to the literary battle in which the poet engages, Speght alleges the divinity of the sex she defends—womankind assumes the place of God’s chosen. Overall, reliance on the metaphor of David and Goliath allows Speght to amplify the urgency and significance of her discourse. By identifying Swetnam as “this Goliah” (l.12), Speght positions him as a misogynist giant and makes him appear as threatening to early modern order as the Philistines were to Israel. There is little doubt that Speght is depicted as a David in this poem, but is she masculinized with 22 The Bible, though, hints at David’s desire to profit personally from a defeat of Goliath. When David arrives on scene, he asks, “What shall be done to the man that kills yonder Philistine?” David’s inquiry angers his brother. See I Samuel, 16:26, 28.

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this portrayal, or is the character of David feminized by the exchange? To suggest that Speght seeks to masculinize herself through comparison to David ignores the very context in which her work appears. As David, Speght engages in battle for women’s sake, and the verses emphasize her femininity—she is a friend to her sex (l. 18, emphasis mine), fighting a Goliath that is an enemy to “Women kinde” (l.9, emphasis mine). Though Speght presents herself as one engaging in warfare, her depiction of battle does not transform her into a manly soldier. The war in which Speght engages is a gendered war, and she represents the side of women. One contemporary’s response to Speght’s work suggests that her assumption of David’s character allowed her to maintain, even amplify, her femininity. A 1617 edition of Speght’s tract held at Yale University’s Beinecke Library contains extensive marginalia responding to Speght’s argument.23 This early modern reader’s regard of Speght as feminine and sexual is clear in his quips to the Philalethes poem. Next to Speght’s identification of Swetnam as “this Goliath” (l.17) the reader writes, “What? throwinge stones? / Give mee her arse” (96). The reference to stones, David’s artillery, shows that the reader acknowledges the parallel Speght draws between herself and the biblical hero, but this comparison does not blur Speght’s sex. In fact, her sex is highlighted in the reader’s razzing response. Her virtue may be threatened by her words (given the sexual language of the reader’s retort), but her sex is not. It is interesting to note that the reader’s responses to the earlier verses in the poem do not allude to Speght’s sex or to gender—”little David” is not referred to as “he,” nor is the “young combatant” referred to as “she.” It is only once the “she” who battles the enemy of womankind is mentioned that the annotator begins using feminine pronouns in responding to the piece. The reader allows Speght the comparison of herself to David—equipping her with the hero’s weapons—but never loses sight of her feminine identity. This marginalia suggests that David’s character does not confer masculinity on Speght; the attacker of this Goliath is unequivocally female. Specific references to David are not found in Speght’s two subsequent poems, but the imagery and language of combat begun in the first poem extends to these verses, reinforcing the initial representation of Speght as a David-like hero. The second poem, attributed to the lover of knowledge (Philomathes), likens Speght to a soldier loyal to her regiment: If he that for his Countrie doth expose himselfe unto the furie of his foe, Doth merite praise and due respect of those, for whom he did that perill undergoe: 23 Lewalski suggests these comments may have been written by Swetnam himself in preparing a response to Speght. See Speght, p. 91. In an article on this subject Lewalski elaborates, explaining, “It is … unlikely that the annotator is some casual reader moved to rage by Speght’s tract.” See Barbara K. Lewalski, “Female Text, Male Reader Response: Contemporary Marginalia in Rachel Speght’s A Mouzell for Melastomus,” in Claude J. Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth (eds), Representing Women in Renaissance England (Columbia and London, 1997), p. 145.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England Then let the Author of this Mouzell true Receive the like, of right it is her due. For she to shield her Sex from Slaunders Dart, and from invective obtrectation, hath ventured by force of Learning Art (in which she hath had education) To combate with him, which doth shame his Sex, By offering feeble women to perplex. (10, 11)

The image of the self-sacrificing hero, established in the earlier poem’s reference to David, resurfaces here and emphasizes the peril Speght faces for the sake of womankind (l.7). The war in this poem is also an apparent war between the sexes; Speght defends her sex, while Swetnam shames his. Speght’s femininity is amplified by the gendered battle in which she engages, and by the depiction of that battle as a sexual encounter or, rather, an attempted sexual encounter. Speght protects “her Sex from Slaunders Dart” (l.7)—“dart” being a none-too-subtle allusion to the male sexual organ. It is not surprising, given the sexually suggestive nature of Speght’s phrases here, that her contemporary might respond in kind. The Beinecke Library volume contains two marginal comments alongside this poem. The first retort is made to the poem’s opening line and transfers Speght’s illustrative combat to a sexual arena; the word “Countrie” is underlined, and the reader writes, “Doth shee fight for her Cunt-rie/for a puddinge as soone” (97). The reader seeks to diminish the significance of Speght’s fight, and does so through base association of Speght with female genitalia. This sexual identification of the author anticipates the fierce rejoinder to the reference to the “darts” shot within Speght’s borders. The reader turns Speght’s language into an attack on her chastity. The word “shield” is underlined, and alongside it is written, “Shee must have a large sheilde to receive all the darts that are shott at her whole sexe” (97), again placing Speght’s words in a sexual context.24 The respondent’s crass commentary illustrates that even amidst traditionally masculine images of battle, Speght is not separated from her female sex. The marginalia shows that Speght is not masculinized through the figurative language of combat; on the contrary, she is defined by her female form. The reader’s engagement with Speght’s imagery targets her sex. Furthermore, Speght’s use of David as a metaphorical figure does not elude the reader’s sexual jibes. In fact, the unidentified respondent allows the Davidic reference contained in the first poem to influence his response to the third. In the final poem (signed Favour B.) we find the following lines: Her magnanimitie deserves applaud, In venturing with a fierie foe to fight: And now in fine, what shall I further say? But that she beares the triumph quite away. (11) 24 Another jibe at Speght’s chastity immediately follows: “You dare not sweare for hir virginitie unlesse you bee her servant: and then you dare doe anie thinge.” See Speght, p. 97.

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The reader has underlined the words “magnanimitie” and “fierie” and writes, “Neither, unlesse hee bee a Philistine foe & carries his fire in his tayle” (97, emphasis mine). The characterization of Speght’s foe as a “Philistine” references the first poem’s description of Speght’s opponent as Goliath. Though the term “philistine” was “applied (humorously or otherwise) to persons regarded as ‘the enemy’ into whose hands one may fall” (OED XI: 681), its origins in Speght’s text are grounded in the reference to David and Goliath. The reader maintains the characterization of Speght’s enemy as a Philistine throughout his engagement with the poems, and by so doing promotes the complimentary characterization of Speght as David. Once again, however, in confronting her Philistine Speght is a distinctly feminine David. The reference to the foe’s “fiery tale” suggests a slang term for an inflamed male organ;25 hence, the reader makes another dig at Speght’s chastity by suggesting that this “tayle” is the foe she confronts. This marginal response is followed by further allegations of Speght’s sexual impurity; the reader concludes his engagement with these poems by noting that Mistress Speght “bears the prick and prizz away” (97). Speght’s implied sexual engagement with “the prick” is clear, but so is her ability to displace it—a curiously emasculating image. While Speght’s contemporary is quick to adapt her combative imagery in his responses, the battle in which Speght engages is one of words and wits. “Favour B.” declares that Speght “beares the triumph” (l.18), but this early modern David could not be seen wandering the streets of London clutching Swetnam’s severed head (no matter how attractive a proposal).26 The ultimate goal of Speght’s literary battle is to stifle her opponent, and this intention is also grounds for a comparison to David. Speght’s semblances to David pervade her text not only in her battling of a great enemy, but also in the very nature of her battles and the methods used. Speght, like her biblical model, passionately responds to enemies’ slanderous attacks. Repeatedly in his psalms David laments others’ verbal abuse of himself, God, and the Israelite people: 1 Why boastest thou thy self in thy wickedness, o man of power … 2 Thy tongue deviseth mischief and is like a sharp razor, that worketh deceitfully. 3 Thou lovest … lies more then to speak righteousness. Selah. 4 Thou lovest all devouring wordes o deceitful tongue! (King James, Psalm 52: 1–4)27

25 According to the OED, “tail” may refer to the genitalia of both sexes: “sexual member; penis or ... pudendum;” also “the lower and hinder part of the human body; ... posteriors, buttocks, backside.” See The Oxford English Dictionary, ed. J.A. Simpson and E.S.C. Weiner (Oxford, 1989) vol. 17, p. 545. 26 David’s fight with Goliath ends with the youth’s beheading of the giant with Goliath’s own sword. See I Samuel 17:51. 27 All “King James” citations refer to The Holy Bible, containing The Old Testament and The New, Newly Translated out of the Original Tongues (Oxford, 1632).


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Both Speght and David protest defamation. Speght calls Swetnam’s words “poyson” (9) and “the scumme of Heathenish braines” (4). It is to Swetnam’s discourse that Speght specifically objects; she challenges his words and the ideas they represent, accusing Swetnam of setting “a rankling tooth into the sides of truth” (5). Speght calls Swetnam’s allegations “contagious obtrecation” (3), “Diabolicall infamies” (3), and “impious blasphemies” (33); similarly, David says of the enemy, “The wordes of his mouthe are iniquitie and deceite” (King James, Psalm 36:3). Perhaps most revealingly, both Speght and David realize that their victory may be confirmed by their opponents’ silence. It is a “mouzell” Speght seeks for the black-mouth, and David similarly prays that his enemy’s “lying lippes be made dumme” (Geneva, Psalm 31:18). Speght’s fierce reaction to Swetnam’s slanderous tongue is appropriate according to early modern order. In her article, “Language, Power, and the Law,” Laura Gowing alerts readers to the dangers of slander in the early modern world.28 In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a lie which tarnished the character of an individual was an offense punishable by both religious and secular law. In particular, sexual slander such as that committed against Speght by the marginal commentator29 occupied ecclesiastical courts of the early seventeenth century (“Language” 27). S.P. Cerasano writes that slander “constituted not only a moral offense but a breach of the peace, sometimes instigating violence” (“Half a Dozen” 168, 169).30 From the mid-sixteenth century on through the seventeenth century, slander was routinely reviewed in courts of common law. A victory for the prosecution was difficult, however, and would have been especially difficult for a female plaintiff. The early modern culture’s view of woman as “no more than half a person” (Gowing 26), combined with the challenge of demonstrating the consequences of the slander made women’s defamation suits difficult to prove (40). This would not, however, have diminished the serious repercussions of slander on women’s reputations (Cerasano 174). 28 In this article, Gowing is primarily interested in slander between women, and how litigation surrounding slander afforded women a kind of verbal and legal authority. See Laura Gowing, “Language, power and the law: women’s slander litigation in early modern London,” in Jennifer Kermode and Garthine Walker (eds), Women, Crime and the Courts in Early Modern England (Chapel Hill and London, 1994), pp. 26–47. Gowing also discusses slander as a language of gendered abuse in Domestic Dangers: Women, Words and Sex in Early Modern England (Oxford, 1996), pp. 50–110. 29 As Lewalski observes, the annotator’s responses contain “explicit sexual put-downs: puns on female genitalia, rude references to body parts or to sexual intercourse ... and slurs on Rachel’s chastity ... which take on special force since ... directed against a known young unmarried woman, highly vulnerable to insinuations of unchastity and indecorum.” See Speght, pp. 92, 93. 30 Cerasano focuses largely on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing to illustrate the dangerous effects of slander. See S.P. Cerasano, “Half a Dozen Dangerous Words,” in S.P. Cerasano and Marion Wynne-Davies (eds), Gloriana’s Face: Women, Public and Private, in the English Renaissance (Detroit, 1992), pp. 167–84.

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Perhaps due to the unlikelihood of Swetnam’s being held responsible for his slander in a formal legal setting, Speght appoints a court of her own. She designates a jury of her readers, and positions God as the judge: “The revenge of your rayling Worke wee leave to Him, who hath appropriated vengeance unto himselfe” (9).31 Speght presents Swetnam’s crime as one of slander and justifies the charge on the basis that while the title of his text suggests an attack on “lewd, idle, froward and unconstant women,” Swetnam does not distinguish good women from bad women, “condemning all in general” (9). Battling a charge against the innocent enhances Speght’s assumption of David’s character. In I Samuel, David asks Saul, “Wherefore hearest thou mens wordes, that say, Beholde, David seeketh thy hurt?” (King James, 24:10, emphasis mine). The Geneva text emphasizes the act of slander; its marginal note reads “Contrary to the false reports of them that said, Dauid was Sauls enemie, he proueth him selfe to be his friend” (Geneva 132, emphasis mine). David’s story illustrates the suffering caused by a slanderer’s words, and the virtue of those who rectify false tales. Recognizing the potential dangers of slander supports a concept essential to this study for it is another marker of the potency of language. Just as the right words may positively affect a petitioner and/or the God who hears them, so the wrong words have the potential to destroy men and their relationships. In previous chapters, I have examined the importance of language and the right words in terms of biblical women’s histories. The right words turn Miriam into a prophetess, and Hannah into a mother; they distinguish Deborah as a respected judge, prophetess, and military leader. The wrong words resulted in Miriam’s leprosy and estrangement. An extraordinary use of language is also at the heart of David’s history, for David’s psalms afford him greatest popularity in the early modern period; no biblical book was translated more often during that time than the Psalms (Hamlin 1). The introduction to The Book of Psalms in the Geneva Bible reveals the potential for divinity in language, calling the psalms “a moste precious treasure ... . For the riches of true knowledge, and heavenlie wisdome are here set open for vs, to take thereof moste abundantly” (235). David’s psalms illustrate the power of language, and it is this power on which early modern women must rely. As Bathsua Makin argues in her Essay to Revive the Antient Education of Gentlewomen (1673), “The Tongue is the only Weapon Women have to defend themselves with, and they had need to use it dextrously” (11). Speght battles her Goliath via the printed word; she arms herself with language, and disarms her opponent by pointing to the defects of his discourse.32 Before leaving Speght’s text, it is worth acknowledging that while Speght asserts women’s worth, and occasionally suggests the superiority of the female, she ultimately advocates mutual respect between men and women. Some critics are 31 In the Book of Psalms, vengeance is also identified as God’s privilege, as in “O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongs” (Psalm 94: 1). See also Psalms 58, 99, and 149. 32 As previously noted, Speght’s attack on Swetnam’s text charges the author with everything from blasphemy to poor grammar. See Speght, p. 8.


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troubled by what they perceive as Speght’s endorsement of the biblical ordinance of male authority.33 Speght writes, for example, that a “truth ungainesayable” is “Man is the Woman’s Head” (23). Speght goes on to note, however, that by this “title … of Supremacie, no authoritie hath hee given him to domineere, or basely commande and imploy his wife as a servant” (23). Thus, Speght redefines authority, disassociating it from domination or decree. Speght’s qualification seems determined to thwart potential abuse of authority, precisely the sort of abuse King Saul exhibited toward David. Though Speght does not explicitly compare Saul’s corrupt behavior towards David to husbands’ behavior towards their wives, she does use David to illustrate the kind of honor which should be bestowed upon a wife. Speght reminds her readers of the words of Solomon, David’s wise son: “A vertuous woman … is the Crowne of her husband” (22), and argues that Solomon’s metaphor shows the “excellencie of the wife and what account her husband is to make of her” (22). The author then turns to David to illustrate such homage in action.34 While David’s qualifications as the ideal husband might seem suspect to some audiences,35 his character continues to be referenced in a much later text protesting women’s abuse in marriage. Mary Lee, Lady Chudleigh’s The Female Advocate, also titled A plea for the just Liberty of the Tender Sex, and particularly of Married Women,36 was published in London in 1700. In this tract, Chudleigh responds to a “Rude and Disingenuous Discourse” delivered as a wedding sermon by John Sprint in May, 1699 (title page). Chudleigh challenges the demands of wifely obedience and servitude advocated in Sprint’s sermon, claiming that such requirements make marriage little more than slavery for women.37 Chudleigh claims the current social system condones the abuse of women at their husbands’ hands; she charges men with the “Unhappiness and Ruin of a Creature that was made for him” (Female Advocate 21). In her text, Chudleigh does not set David up as a model husband; 33 The authors of Half Humankind: Contexts and Texts of the Controversy about Women in England, 1540–1640 call Speght’s text a “patient refutation of Swetnam’s charges” and point to Speght’s reliance on the view of woman as the “weaker vessel” and “helper” to explain why her defense “did not satisfy other feminine champions.” See Katherine Usher Henderson and Barbara F. McManus, Half Humankind: Contexts and Texts of the Controversy about Women in England, 1540–1640 (Urbana and Chicago, 1985), pp. 16, 17. 34 Speght refers to I Chronicles 20:2 in which David takes gentle care handling the King of Rabbah’s crown after Joab destroyed Rabbah. See Speght, p. 22. 35 The virtue of David’s behavior as husband is questionable, for example, in his later dealings with Saul’s daughter, Michal. See II Samuel 3:14–16; 6:16–23. 36 The full title of Lady Chudleigh’s text reads, The Female Advocate, or A plea for the just Liberty of the Tender Sex, and particularly of Married Women Being reflections on a late Rude and Disingenuous Discourse Delivered by Mr. John Sprint in a Sermon at a Wedding, May 11th, at Sherburn in Dorsetshire, 1699. 37 Chudleigh’s image of wife as slave is complimented by the image of wife as fawning pet. She writes, “I think [Sprint] goes a little too far when he makes it a Woman’s duty to be like a Spaniel at her Husband’s feet.” See Mary Lee, Lady Chudleigh’s The Female Advocate (London, 1700), p. 39.

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instead, she positions herself as a young David, one ready and willing to do battle for a righteous cause: “I began to have some design of taking Arms and alarming the whole Power of Female Against [Sprint]. But upon second thought, I resolved to enter into a single Combat with this great Goliah, this man of mighty fame” (2). Like Speght, Chudleigh assumes a Davidic persona to suggest not only the virtue of her mission, but also the unexpected strength which can emerge from a presumably weak source. In Chudleigh’s text, as in Speght’s, David is resurrected to support a feminine cause. The success with which he confronts the privileged, potent enemy is a model for Chudleigh. This author’s debate, like that of Speght, feminizes David by placing him in a context in which he is representative of an obviously feminine agenda. Chudleigh frames her debate as an “us” versus “them” scenario; she acknowledges that there are some husbands “to whom Honor is due” (39) but does not address her argument to them, nor does she suggest they join her in her crusade. Men, by and large, appear the enemy. In her discussion of marriage vows she writes, “I am not about to quarrel with the compilers of the Liturgy, only I shall take notice that they were Men who had a hand in it, and by consequence would not omit the binding of our Sex as fast as possible” (36, emphases mine). Chudleigh’s reference to “our Sex” makes her identification clear. David is aligned with women. The biblical hero becomes a member of the female sex by association; his past is appropriated to give shape to the women’s cause. In assuming David’s position against Goliath, Chudleigh seizes both David’s history and his victory. Chudleigh recognizes that David’s value exceeds his performance on the field. Like David, she appreciates the power of language. In her Davidic posture Chudleigh presents her encounter with Sprint as a rhetorical battle. She confronts Sprint armed with pen and ink: ’twill be hard for any to accuse us for taking up Weapons since they are only defensive, and we are provoked to the Field by so great and honourable a Champion. Besides, the glory of having but lifted up a Pen against so great a Man must needs be a sufficient excuse beyond all reply. (3)

Throughout her text, Chudleigh maintains her Davidic identity, and yet hers is a distinctly feminine depiction. She presents herself engaging in battle, if not a holy war: “how I begin to tremble when I … perceived with what a front he appear’d” (3); she tells us she “went on with a mighty Courage” (3). Chudleigh has a right to such courage because, like David, she imagines God favors her crusade. She conveys this in a clever dismissal of the argument that men’s rule over women is a consequence of Eve’s crimes; Chudleigh insists, “if God hath … pardon’d the fatal transgression of the Woman, it looks a little too bold and revengeful for Man to pretend not to do it” (24, 25). Given the divine power that Chudleigh claims, it is not surprising to see this seventeenth-century slayer of giants proclaim her victory over her opponent, having shot him “though and through” (19), as Davids inevitably do. David appears as subject in other works by Chudleigh. The author communicates her high regard for the biblical hero while continuing to depict him as feminine. In Essays Upon Several Subjects, David surfaces in Chudleigh’s discussion “Of

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Love.” Her focus is David’s relationship with Jonathan, Saul’s son. Chudleigh unabashedly identifies David as a man of worth—one to whom his fellow men are indebted. Here, too, the author refers to the David and Goliath episode, identifying it as the source of affection between the men. The chapter following David’s defeat of Goliath begins, “And it came to pass when [David] had made an end of speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him” (I Samuel 18:1). Chudleigh commends Saul’s son for his fondness of David, “a poor despicable shepherd, one hardly known in Israel” (Poems and Prose 356). And yet, Chudleigh absolutely asserts David’s right to such esteem as an appropriate response to his valor. Chudleigh defines Jonathan’s affection for David as “Praises which were due to the Defender of his Country, the Conqueror of the great Goliath” (356). Chudleigh attends to David’s affection and duty toward Jonathan as well and points especially to David’s song of mourning for the deaths of both the friend and father.38 It is here, amid lamentations of love and loss, that Chudleigh has David refer to himself by his feminine soul: My soul to thine would force her speedy Way, Panting she stood, and chid her hindering Clay: Trembling with Joy, I snatch’d thee to my Heart, Did, with tumultuous Haste, my thronging Thoughts impart: … O with what Pity, what a moving Air, Did’st thou then vow thou would’st my Hazard’s share. Promis’d eternal Faith, eternal Love And kind to me, as my own Soul didst prove; (361–2)

It is not unusual for the human soul to be described in the feminine form, but the decision to introduce the feminized soul as a topic in the poem is Chudleigh’s own.39 Her interpretation of these biblical verses further feminizes David through the sexual language surrounding the soul’s engagement with Jonathan. David’s soul is described as “panting,” “trembling,” “thronging,” and claims to have “snatch’d” Jonathan to his breast. The soul is feminine and it is active. The union is almost coquettish as Chudleigh portrays it. Her David explains, “thy lov’d Image in my Breast survey’d; / Fancy’d thy Eyes each tender Glance return’d” (361). The two are further depicted as having exchanged a kind of marriage vow, pledging love eternal. As modern readers are well aware, the relationship between David and Jonathan described in the Bible as “wonderful … passing the love of women” (Geneva, II Samuel 1:26) will figure greatly in the discourse of homosexuality and homoeroticism in the nineteenth century. The readings of the story in the early 38

Anne Bradstreet also uses David’s mourning as a poetic subject. See Anne Bradstreet, The Works of Anne Bradstreet, ed. Jeannine Hensley (Cambridge and London, 1967), pp. 199–200. 39 Though David’s lament for Jonathan and Saul does not refer to the soul, Chudleigh’s reference likely comes from the description of their bond in I Samuel 18:1. For the text of David’s lamentations, see II Sam 1: 17–27.

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modern era, however, by and large present the relationship as a symbol of male friendship and Christian brotherhood. John Merbecke’s 1579 history of David, for example, set in “English meetre for the youth to reade” frames the friendship mildly enough: “With Dauid and with Ionathas a faythfull bond was made, / That ech of them while life did last should be ech others ayde” (11). But Chudleigh’s text fosters a more complicated reading of David of the sort visually suggested by Donatello in the first half of the fifteenth century (see Figure 4.1) and Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano in the next (see Figure 4.2). Donatello’s David is unarguably feminized. He appears a smooth nude in bronze, save for boots and a hat atop long curls. As Laurie Schneider writes, “Bronze is an appropriate medium for the statue: its smoothness and gleam accent David’s feminine grace and delicacy” (213). In Cima da Conegliano’s depiction of David and Jonathan (c. 1505–1510) both are young and attractive, but David is the more feminine of the two. He is shorter in stature and not clad in military garb. His face is soft and he seems at first glance to lock arms with his companion. Jonathan’s face looks older, bears the shadow of facial hair, and he holds the phallic javelin.40 There are excellent investigations of homoeroticism in the David narratives and it is not my intention to review those here,41 nor do I think Chudleigh suggests a specifically homosexual love between the men. I do think that Chudleigh is intent to assign David a womanly posture in order to juxtapose femininity and potency. No depiction or reference to David can separate him from ideas of power: holy power, military power, emotive power. David is a man of passion and Chudleigh makes that clear. Her presentation of a feminized David continues in the lamentation she assigns him. David attempts to describe his feelings when Jonathan “didst me with thy Presence bless” but finds, Words are too poor, and Language wants a Name For such a pure, immortal fervent Flame! A while I look’d, a while could only gaze, My Face, my Eyes, my Heart, Betray’d my glad Amaze. (361)

The speaker’s attitude and longing here is reminiscent of that found in the psalms, and with it comes the feminized subjection assumed in prayer. Chudleigh’s David does not worship Jonathan, per se, but Jonathan’s presence, with its ability to bless and effect amazement, does border on the holy. Furthermore, the speaker appears feminine according to early modern cultural constructions. The itemization of parts in which David engages was a device in imitation of Petrarch generally 40 David’s appearance as the more feminine of the friends is also evident in Rembrandt’s David and Jonathan (1642). David is collapsed in Jonathan’s arms at their last meeting. David’s face is hidden, his hair falls over his shoulders. Jonathan wears the masculine garb and headdress Rembrandt assigns to Saul in other portraits. To appreciate the likeness between Jonathan and Saul, see also Rembrandt’s Saul and David (c.1658). 41 Ackerman investigates the men’s love in relation to the Gilgamesh and Enkido story in When Heroes Love: The Ambiguity of Eros in the Stories of Gilgamesh and David (New York, 2005). A close reading of erotic language within the biblical narrative is found in chapter seven, pp. 165–99.


Fig. 4.1

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

David by Donatello (1430–1435). Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY.

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Fig. 4.2


David and Jonathan by Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano (c.1505–1510). National Gallery, London.

used to describe the female beloved. As Nancy Vickers has made clear, such fragmentation of parts became the critical model for late Renaissance interpretation and presentation of the female image (“Diana Described” 265).42 In Chudleigh’s poem, David’s description of his own parts positions him as feminized lover. It may seem incredible to modern readers to identify David as a feminine kind of lover since, in spite of his championing of male affection, David demonstrates


Vickers argues that such scattered descriptions result in the absence of a comprehensive portrait of the woman being described since “the whole body was at times less than some of its parts.” See Nancy J. Vickers, “Diana Described: Scattered Woman and Scattered Rhyme” in Critical Inquiry (Chicago, 1981), p. 267.

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an extreme fondness for women and the female body.43 The loving hero Chudleigh references is a young David at the start of his narrative. This is the David who defends his people, who actively engages in affairs of state. The Davidic episode which most depicts David as a man of passion, however, presents a different kind of character—reckless, distracted, self-indulgent. I refer of course to the story in II Samuel, chapter 11 in which David encounters Bathsheba. Prior to Bathsheba’s entry in the narrative the story reveals David’s unusual decision to remain at home while his army battles the Ammonites. This foreshadows the poor decisions that are yet to come, and signals David’s neglect of duty. Though some retellings (old and new) frame the David and Bathsheba affair as a love story, the Bible does little to support such a reading.44 The biblical story clearly begins with lust. David observes Bathsheba bathing and, though he learns she is another man’s wife, sends for her nonetheless. But adultery is not the extent of his crimes. Bathsheba becomes pregnant and alerts the King. David calls her husband Uriah home from battle, intending to have the man sleep with his wife and pass the child off as Uriah’s own. Uriah’s virtue interferes with David’s plans; the soldier refuses the comforts of home because his comrades lack such privileges. David tries one scheme after another to drive Uriah to Bathsheba’s bed, but ultimately has the man carry his own death warrant. The King has him deliver a message to his commander that places Uriah at the front lines. In this way, David murders Uriah (and others, potentially) in order to cover his sexual indiscretion. Bathsheba mourns Uriah and marries the King but their son will die in infancy, the first of a series of divine punishments as a result of David’s actions. Early modern readings of this tale do not overlook David’s monstrous behavior. That would be impossible. Not only does the prophet Nathan chastise David extensively, but also David’s repentance for these events was believed to give rise to the Penitential Psalms, so popular with early modern audiences. David is depicted as a man of passion and lust and these were regarded as female vices in early modern culture. Women were believed to posess a greater sexual drive than men, which added to their lengthy list of imperfections (Wiesner 33). Merry E. Wiesner, Linda Woodbridge, and others have remarked upon the early modern world’s inherited belief “that most women are incontinently lustful” (Woodbridge 177). Woodbridge observes that the charge of sexual immorality is “frequently … leveled at female characters” and traces the belief back to antiquity (177). Though Woodbridge focuses primarily on characters in dramas, the association of lust with feminine behavior finds its way into Renaissance considerations of biblical characters including Tamar, Rahav, Jael, Delilah, Judith, and certainly the featured players in II Samuel 11. David is repeatedly criticized for his lust, for his “wanton thoughts,” and for his sin (Dunton 224). Given early modern readers’ flair for excusing the faults of biblical heroes by laying blame on the women around them, it is surprising to see the repeated rebuke of David as one 43

Later, King David’s advisors will cure what ails him with a young female. See I Kings 1:1. 44 See, for example, Francis Sabie’s David and Bathsheba published with Adams complaint and The olde vvorldes tragedie (London, 1596).

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who “sinned greviously…. Against Bathsheba, whose sober and formerly chaste minde hee had corrupted, and whose body hee defiled” (T. Taylor 36).45 Though there is the occasional reader who denies Bathsheba’s innocence and refers to her as an adulteress (Lightfoot 55), by and large early modern readers hold David responsible for these events. His guilty actions, however, are framed as feminine. The femininity associated with David’s crimes is marked by more and less subtle means. In 1619 Thomas Adams remarks on David’s lust and notes that David demonstrates a “rolling eye and roving hart,” traits frequently associated with the unchaste female (305). In reviews of biblical sinners, David is placed among infamous women, such as Eve and Mary Magdalene. These characters, redeemable though they may be, surrender to temptation and their behavior is used as a reminder to hold God close: Opportunity, we say, makes a thief ... . occasion is a snare whereby a man becomes a prey unto sin. Eve, by talking with the Serpent, was at length caught to eat of the forbidden fruit. David, by seeing Bathsheba washing her self, was tempted to commit adultery with her. (Mede 134)

In true early modern fashion, it is Eve’s speech that bears the responsibility for the fall of humankind, but David’s eager eye is a similarly feminine offense and of a biblically disastrous kind. In Genesis 34 Jacob’s daughter Dinah is raped by Shehem when she goes to “see the daughters of the country” (Geneva 34:1). Early modern commentators such as Gervase Babington blame her for her demise. Her need to “gaze and see” resulted in “her needless jetting abroad being a young woman ... . A profitable example to warne all youth honestly minding and meaning to beware and keepe within” (135–6). David’s sin is repeatedly linked to the gaze: “David’s eye lost him body and soul” (Waterhouse 273). David’s misdeeds in the Bathsheba narrative are so abundant that they are fodder for all sorts of early modern warnings, from idleness to licentiousness.46 He features heavily in the anonymous 1698 text God’s judgments against whoring. This ambitious volume claims to present 5,190 years of “the most remarkable instances of uncleanness that are to be found in sacred or prophane history … with observations thereon” (title).47 Though David is hardly the only male in the collection, the word “whore” was in the Renaissance a term primarily 45

Ephraim examines Bathsheba as a representation of Elizabeth I and as a restorative spiritual and political force in Reading the Jewish Woman on the Elizabethan Stage (Aldershot and Burlington, 2008), pp. 78–8. 46 John Dunton uses David’s history to warn of idleness: “and above all … the Idleness of the Bed and Couch is most hurtful; the soft bed is the Mother of wanton Thoughts—The Time when David fell as lusting after Bathsheba was in the Evening, after he had been lolling on his Bed.” See The Dublin scuffle (London, 1699), p. 224. 47 The full title of this text reads God’s judgments against whoring. being an essay towards a general history of it, from the creation of the world to the reign of Augustulus (which according to common computation is 5190 years) and from thence down to the present year 1697: being a collection of the most remarkable instances of uncleanness that are to be found in sacred or prophane history during that time, with observations thereon.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

used for women (OED XX:301). The term “whoreman” was in use but does not appear in this text, suggesting an intentionally feminine characterization.48 Moreover, though “whoring” could refer to one who associates with whores, Bathsheba’s name remains unscathed in the God’s judgments text: “David’s Adultery with Bathsheba, a Crime ... to be committed by David ..., a King who ought to have defended the Chastity of his Subject, and not to have violated it himself” (64). David is further charged with hypocrisy, violence, and murder (65). His transgressions fill numerous pages and are regarded as the source of his son Absalom’s incestuous desires (75). David’s surrender to temptation is also presented as an example of “mans fragilitie” (Sabie F2r) and serves, by and large, to demonstrate that man may fall from grace and still be redeemed. Though in 1651 Jeremy Taylor warns his parishioners that “every narrative concerning David ... is sullied with the remembrances of Bathsheba” (210), in fact, this part of his history marks him with human imperfection—an imperfection consistently framed as feminine in early modern terms. Edward Waterhouse states this most clearly in his 1663 observation that “David had a masculineness, which he deturpated, in impregnating Uriah’s Bathsheba” (221). Consideration of the David and Bathsheba affair may seem beside the point to a discussion of texts like Speght’s and Chudleigh’s which, after all, present David heroically as a character whose virtue warrants imitation and inspires fear. But these later episodes do not undermine Chudleigh’s and others’ arguments. Instead, noting early modern readings of the flawed David demonstrates the various ways this character makes himself available for a feminized depiction. David’s initial apparent weakness (his soft looks, his youth) initiate a femininity that is later reinforced to early modern minds in more disturbing and complex ways. David’s imperfections as they appear in II Samuel are personal flaws—the Penitential Psalms plead for the single man’s return to grace; he speaks as an individual, rather than as a national leader. Regardless of divine punishments, David’s ability to rule is not challenged in this narrative. God’s displeasure with him does not result in the loss of kingship, as it did with Saul. And it is the depiction of David as a defender of his country that is principally recreated in texts like Chudleigh’s defense against Reverend Sprint. Chudleigh, in Davidic fashion, single-handedly assumes the role of political and cultural savior, one specifically dedicated to the vindication of women. Chudleigh clearly defines her task in her dedication “To all Ingenious Ladies”: “The Love of Truth, the tender Regard I have for your Honour, joyn’d with a just Indignation to see you so unworthily us’d makes me assume the Confidence of imploying my Pen in your Service” (Poems and Prose 3). The Ladies Defense (1701), another of Chudleigh’s responses, presents the author as a lone defender of her feminine people: “it troubl’d me to find that but one of our own Sex had the Courage to enter the Lists with him: I … enter the Field, and try my Fortune with our mighty Antagonist” (3). This depiction 48 The term also refers to unfaithfulness to God, but the text’s title specifies the sexual nature of the acts reviewed in its pages. See OED vol. XX, p.301.

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of herself as a David encountering the feared opponent brings with it Chudleigh’s expectation of a Davidic bounty, and of the sort emphasized in the psalms; she hopes the “Ingenious Ladies” to whom she dedicates her poetic dialogue will “be so generous as to receive it into your Protection, and ... Affection” (4). Literary Cross-Dressing In the start of this chapter I suggested that we might regard early modern women likened to David as examples of cross-dressed figures, since all of the early modern women that I examine here maintain their connections to the feminine sex in the arguments which give rise to the Davidic comparison. The debates engaging Elizabeth, Speght, and Chudleigh do not deny these women their sex; rather they celebrate the feminine or argue for the female’s right to celebration. Aylmer positions Elizabeth in the company of Deborah and Judith and uses Mother England to authorize her rank. Speght similarly references heroic biblical women to dispute Swetnam’s misogynist assessment of women’s worth, and Chudleigh rallies for better treatment of wives and all women in her reaction to Sprint’s marriage sermon. All of these subjects either speak, or are spoken of, as women. All are also recognized as Davids. Considering these literary representations in the context of Renaissance cross-dressing practices enables us to place these textual negotiations within a broader context of gender challenge and controversy. Cross-dressing has received significant attention in early modern studies, though the emphasis tends to focus on literal as opposed to figurative cross-dressing, attending to the ramifications of persons or actors of one sex appearing in the garb of another. Though the crossdressing to which I refer is confined to the images within a text, I argue nonetheless that these representations respond to the same cultural anxieties and promote the same cultural disruptions as the physically realized cross-dressing practice. A significant number of early modern women engaged in the popular activity of cross-dressing, and it was particularly in vogue when Speght penned her response to Swetnam (Garber 29). The English fascination with this practice led James I to issue his proclamation in 1620 encouraging all ministers of the Church of England to preach against women’s appearance in male dress. The seriousness with which these sumptuary laws were regarded has resulted in much scholarly speculation on the causes and consequences of women’s cross-dressing, many of which are analogous to the discursive contexts Speght and Chudleigh construct and to which they react on the printed page. Women cross-dressed for a variety of reasons. In her article on “Cross-dressing, The Theatre and Gender Struggle,” Jean E. Howard looks to the character of Moll Firth in Middleton and Dekker’s The Roaring Girl to demonstrate how the cross-dressed female is “associated with various forms of protest against social injustice” (“Cross-dressing” 437). Howard notes the ways cross-dressing disrupted both a social and a gendered hierarchy, since the clothing one wore was determined by status as well as by sex (422). The critic suggests that women of

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


the lower classes assumed male garb from a sense of vulnerability, a vulnerability to which Chudleigh also responds.49 Chudleigh observes that “Wife and Servant are the same” and sees this state as a social injustice (Poems and Prose 83). 50 She claims that a wife as help-meete is “a creature that should be a social help, not a servile one” (Female Advocate 20, emphasis mine). It is male mastery that Chudleigh rejects, making her Davidic costume appropriate. Howard writes that to early modern culture cross-dressed women “became masterless women” (“Crossdressing” 424). Dressing as David within their texts, both Chudleigh and Speght capitalize on that threat. That is not to say that they “disguise” themselves, instead they are outfitted in the fashion appropriate for encountering Goliaths. Perhaps the most prominent motive for female cross-dressing was, as Carole Levin writes, the desire to “challenge traditional attitudes about women’s roles” (Heart 126). That challenge is the common goal of Speght, Chudleigh, and even Aylmer, whose texts are created to counter grievous female stereotypes perpetuated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They attempt to reform male attitudes and assumptions on the subject of women. But in their pursuit, the writers have no need to deny their subjects’ femininity; both Speght and Chudleigh manipulate sex into ethos. Though femininity does not afford power in the Renaissance, both authors use their sex to their advantage in their debates, suggesting that women can best define and defend themselves. As Speght reminds Swetnam, it is “a follie … to talke of Robin-hood, as many doe, that never shot in his Bowe” (40, 41). To claim that Aylmer, Speght, and Chudleigh masculinize their female subjects is to deny the effects of cross-dressing according to their early modern world. Early modern texts suggest that the disruption generated by female crossdressers was not owing to the fact that women were transforming themselves into men; instead, these women were accused of transforming themselves into “bodies deformed” (Hic Mulier B2). Hic Mulier: or, The Man-Woman, a 1620 pamphlet attacking female cross-dressers, calls cross-dressing women “MeareMonsters” (A6): “not halfe man, halfe woman; halfe fish, halfe flesh; halfe beast, halfe monster: but all Odyous, all Diuell” (A5). In other words, the cross-dressed woman was condemned as a thing unrecognizable as the evolving figure of a bold and autonomous woman would also have been. Female cross-dressers provided a new representation of womankind, but there is no mistaking that they were a kind—a threatening kind—of woman. In Vested Interests: Cross Dressing and Cultural Anxiety, Marjorie Garber writes that cross-dressing resulted in a “crisis of category” (32). She describes the practice as one suggesting a “space of possibility” in which the binaries that previously defined sex and gender are broken apart (11). 49

Howard refers to The Roaring Girl, claiming, “Moll argues that women are unchaste because they are poor.” See Jean E. Howard, “Crossdressing, The Theatre and Gender Struggle,” Shakespeare Quarterly 39.4 (1988), p. 437. 50 In addition to making this observation in The Female Advocate, Chudleigh’s poem “To the Ladies” begins with this statement. See Chudleigh, The Poems and Prose of Mary, Lady Chudleigh, p. 83.

“Naked against the enemy”


Howard similarly notes, “To transgress the codes governing dress was to disrupt an official view of the social order in which one’s identity was largely determined by one’s station or degree—and where that station was, in theory, providentially determined and immutable” (“Crossdressing” 421). The writers examined in this chapter attempt to confound established perceptions of women, but Garber shows us that the very act of calling established views into question has implications beyond the understanding of sex and gender. In Garber’s view, cross-dressing “is not just a category crisis of male and female, but the crisis of category itself” (17). In other words, by challenging definitions of gender, these writers challenge the very structures which give rise to them. We see such a challenge occur in a most basic way in Aylmer’s text, for example; his definition and assertion of female proficiency contradicts his nation’s assumptions of what a good ruler is, or should be. Instead of associating strength with desirable rule, Aylmer turns weakness into an asset (Miv); “stout kings” (a fitting description for Elizabeth’s own father) become governors to avoid (Miir), and the anticipation of weakness triumphant is indicative of the faithful. Chudleigh’s Female Advocate also has repercussions beyond negotiations of gender. In her assertion that women are ill-treated in marriage she challenges the marriage practice, writing that in order to be content “the very Desires of [wives] Hearts” must “strike an harmony with the clattering music of their Fetters” (28). She arguably offers alternatives to marriage as well. She misleadingly identifies herself as “one that never yet came within the clutches of a Husband” (v), and advises women to “... shun, oh! shun that wretched State” (83). The Ladies Defense suggests education and self-awareness are the remedies for women’s unfortunate circumstances. Thus, Chudleigh’s Davidic battle begins as an attack on gendered tasks within the home but extends to arguments advocating the benefits of education: “Ladies ... furnish your Minds with true Knowledge ... Learning becomes us as well as the Men” (Female Advocate vii). Learning is also presented as a marker of affection: “So intirely well I love my Sex, that if ‘twere in my Power they shou’d be all ... as much admir’d for the Comprehensiveness of their Knowledge, as they are now despis’d for their Ignorance” (Poems and Prose 5). I have argued throughout these pages that women discursively dressed as David not only maintain their femininity, but also increase their associations with their sex, privileging the feminine and consequently feminizing David by referencing his character in these contexts. This is especially noticeable in Speght’s text, for it is only when she describes herself as David that the marginal responses in the Beinecke Library text depict her as increasingly sexual and unchaste.51 Such a response to Speght’s discursive cross-dressing is in keeping with the social response to actual cross-dressing women in Speght’s day. Women charged with 51

Lewalski writes that such sexual put-downs “take on a special force when directed against a known, young, unmarried woman.” See Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, “Female Text, Male Reader Response: Contemporary Marginalia in Speght’s A Mouzell for Melastomus,” p. 148.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

the offense of cross-dressing were frequently charged as prostitutes illustrating that the feminine sex dominates masculine disguise (Howard, “Cross-dressing” 420). At the very least, women’s cross-dressing behavior was regarded as an affront to female chastity. As Howard explains, “there were strong discursive linkages throughout the period between female crossdressing and the threat of female sexual incontinence” (420). Middleton and Dekker’s cross-dressed Moll Firth counters such assumptions: … But why, good fisherman, Am I thought meat for you, that never yet Had angling rod cast towards me? — ‘Cause you’ll say I’m given to sport, I’m often merry, jest; Had mirth no kindred in the world but lust? … I scorn to prostitute myself to a man, I can that prostitute a man to me! (III, i, 101–12)

The notion that gender-specific apparel accentuates sexuality when worn by the opposite sex is not only relevant to our understanding of women discursively dressed as David, but also is potentially significant to an understanding of David’s history. David’s biblical narrative features an episode akin to cross-dressing; when David is dressed in apparel more military and masculine than that to which he is accustomed, the result emphasizes his lack of traditional prowess. Moments before David’s confrontation with Goliath, the Bible provides an unusual and intimate detail: And Saul put his raiment upon David, and put an helmet of brass upon his head; and put a coat of mail upon him, and girt David with his own sword upon his raiment. And he essayed to go ... . Then David said unto Saul, I cannot go in these, for I have not been used thereto, and put them off him ... . (Tyndale’s Old Testament, 17:38–9)

Saul tries to dress David as he would himself to meet the enemy. The effect of this attempt, however, highlights how ill-suited David is to play the part of warrior. Saul’s action is a kind of cross-dressing, for he dresses David in an outfit so unfamiliar to the shepherd that the boy cannot proceed: “I can not go with these: for I am not accustomed” (Geneva 17:39). The manly accoutrements prohibit David’s movement and reinforce passivity. The traditional habit of the soldier makes David’s weakness even more apparent. Immediately following David’s refusal of Saul’s armor, the narrative again accents David’s weakness. Seeing him, Goliath remarks, “am I a dog that thou comest to me with staues?” (Geneva 17:43). David’s discomfort in Saul’s military dress is punctuated in Aylmer’s Davidic presentation of Elizabeth (I1v). He invokes this episode to suggest how much more defiant are the unaccepting English than was the disobedient Saul. Aylmer commends Saul for recognizing and accepting David as the kind of warrior that he is. Saul’s unsuccessful attempt to costume David as a recognizable soldier is

“Naked against the enemy”


significant for two reasons. First, it self-consciously draws readers’ attention to fabricated illusions of power, since assumptions about what makes a figure potent or impressive are confounded in David’s defeat of Goliath. Second, this narrative suggests that the individual facing the enemy must do so as he (or she) knows how, using not just those weapons available, but those with which he is skilled. The weapons’ effectiveness relies upon the hand that wields them: David’s slingshot and smooth stones comprise a non-threatening arsenal until a rock is lodged in Goliath’s skull. By presenting would-be heroic women in David’s image, these writers not only fashion them in accordance with David’s triumphant history but cloak them in divine mystery as well; their enemies can only wonder at the potency of the shots these Davidic heroines might sling. More than anything else, David’s story signals enigmatic potential. This quality is enhanced in no small part by the cross-dressing episode preceding David’s victory. It demonstrates how unusual a challenger David is, heightening our anticipation of David’s extraordinary, unexpected strength. Blessed Instruction Of course it is potential—feminine potential—which the writers examined in these pages are determined to promote. By and large, they function as educators, furnishing a new representation of womankind, one reflecting female promise. The lessons they offer are grounded in divinity, repeatedly defining the capable female as one authorized and championed by God. In this way, these authors are akin to the David described in Calvin’s preface to his Commentary on the Psalms. Calvin identifies with David, arguing that he, too, has experienced the struggle described by David in biblical verse. Edward A. Gosselin observes that Calvin regards David as a “man of faith and. a teacher” (83). Comparison of individuals to David is thus set in place by a Reformation father, fashioning the women of Aylmer’s, Speght’s and Chudleigh’s texts as virtuous, potent figures, and as inherently Protestant models of reform. Perhaps what makes David so fitting a model are the apparent contradictions in his character: he is at once weak and mighty, great and small. The juxtaposition of these traits highlight their significance. We see this, for example, in Anne Bradstreet’s treatment of David in her lengthy poem “Of the Four Humours in Man’s Constitution.”52 Anne Bradstreet has “Blood” identify David as her model and advocate: I’ll only show the wrong thou’st done to me, Then let my sisters right their injury. …

52 The four humours represented in Bradstreet’s verse are choler, blood, melancholy and phlegm. All are “sisters,” and therefore, feminine. See Bradstreet, pp. 33–50.

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


Fig. 4.3

David Victorious Over Goliath by Caravaggio (1600). Erich Lessing/ Art Resource, NY.

Thy silly provocations I despise, And leave’t to all to judge, where valor lies. No pattern, nor no patron will I bring But David, Judah’s most heroic king, Whose glorious deeds in arms the world can tell, A rosy cheek musician thou knowest well; He knew well how to handle sword and harp, And how to strike full sweet as well as sharp (37, 38)

“Naked against the enemy”

Fig. 4.4


Judith by Giorgione da Castelfranco (c.1510). The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.


Fig. 4.5

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

David with the head of Goliath by Caravaggio (c.1609). Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY.

In these lines Bradstreet ties David to a bloody and feminine force, acknowledging the duel nature of his character. The David Bradstreet describes is a feminine David, with his rosy cheeks and ability to strike sweet tones on the harp, but this image is contradicted by his proficiency at striking with the sword. Or is it? Like Bradstreet’s David, the Davids of Caravaggio and Titian also appear feminine, though in each artist’s depiction, David clearly knows his weapons.

“Naked against the enemy”

Fig. 4.6


David Killing Goliath by Titian (c.1544). Cameraphoto, Art Resource, NY.

Caravaggio’s David Victorious Over Goliath (1600), depicts a David who is smooth and fair, light surrounds him (see Figure 4.3). His profile is soft and his exposed leg reminiscent of the Giorgione portrait of Judith (another beheading hero), done a century before (1478–1510). (See Figure 4.4.) Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath (1609) depicts a soft-faced David glancing at his victim in a manner similar to Judith as well (see Figure 4.5). In Titian’s David Killing Goliath (c.1544) David, though muscular, is draped in billowy robes, the folds of which seem particularly feminine (see Figure 4.6). He is decidedly less masculine than Goliath, whose phallic sword juts out from a fresh wound. Perhaps the sexuality I assign to the subjects in these paintings is aided by the images of a

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


contradictory sexuality also present.53 The Goliaths in both paintings are certainly male—thick, dark, rough, and giant-like. And yet, the wounds apparent on each figure (the oozing hollow on the neck of Titian’s Goliath, and the bloody tear on the forehead of Caravaggio’s) provide the opposite image of the phallus, suggesting female genitalia. The Davids in each, though seeming soft, small, and delicate, actually appear to mount their bloody victims, and they are surrounded by the effects of their stalwart deeds. The contradictory components of these paintings are akin to the spectacle of the female cross-dresser. Perhaps, as was the case for early modern cross-dressing women, the effeminate sexuality of Caravaggio’s and Titian’s David is enhanced by the subject’s juxtaposition to masculine objects. In these paintings, we see the sword David could not carry and evidence of its use; we see the inexperienced and unconventionally clad soldier stand triumphant over the feared warrior. If our perception of gender is enhanced by markers of the other, then the feminine representation of David that dominates these portraits does so because of the masculine elements that surround David, not in spite of them. In similar fashion, by dressing their female subjects as Davids, early modern writers do not disguise their subjects’ sexuality; they amplify it. The upshot is that femininity itself is distinguished by a woman’s willingness to strike.


In her 1999 study of Caravaggio and contemporary art, Bal uses Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath (1609–1610) to show how the subject (David) is made increasingly vulnerable by the held object (Goliath’s severed head). See Mieke Bal, Quoting Caravaggio: Contemporary Art, Preposterous History (Chicago and London, 1999), p. 228.


None Can Resist Her Words

Language is power in the Bible, and it is a power frequently bestowed upon women. Though the early modern era enforced silence upon the gentler sex, that silence could be challenged through references to biblical heroines and their potent discourse. In her work on English women’s poetry, Carol Barash observes that “Shielded in virtue, heroic women were ... able to transgress rules about women’s public silence” (37). Throughout biblical pages, valiant women demonstrate their wisdom and authority in language, in song. Miriam announces her divinity by noting God has spoken with her (Numbers 12:2), and she is hailed a prophetess for the song she sings (Exodus 15:20). Hannah’s promise to God enables her to proclaim that her mouth overcomes her enemies (I Samuel 2:1). Deborah uses her inspiring talk to rouse Barak to battle (Judges 4:6), and applauds their success and her own rhetorical gifts in verse (Judges 5). David’s engagement in song roots the hero in a feminine biblical tradition, and this view is not limited to twentieth century observers. Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea praises the young David as a divine poet “after God’s own heart” and sets him down among bands of celebrating women who “with alternate verses complete the hymn divine” (25). As a female poet justifying her activity, Finch has obvious motives for associating David with singing women. Nevertheless, there are ample biblical episodes to support her argument. Often they are female characters who redeem themselves and their people through discourse. In addition to those feminine characters whose stories have been explored in these pages, numerous biblical women are celebrated for a wisdom made apparent in words. Abigail, Sarah, Huldah, Ruth, Tamar, and Esther are but a few female characters whose words demonstrate their good judgment and protect them and their people. Wise speech is, after all, an explicit marker of a virtuous woman, according to Proverbs 31. Not only do virtuous women utilize language effectively, but they also frequently call attention to their discourse as an attribute deserving praise. Early modern Bible readers were aware of the implications and complications stemming from these biblical women’s words. Some readers such as Stephen Marshall appear to distance striking words from female speakers, while others such as Thomas Heywood, Margaret Fell, Rachel Speght, Shakespeare, and others are alert to the potential of the feminine tongue, and to its associations with divine and potentially threatening discourse. Though not all of the texts I examine in this study have specifically female speech as their subject, all in some way respond to the cultural requirements for female silence. Certainly, Bentley’s definition of “Deborah” as “bable” is inspired by those social prohibitions against the feminine voice. Even responses such as Bentley’s, however, that are clearly

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England


uncomfortable with the potency of female discourse do not deny the significance of biblical heroines’ words within their stories. While I detect various attitudes regarding the general virtue of women’s speech, none of the texts I examine deny the effectiveness of women’s words within specific biblical episodes—to do so would undermine those instances in which God appears as “defender of the weake” (Geneva, Judith 9:9).1 Stories of biblical women are frequently used in early modern England to demonstrate that God “by weake meanes doth mighty workes” (Donne 4:181). But in fact, women’s tongues prove powerful weapons. Women hailed for devotion, good judgment, wisdom, and prophecy must rely on discourse to communicate their skills and virtues, and such skills are by no means subordinate to other strengths. In the Bible discursive power takes precedence over the more masculine attributes of military prowess or physical force. David’s narrative, for example, reflects a privileging of linguistic power. Once David matures into the lusty King of Israel, he continues to engage in the poetry and music representative of his youth. After David’s battle with Goliath, word of the youth’s valor is spread through song (18:7). David’s poetic gifts are those he most frequently relies upon to honor God.2 To early modern readers, David’s heroic identity is indistinguishable from his poetic character. Repeatedly, he is tagged “that sweet singer of Israel” in discussions which emphasize both his political and spiritual righteousness (Leigh, Palme and Cedar 4). Interestingly, the biblical persona of warrior-poet is not limited to David, or to his sex. Judith, whose story appears in the apocryphal book which bears her name, was a popular heroine among early modern audiences. Hers is the longest entry in Bentley’s Monuments of Matrons, and she is frequently named in comparisons praising Elizabeth I (Progresses II:17, 145–7). This undeniably powerful and verbal character is astutely aware of the relationship between language and might, and her narrative’s emphasis on linguistic prowess is recognized in early modern treatments of her story. The name “Judith” brings to mind images of beauty and beheading, but it ought to connote linguistic triumph as well. Wise and clever speech fuels Judith’s victory from the start. Her heroism is required in the Israelites’ battle against King Nebuchadnezzar. His general Holofernes in a plan to defeat the Israelites has cut off their water supply. In desperation, Ozias, Governor of the Israelite city Bethulia, tells his people that if God does not come to their aid in five days’ time, then they will surrender (Judith 7:30). Judith appears in the narrative expressly to respond to Ozias’s words. She objects to his plans, and announces her disapproval:


All “Geneva” citations refer to The Geneva Bible (1560; Madison, Milwaukee, and London, 1969). 2 Other of David’s attempts to honor God are less successful; David’s hope to build a Temple is frustrated by God himself. God did not want David to build the holy place because of David’s having “shed much blood upon the earth.” See I Chronicles, chapter 22.



Heare me, o ye governours ... for your wordes ye have spoke before the people this day are not right ... who are you that haue tempted God this day, & set your selues in the place of God among the children of men. (Geneva, 8:11, 12)

Judith’s verbal attack of Ozias spans 17 verses (8:11–27). His response acknowledges Judith’s wisdom (v. 29) and the validity of her arguments: “All that thou hast spoken, hast thou spoken with a good heart, and there is none that is able to resist thy wordes” (Geneva, v. 28). The attention to Judith’s language is revealing. The narrative legitimizes her critique of the government and announces that Judith’s discourse is superior to Ozias’s own; she rejects his words, he accepts hers. Judith’s story is one in which she repeatedly silences the ignorant men around her, first Ozias and then Holofernes. Artemesia Gentileschi’s Judith and Holofernes (1612–1613) demonstrates this. The general’s mouth is open and Judith’s knife slices his throat (see Figure 5.1). Men are compelled to silence while the narrative frames Judith’s words as “irresistible” (v. 28)—a quality made plain again and again. Ozias’s praise of Judith’s words are featured in seventeenth-century retellings of her story. In the 1641 publication of The History of Judith in Forme of a Poem, translated from French into English by Thomas Hudson, characters’ words receive close attention. Judith is described as “Reproving [the governors] with words of bitter sweet” (368). The governors, in shame, ask to “call our word again” (368). “R.B.,” author of Female Excellency or the Ladies Glory (1688), writes that Ozias considers Judith’s words to be “true and excellent” (22). The author adds a discursive history for the heroine: “it was not the first time wherein she had manifested her wisdom and knowledge, for which she was always held in admiration” (22). As we might expect, the infallibility of Judith’s discourse is a topic in Margaret Fell’s Women’s Speaking Justified (1667). Fell uses the counselors’ regard for Judith’s speech to remind her audience that “the elders of Israel did not forbid her speaking, as you blind Priests do ... so you are far from the minds of the Elders of Israel” (16). A focus on Judith’s language continues throughout the legend. Judith announces that Holofernes will be destroyed “by the hand of a woman” (Geneva, Judith 9:10), and makes clear that the destruction will rely specifically upon competent discourse. The narrative describes Judith’s transformation from modest widow to alluring seductress, detailing her use of elaborate costumes and jewelry (10:3, 4). However, Judith puts greatest stock in her speech. She prays that God will “smite by the deceit of my lippes the seruant with the prince, and the prince with the seruant” (Geneva 9:10), and further petitions God to grant “wordes & craft & a wounde” (Geneva v. 13). R.B. refigures this final request to highlight Judith’s devotional virtue. He has Judith ask God for “councel to my heart, words to my mouth and strength to my arm” (24). Though he takes some liberties here, the early modern author’s ordering of virtues maintains that the heroine’s words are more essential than her muscle. Judith’s reliance on words to defeat the enemy surpasses even her reliance on her beauty. When she confronts Holofernes, she entreats him to “Receiue the


Fig. 5.1

Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Judith and Holofernes by Artemesia Gentileschi (1612–1613). Scala, Ministero per i Beni e le Attività culturali/Art Resource, NY.

wordes of thy seruant, & suffer thine handmaide to speake in thy presence” (Geneva 11:5, emphases mine). Her speech proves effective. The narrator twice tells of Holofernes’ delight with Judith’s discourse. We learn that Judith’s words, “pleased Olofernes, and all his seruants” (Geneva v. 20), and the General commends Judith for being “wittie in thy wordes” (Geneva v. 23). That Holofernes would believe



the lies Judith tells him is familiar. Women are routinely linked to crafty speech in ancient, early modern, and, perhaps, in current times.3 In the previously mentioned poetic translation of Judith’s history, the poet credits the heroine with a “dulcet mouth” (Hudson 372) and “gracious speech” (373). And yet, even amidst such praise, he subtly aligns Judith with the stereotypically false female. Judith prays, “Grant that my artificiall tongue may move” (369). While Judith does deceive Holofernes with her words, the force of her language ultimately signals an intellectual rather than a devious nature. The elders of her city are as drawn to her words for their wisdom as the General is for the flattery they contain. It is clear, however, that Judith’s deceiving tongue is utilized for a righteous cause. Even the French poem that identifies her language as “artificial” later finds Judith stating that her tongue is prompted by service to God (373). It is important to recognize too, that Judith’s final words are not falsehoods. The narrative redeems her speech from artifice and closes with a depiction of Judith’s words as virtuous and influential. When Judith delivers Holofernes’ pate to her people, it is her voice that draws the citizens to her: “Now when the men of her citie heard her voyce, they made haste” (Geneva 13:12). In the next moment, Judith praises God with “a loude voyce” (Geneva v. 14). She directs the city to hang Holofernes’ head on the highest wall (14:1), and further instructs them in an attack of the enemy camp (14:2–4). Judith’s story concludes with a song of thanks, and in this psalm Judith celebrates God as a discursive authority, one who creates through language: “Let all thy creatures serue thee: for thou hast spoken and they were made … & there is none that can resist thy voyce” (Geneva, 16:14, emphasis mine). Judith rejoices in the power of God’s word and her praise is telling. Her description of the irresistible nature of God’s voice reminds us of Ozias’s previous description of Judith’s own words. Judith’s praise of God’s voice is dependent upon praise of her own. Her song celebrates linguistic agency and it is an agency Judith extends to God and to all: “Judith began this confession … and all the people sang this song with a loude voyce” (Geneva, 15:1). Thomas Heywood and Thomas Hudson both refer to Judith’s “masculine spirit” in their early modern retellings of her story.4 R.B. goes so far as to write, “Nothing feminine must be expected in this woman, all her actions were manly and full of generosity, and what was wanting in her Sex, was fully recompenced 3 As noted in the Introduction to this study, Proverbs 7:5 advises, “kepe thee from the strange women, even from the stranger that is smothe in her wordes” (Geneva, latter emphasis mine). 4 Thomas Heywood writes in his preface to Judith’s history that the heroine “put on a masculine spirit;” Thomas Hudson introduces his poetic translation with a reference to “feeble Judith, with a manly strength.” Of course, both of these writers’ masculine characterization of Judith is paired with attention to beauty. See Thomas Heywood, The Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts of Nine The Most Worthy Women of the World: Three Jewes, Three Gentiles, Three Christians (London, 1640), p. 20. See also Thomas Hudson, trans., The History of Judith in Forme of a Poeme Penned in French by that Noble Poet G. Salust (London, 1641), p. 355.


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

in her Virtue and Valour” (17). Perhaps it was this manly regard of Judith which enabled these writers to freely associate Judith with impressive discourse, and yet, biblical women’s histories indicate that Judith’s experiences and behaviors are decidedly feminine. Her narrative contains elements of the stories of each of the linguistically enterprising feminine characters examined in these pages. Like Hannah, Judith forces male authorities to recognize the error of their words and perceptions. Like Deborah, she rescues her people and directs them in military action. Like Miriam, Judith leads dancing women in celebration of an enemy’s defeat.5 Like David, she defeats a giant others lack the courage to confront. Like all of these characters, Judith’s history is punctuated by the song she sings. Biblical scholars regard Judith’s apocryphal story as a combining and retelling of Deborah and Jael’s tales. The damage done to an enemy’s head is clearly reminiscent of Jael, and the similarities to Deborah’s language, her song, and her involvement with military forces make the influence of The Book of Judges on The Book of Judith seem probable.6 Early modern readers noticed these likenesses as well. The History of Judith in Forme of a Poem creatively applies the characters and situations in chapters four and five of The Book of Judges to Judith’s activities. Early in his work, the poet presents Judith reading the Scriptures when suddenly, A puffe of winde blew down that leafe by fate: Discov’ring up the story of Jael, how Shee drove a nayle into Siseras brow. And slew that Pagan sleeping on her bed Who from the Hebrews furious hoast was fled: ... This last example now such courage lent To feeble Judith, that shee now was bent With wreakfull blade, to slay and to divorce The Heathen soule from souch a sinfull corse. (368)

The poet cleverly positions Judith in a tradition of heroic women and links her apocryphal tale to the more revered text. More importantly, the poet acknowledges the potential biblical heroines have to influence other women’s behavior. My interest in the influence biblical women have on the thoughts and behaviors of early modern women focuses on actions far less violent than those demonstrated by Jael—less violent, but arguably no less extreme. Raising a female voice in a world fiercely dedicated to stifling it requires courage. There appears to have been much courage in early modern England, enough certainly to inspire men and women to 5 Judith also surveys the enemy in a manner reminiscent of Miriam’s description of Pharaoh’s warriors. Both women focus on “horses and horsemen” as symbols of battle. See Exodus 15:21 and Judith 9:7. 6 Judith defines Holofernes’ defeat almost exactly as Deborah defines Sisera’s. Deborah tells Barak that Sisera will be delivered “into the hand of a woman” (Judges 4:9), and Judith remarks that her enemies are “brought to naught by the hand of a woman” (Judith 16:6).



raise their pens in resistance to imposed silence. Early modern readers’ access to the Bible provided them with the models and tools to craft such challenges. No matter how flexible the biblical text, it is difficult to discount the magnitude of women’s words contained within it. This is not to say that the restrictions surrounding early modern women’s speech were less considerable or complex than many scholars suggest, or that these codes were easily rejected. I point out instead that stories of biblical women highlight the potential of women’s discourse and portray that potential as unlimited. Early modern readers recognized this. Investigating their defenses of women’s speech uncovers additional irresistible voices.

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King, J.N., English Reformation Literature: The Tudor Origins of the Protestant Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982). Klein, Joan Larson (ed.), Daughters, Wives and Widows: Writings by Men about Women and Marriage in England 1500–1640 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992). Knox, John, The Political Writings of John Knox, ed. Marvin A. Breslow (Washington: Folger Books: 1985). Krontiris, Tina, Oppositional Voices: Women as Writers and Translators of Literature in the English Renaissance (London and New York: Routledge, 1992). Lamb, Mary Ellen, Gender and Authorship in the Sidney Circle (Madison and London: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990). Lanyer, Aemilia, The Poems of Aemilia Lanyer: Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, ed. Suzanne Woods (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993). Leigh, William, Davids Palme and Cedar, Showing the reward of the Righteous (London, 1615). ——. Queene Elizabeth, paraleld in her Princely vertues with Dauid, Josua, and Hezekia (London, 1612). Levin, Carole, The Heart and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994). ——. “Power, Politics, and Sexuality: Images of Elizabeth I” in Jean R. Brink, Allison P. Coudert and Maryanne C. Horowitz (eds), The Politics of Gender in Early Modern Europe. Vol. XII of Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies (Ann Arbor: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1989). Lewalski, Barbara Kiefer. “Female Text, Male Reader Response: Contemporary Marginalia in Rachel Speght’s A Mouzell for Melastomus” in Claude J. Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth (eds), Representing Women in Renaissance England (Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 1997). ——. “Rewriting Patriarchy and Patronage,” The Yearbook of English Studies 21 (1991): 87–106. ——. Writing Women in Jacobean England (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1993). Lightfoot, John, The harmony of the foure evangelists among themselves, and with the Old Testament: the first part, from the beginning of the gospels to the baptisme of our saviour, with an explanation of the chiefest difficulties both in language and sense (London: 1644). Lloyd, John, A good help for weak Memories (London, 1671). Locke, Anne, A Meditation of a Penitent Sinner (1560). ——. Sermons of John Calvin, Upon the Songe that Ezechias made after he had bene sicke, and afflicted by the hand of God, conteyned in the 38 Chapter of Esay, Translated from French (London: John Day, 1560). Luckyj, Christina, ‘A moving Rhetoricke’: Gender and Silence in Early Modern England (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2002). Lyte, Henry, The Light of Britaine (London, 1588).



Mack, Phyllis, Visionary Women: Ecstatic Prophecy in Seventeenth-Century England (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992). Makin, Bathsua, An Essay To Revive the Antient Education of Gentlewomen, in Religion, Manners, Arts and Tongues. 1673 (Los Angeles: The Augustan Reprint Society, University of California, 1980). Marcus, Leah S., Puzzling Shakespeare: Local Reading and its Discontents (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1988. ——. “Shakespeare’s Comic Heroines, Elizabeth I, and the Political Uses of Androgyny” in Mary Beth Rose (ed.), Women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Literary and Historical Perspectives (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1986). Marshall, Stephen, A Letter written by Mr. Stephen Marshall to a friend (London: 1643). ——. Meroz Cursed for not Helping the Lord Against the Mightie (London, 1641). ——. Meroz Cursed, or A Sermon Preached To the Honourable House of Commons (London, 1645). McBride, Kari Boyd, “Sacred Celebration: The Patronage Poems” in Marshall Grossman (ed.), Aemilia Lanyer: Gender, Genre, and the Canon (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1998). McGrath, Lynette, “Amelia Lanier’s 17th-Century Feminist Voice,” Women’s Studies, 20.3–4 (1992): 331–48. McMullan, Gordon, Renaissance Configurations: Voices/Bodies/Spaces, 1580– 1690 (London: Macmillan, 1998). Mede, Joseph, The works of the pious and profoundly-learned Joseph Mede, B.D., sometime fellow of Christ’s College in Cambridge (London, 1672). Merbecke, John, holie historie of King Dauid wherein is chieflye learned these godly and wholesome lessons, that is: to haue sure patience in persecution, due obedience to our prince without rebellion: and also the true and most faithfull dealings of friendes. Drawne into English meetre for the youth to reade. (London, 1579). Middleton, Thomas and Thomas Dekker, The Roaring Girl, ed. Paul A. Mulholland (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1987). Milton, John, The Complete Poetry of John Milton, ed. John T. Shawcross (New York and London: Doubleday, 1963). Miscall, Peter D., 1 Samuel: A Literary Reading (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986). Newstead, Christopher, An apology for women (London: 1620). ——. The praise and dispraise of women (London: 1579). Nichols, John (ed.), The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth (3 vols, London: Burt Franklin, 1823). Osborn, James M. (ed.) The Quenes Maiesties Passage through the Citie of London to Westminster the Day before her Coronation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960). Ostriker, Alicia Suskin, Feminist Revision and the Bible (Oxford and Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers,1993).


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

——. The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1994). Otten, Charlotte F. (ed.), English Women’s Voices 1540–1700 (Miami: Florida International University Press, 1992). The Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, ed. J.A. Simpson and E.S.C. Weiner (20 vols, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989). Pardes, Ilana, Countertraditions in the Bible: A Feminist Approach (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1992). Parr, Katherine, Prayers or Medytatcions (1545). Partridge, A.C., English Biblical Translation (London: André Deutsch, 1973). Paster, Gail Kern, The Body Embarrassed: Drama and Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993). Pelikan, Jaroslav, The Reformation of the Bible / The Bible of the Reformation; Catalog of the Exhibition by Valerie R. Hotchkiss and David Price (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996). Perkins, William, The Work of William Perkins, ed. Ian Breward (Appleford: The Courtenay Library of Reformation Classics, 1970). Phipps, William E., Assertive Biblical Women (Westport and London: Greenwood Press, 1992). Pope, Mary, A Treatise on the Power of the Magistrate (London, 1647). ——. Behold, Here is a Word, or an Answer to the Late Remonstrance of the Army (London, 1649). Preston, John, A lifeles life or Mans Sprituall death in sinne (London: Printed for G.M. by Andrew Cooke, 1641). ——. A Treatise of Effectual Faith (London, 1630). ——. The Saints Daily Exercise (London, 1629). Purkiss, Diane, “Material Girls: The Seventeenth-Century Woman Debate” in Clare Brant and Diane Purkiss (eds), Women, Texts and Histories 1575–1760 (London and New York: Routledge Press, 1992). Rashkow, Ilona Nemesnyik, Upon the Dark Places: English Renaissance Biblical Translation, Diss. University of Maryland, 1988. Rickey, Mary Ellen and Thomas B. Stroup (eds), Certaine Sermons or Homilies 1547–1571 (Gainesville: Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints, 1968). Robertson, Elizabeth Ann, Early English Devotional Prose and the Female Audience (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1990). Rogers, Timothy, The Character of a Good Woman (London, 1697). Sabie, Francis, Adams complaint. The olde vvorldes tragedie. Dauid and Bathsheba (London, 1596). Schneider, Laurie, “Donatello’s Bronze David,” The Art Bulletin, 55.2 (1973): 213–16. Schoenfeldt, Michael, “The Gender of Religious Devotion: Amelia Lanyer and John Donne” in Claire McEachern and Debora Shuger (eds), Religion and Culture in Renaissance England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). Seow, C.L., A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew, rev. ed. (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1995).



Shakespeare, William, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, 4th edn, ed. David Bevington (New York: Harper Collins, 1992). Shepherd, Simon, Amazons and Warrior Women: Varieties of Feminism in Seventeenth-Century Drama (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981). ——, (ed.), The Women’s Sharp Revenge: Five Women’s Pamphlets from the Renaissance (London: Fourth Estate, 1985). Sherman, William H., John Dee: The Politics of Reading and Writing in the English Renaissance (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995). ——. “The Book thus put in every vulgar hand’: Impressions of Readers in Early English Printed Bibles” in Paul Saenger and Kimberly Van Kampen (eds), The Bible as Book: The First Printed Editions (London: The British Library and Oak Knoll Press, 1999). Shuger, Debora Kuller, Habits of Thought in the English Renaissance: Religion, Politics and the Dominant Culture 1990 (Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press, 1997). ——. The Renaissance Bible: Scholarship, Sacrifice and Subjectivity (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1994). Sidney, Mary Countess of Pembroke (1561–1621), The Triumph of Death and Other Unpublished and Uncollected Poems, ed. Gary F. Waller (Salzburg: University of Salzburg, 1977). Sidney, Mary and Sir Philip Sidney, The Sidney Psalms, ed. R.E. Pritchard (Manchester: Carcanet Press Limited, 1992). Sidney, Sir Philip and the Countess of Pembroke, The Psalms of Sir Philip Sidney and the Countess of Pembroke, ed. J.C.A. Rathmell (New York: New York University Press, 1963). Sidney, Sir Philip, The Defense of Poesy, ed. Albert S. Cook (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1890). Simon, Uriel, Four Approaches to the Book of Psalms, Trans. Lenn J. Schramm (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991). ——. Reading Prophetic Narratives, Trans. Lenn J. Schramm (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1997). Sinfield, Alan, Literature in Protestant England 1560–1660 (Ottowa: Barnes and Noble Books, 1983). Smith, Lacey Baldwin, This Realm of England 1399 to 1688, 5th edn (Lexington and Toronto: D.D. Heath and Company, 1988. Sowernam, Ester, Ester hath hang’d Haman: or An ansvvere to a lewd pamphlet, entituled, The arraignment of women (London: Nicholas Bourne, 1617). Speght, Rachel, The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght. ed. Barbara Kiefer Lewalski (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996). Stallybrass, Peter, “Patriarchal Territories: The Body Enclosed” in Margaret W. Ferguson, with Maureen Quilligan and Nancy J. Vickers (eds), Rewriting the Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986). Steinmetz, David C. (ed.), The Bible in the Sixteenth Century (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1990).


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Steussy, Marti J., David: Biblical Portraits of Power (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999). Stienberg, Theodore. “The Sidneys and the Psalms,” Studies in Philology 92 (1995): 1–17. Stocker, Margarita, Judith, Sexual Warrior: Women and Power in Western Culture (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998). Swetnam, Jospeh, The Araignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women (London, 1615). Tanakh / The Holy Scriptures: The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text (Philadelphia and Jerusalem: The Jewish Publication Society, 1985). Taylor, Jeremy, XXVIII sermons preached at Golden Grove being for the summer half year, beginning on Whit-Sunday, and ending on the xxv Sunday after Trinity, together with A discourse of the divine institution, necessity, sacredness, and separation of the office ministeriall (London, 1651). Taylor, Thomas, A treatise of contentment leading a Christian with much patience through all afflicted conditions by sundry rules of heavenly wisedome : whereunto is annexed first, A treatise of the improvement of time, secondly, The holy warre, in a visitation sermon. (London, 1641). Travitsky, Betty (ed.), The Paradise of Women: Writings by Englishwomen of the Renaissance (New York: Columbia University Press 1989). Tribble, Evelyn B., Margins and Marginality: The Printed Page in Early Modern England (Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1993). Trible, Phyllis, Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984). ——. “Bringing Miriam out of the Shadows,” Bible Review 1 (1989): 14–34. Trill, Suzanne, “Spectres and Sisters: Mary Sidney and the ‘Perennial Puzzle’ of Renaissance Women’s Writing” in Gordon McMullan (ed.), Renaissance Configurations: Voices/Bodies/Spaces 1580–1690 (London: MacMillan, 1998). Trill, Suzanne, Kate Chedgzoy, and Melanie Osborne (eds), Lay by Your Needles Ladies, Take the Pen: Writing Women in England, 1500–1700 (London, New York, Sydney and Auckland: Arnold, 1997). Tyndale, William, Tyndale’s Old Testament: Being the Pentateuch of 1530, Joshua to 2 Chronicles of 1537 and Jonah, ed. David Daniell (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992). Van Dorsten, J.A., Poets, Patrons, and Professors: Sir Philip Sidney, Daniel Rogers, and the Leiden Humanists (London: Oxford University Press, 1962). Vickers, Nancy J., “Diana Described: Scattered Woman and Scattered Rhyme,” Critical Inquiry Winter 1981: 265–79. Wall, Wendy, The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1993). Waller, Gary F., Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke: A Critical Study of Her Writings and Literary Milieu (Salzburg: University of Salzburg, 1979).



——, (ed.), “The Triumph of Death” and Other Unpublished and Uncollected Poems by Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke (Salzburg: University of Salzburg, 1977). Waterhouse, Edward, Fortescutus illustratus, or, A commentary on that nervous treatise, De laudibus legum Angliae, written by Sir John Fortescue, Knight (London, 1663). Wiesner, Merry E., Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). Wilson, Elkin Calhoun, England’s Eliza (New York: Octagon Books, 1939). Woodbridge, Linda, Women and the English Renaissance: Literature and the Nature of Womenkind, 1540–1620 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1986). Zim, Rivkah, English Metrical Psalms: Poetry as Praise and Prayer, 1535–1601 (Cambridge, London, New York, New Rochelle, Melbourne, and Sydney: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

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Biblical Index

Old Testament Genesis 3:16 ... 60 4:1 ... 71 16:1–7 ... 47n8 21:12 ... 71 24:59 ... 71n40 25:23 ... 71n41 27:35 ... 71 29:18 ... 47 29:20 ... 47 29:31 ... 47 30:8 ... 47n8 30:23 ... 53 32:25–32 ... 25n38 32:31 ... 25n38 34 ... 137 34:1 ... 137 Exodus 1:16 ... 14n10 2:4 ... 14 2:4–9 ... 14 2:5, 6 ... 14n10 4:10–16 ... 11n3 4:14 ... 18 12:22, 23 ... 22 15 ... 15, 32 15:1 ... 32 15:20 ... 14–15, 20, 20n25, 149 15:20, 21 ... 15 15:21 ... 15, 24, 32, 34, 154n5 15:23 ... 14n9 22 ... 28 28:1 ... 18 33:11 ... 25 33:20 ... 25 34 ... 25 34:35 ... 25 Leviticus 4:4–7 ... 22n29

13 ... 23, 29 13:3–4 ... 23 13:17 ... 23 14:6 ... 22 Numbers 12 ... 16, 16n20, 18, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29 12:1 ... 16, 31, 31n49 12:2 ... 17, 149 12:8 ... 17, 18 12:9–13 ... 17 12:10 ... 23, 23n34 12:10, 11 ... 22 12:12 ... 22 12:14 ... 18, 24 19:18 ... 22, 30n46 20:1 ... 17 32:8 ... 17 Deuteronomy 24 ... 18 24:8, 9 ... 18 Joshua 2 ... 107n56, 108 Judges 2:11 ... 79 2:12 ... 81 2:12, 15 ... 79 2:16 ... 77 2:34 ... 20n25 4 ... 42, 84, 94 4:3 ... 79 4:4 ... 1, 79 4:5 ... 77, 79 4:6 ... 149 4:6, 7 ... 79 4:8 ... 79 4:9 ... 77n1, 79, 154n6 4:18 ... 80, 89 4:20 ... 80 4:21 ... 80 4:24 ... 84n18 5 ... 2n6, 3, 42, 80, 87, 89, 92, 94, 95, 97, 100, 149


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

5:1 ... 2n6, 97 5:3 ... 1, 2, 80 5:7 ... 2n6, 80, 80n9, 97, 98, 102 5:11 ... 81, 110 5:12 ... 110 5:13 ... 80, 97, 110 5:16 ... 93 5:16, 17 ... 84n18, 93n31 5:17 ... 93n30 5:17, 23 ... 80–81 5:20 ... 81n10, 91 5:20–24 ... 81n10 5:23 ... 95 5:27 ... 81, 87n20, 106, 107 5:28–30 ... 81 5:31 ... 81, 90, 103, 110 9 ... 79n7 9:54 ... 79n7 11:29–40 ... 42 11:29–40 ... 15n14 12 ... 94n33 Ruth 3:4 ... 107 3:14 ... 107 I Samuel 1 ... 8, 42 1:3 ... 48n10 1:6 ... 74 1:7 ... 53, 53n16, 54, 59n24 1:10 ... 55n20 1:11 ... 49, 50, 67 1:11, 28 ... 72 1:12 ... 50, 65 1:13 ... 65, 76 1:15 ... 64n28 1:15,16 ... 64 1:16 ... 65 1:17 ... 52 1:19 ... 49, 60, 71 1:20 ... 65, 65n30 1:22 ... 51 1:23 ... 68 1:27 ... 50 1:28 ... 73n45 1:48 ... 52 2 ... 8, 42, 48, 60, 61 2:1 ... 48, 65, 69, 149 2:1, 5 ... 9 2:1–2 ... 63

2:5 ... 64n29 2:10 ... 62 2:11 ... 68, 68n36 2:15 ... 57 2:15–17 ... 57 2:19 ... 72 2:21 ... 48, 51, 74 2:21–2 ... 73n47 2:22 ... 57, 73 2:24 ... 55, 57 2:25 ... 55 2:26 ... 57 2:35 ... 55 3:1 ... 75 3:2 ... 62 4:3 ... 48n10 11:4 ... 23 16:1 ... 115n6, 118 16:7 ... 116 16:11 ... 115, 124 16:12 ... 115 16:13 ... 115 16–18 ... 115 16:18 ... 116 16:26, 28 ... 124n22 17:15 ... 114n5 17:17, 18 ... 114n5 17:24 ... 114n5 17:45 ... 123 17:45, 46 ... 115 17:51 ... 127n26 18:1 ... 132, 132n39 18:1–5 ... 92n29 18:6, 7 ... 15n14, 114 18:21 ... 113n3 18:25 ... 113 19 ... 122 19:1–17 ... 113 24:5 ... 122n19 24:10 ... 129 II Samuel 1: 17–27 ... 132n39 1:26 ... 132 3:14–16 ... 130n35 6:16–23 ... 130n35 11 ... 79n7, 136 11:4 ... 23 11:15–17 ... 24 14 ... 113

Biblical Index 16:5–12 ... 119n12 I Kings 1:1 ... 136n43 1:17 ... 114 II Kings 5:11 ... 22 I Chronicles 20:2 ... 130n34 22 ... 150n2 II Chronicles 22–8 ... 82n14 26:21 ... 22 Psalms 12:2 ... 35n53 31:18 ... 128 36:3 ... 128 51 ... 20–23, 24 51:3 ... 22 51:7 ... 23 51:8 ... 24 51:13 ... 36n55 51:15 ... 24 51:19 ... 25 52 ... 19 52:1–4 ... 127 52:6 ... 19 62 ... 29, 30 62:1 ... 29 62:2 ... 29, 29n43–44 62:3 ... 29, 30n45 62:4 ... 29 62:10 ... 30 68 ... 15n15 68:11 ... 26 68:12 ... 27n40 68:25 ... 15n15, 28n41 81 ... 15n15 94:1 ... 129n31 104:14 ... 36 149 ... 15n15 150 ... 15n15 Proverbs 7:5 ... 153n3 31 ... 9, 16n19, 149 31:1 ... 9n21 31:26 ... 9, 9n23, 16n19, 91 Isaiah 1:18 ... 23n33

Ezekiel 45–9 ... 19 Daniel 6 ... 112n1 Micah 6:4 ... 24n37

New Testament Matthew 1:18 ... 71 1 Corinthians 14:28 ... 3n10 14:34 ... 3, 16 14:34, 35 ... 50 Galatians 3:28 ... 61 1 Timothy 2:11, 12 ... 3, 60

Apocrypha Judith 7:30 ... 150 8:11–27 ... 151 8:28 ... 151 8:29 ... 151 9:9 ... 150 9:10 ... 151 10:3, 4 ... 151 11:5 ... 152 13 ... 151 13:12 ... 153 14 ... 153 14:2–4 ... 153 15:1 ... 153 16:14 ... 153 20 ... 152 23 ... 152

Talmud Babylonian Talmud 1:23 ... 69


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Subject and Author Index

Note: Page numbers in italics refer to illustrations. Aaron, 11, 16–18, 16n20, 18n22, 24, 28, 31 Abigail, 113, 149 Ackerman, Susan on Deborah as human counterpart to God, 81n10, 110 on Delilah, 107n56 on “feet” as euphemism, 107, 107n54, 110 on maternal representation of women, 97, 98 on men’s love, 133n41 on untraditional gendered behavior of women, 78, 79, 79n7, 110 Adams, Thomas, 137 Alter, Robert, 53n16, 89n23, 106 Ancilla Pietatis: or, the Hand-Maid to Private Devotion (Featley), 58, 75, 75n48 Anon., God’s judgments against whoring, 137 Anon., Hic Mulier: Or The Man-Woman, 140 Anon., The Life and Death of Stephen Marshall, 93, 94 Anti-Cavalierisme, or, Truth Pleading (Goodwin), 122–123, 122nn18–19 An Apologie for Womenkind (I. G.), 77 Araignment of Lewde, idel, froward, and unconstant women (Swetnam), 44, 62, 99, 123 Artemesia Gentileschi, Judith and Holofernes, 151, 152 Aschkenasy, Nehama, 84 Aske, James, 97, 110 authority, female. see also empowerment of women Deborah, as model for, 5, 78 Elizabeth as, 82, 91, 115, 116–118 judicial authority and, 83–84, 91, 91n24, 103, 104, 115–119, 139 Miriam as, 14–15, 26 models for, 5, 78

New Testament and, 104–105, 104n50, 106nn52–53 Sidney, Mary as, 20, 24, 26–27, 36, 37, 39–42, 39n60, 43 autonomy, female, 50, 52–53, 108, 108n57 Aylmer, John on David, 116–118, 142–143 on Deborah, 83 An Harborovve for Faithfull and True Subjects, 83, 115, 116–118 on judicial authority of women, 91, 115 on position and rank of Elizabeth, 83, 115–119, 139 on the triumph of weakness, 141 B., R. Female Excellency, 151 Babington, Gervase, 137 Bal, Mieke, 6–7, 7n14, 90–91, 108, 148n53 Barak Charles (character in Henry VI, Part I), in comparison with, 88 Deborah and, 2n6, 80, 87, 87n19, 94–95, 149 narrative of, 79–81, 87 Barash, Carol, 2, 149 barrenness, of women, 45–47, 46n6, 47nn7–9, 53, 53nn15–16, 54, 67nn53–54 Bathsheba, 23–24, 114, 136–138, 137nn45–46, 138n48 Beilin, Elaine V., 22, 23n32, 105 Bekkenkamp, Jonneke, 80n8, 92, 107n55 Bell, Thomas, 46, 46n4 Belsey, Catherine, 2 Benefield, Sebastian, 118n9, 119, 119nn11–12 Bennett, Lyn, 20, 36, 40 Bentley, Thomas, 14, 22n30, 54, 73, 76, 87, 90, 149–150 the Bible. see New Testament; Old Testament


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

“Biblical rhetoric” (Collinson), 7 The Birthpangs of Protestant England (Collinson), 60 The Bishops Bible, 14 The Body Embarrassed (Paster), 68 Bradstreet, Anne, 132n38, 143–144, 143n52, 146 Braithwait, Richard, The English Gentlewoman, 2 Brant, Clare, 102 Brennan, Michael J., 24 Brenner, Athalya, 32, 34, 98, 106 Brinsley, John, 53 Bronner, Leila Leah, 53, 103 Brown, Francis, 14, 29, 76, 87, 107 Bunyan, John, 60 Burnett, Stephen G., 13 cabinet, tabernacle-like, 41 Callaghan, Dympna, 2 Calvin, John, 143 Caravaggio, 144, 146–147, 148n53 Carey, Elizabeth, The Tragedy of Mariam, 19 Catholicism Charles II and, 96 female inferiority and, 60–61 Joan of Arc and, 88 Mary, and role in, 71, 74 priests, and corruption in, 46, 46n4, 57, 61, 72n43 private prayer and, 66 Protestantism, and independence from, 7, 81 subordination of women in, 60 virginity versus motherhood in, 74 Cawdrey, Daniel, 41 celebration of God and of women, juxtaposed with criticism of men Deborah and, 5–6, 10, 78, 80–81, 80n9, 81n10, 92–93, 93n30, 100–101, 103, 106 Judith and, 153, 154, 154n5 Speght on, 63–64, 99–101, 100n45 writings of women, and influence of, 67–70, 70nn37–38, 99–101, 100n45, 103–108, 149 Cerasano, S. P., 128, 128n30 Certaine Quares to the Bayter of Women (Speght), 62–64, 99–100

Certaine Sermons or Homilies (Rickey and Stroup), 19n23, 121 Charles (character in Henry VI, Part I), 88, 89 Charles I, 58 Charles II, 96, 97n40, 122 chastity, and female silence, 2, 2nn7–8, 5, 19, 27, 120n14 Chedgzoy, Kate, 103 childbirth, 46, 68, 72, 75, 75n49 Children of Israel Deborah’s leadership, and success of, 81, 82, 84, 84n18 disobedience by, 19, 79, 81, 142 England’s identification with, 7–8, 7–8nn18–19, 13 God’s protection of, 13, 15, 22, 79 Christ, 60, 104–105, 104n50, 106nn52–53 Chudleigh, Lady Mary Lee on David as model for love relationships, 132–133, 132n39, 135–136, 136n43 Essays Upon Several Subjects, 131 The Female Advocate, 6, 130, 140, 140n50, 141 The Ladies Defense, 138, 141 literary cross-dressing and, 139–141 The Poems and Prose of Mary, Lady Chudleigh, 138, 140 on social injustice, 140, 140n50 on subjection of women in marriage, 129–131, 130n37, 138–139, 141 “To the Ladies,” 140n50 on women’s battles against men, and assumption of posture of David, 6 on women’s education, 141 Clinton, Elizabeth, 8–9, 69–71, 71n40, 75 The Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert (Herbert), 11n2, 12, 13, 13n6, 34, 38 Collinson, Patrick, 7, 13n7, 46, 60 Commentary on the Psalms (Calvin), 143 conception, and divine association in Old Testament, 48, 60, 68, 70–71, 75 Cope, Esther S., 96, 96n35, 96n39, 97n40, 98, 99n42 Countertraditions in the Bible (Pardes), 19, 53 The Countess of Lincolnes Nurserie (Clinton), 8, 69, 71

Subject and Author Index Crawford, Patricia M., 50, 58n22, 59, 60, 74 Cressey, David, 75n49 Cromwell, Oliver, 96–97 “Cross-dressing” (Howard), 139–140, 141, 142 cross-dressing, literary, 6, 112–113, 139–143 cross-dressing practice, 6, 113, 139–142, 148 Daniel, 37, 96n37, 112n1 David Abigail and, 113, 149 Bathsheba and, 114, 136–138, 137nn45–46, 138n48 disobedience to Saul by, 117, 121–122 divine selection as king, and narrative of, 115–116, 115n6, 138 Elizabeth, in comparison with, 6, 115, 116–119, 119n11 feminized presentation of, 115–121, 117n8, 125, 141, 142–143 Goliath, and narrative of, 114–117, 115n5, 124–127, 124n22, 127nn25–26, 143–144, 144, 146–147, 148n53 Goliath narrative as model for women and, 6, 111–112, 124–125, 143 grace in character of, 115–116, 119, 150 Jonathan and, 33nn40–41, 132–133, 132nn38–39, 135 as leader, 115, 115n6, 116, 118 literary cross-dressing and, 6, 112–113, 139–143 love relationships model, and character of, 132–133, 132–133nn38–40, 135–136, 135n42, 136n43 lust, and behavior of, 23, 136–138, 137n46, 138n48 marital abuse protests, and model in, 129–131, 130n35, 130n37, 138–139, 141 as masculine hero, 113n3, 113–115, 142–143 Michal and, 113, 113n3, 130n35 as musician, 114n5, 144, 150 mutual respect between men and women, and model in, 129–130, 130nn33–35 obedience to God by, 119–121, 119nn11–12, 120, 120n13, 121, 121n16, 123


Philistines and, 113–115, 114n5, 117, 122, 124, 124n22, 127 as poet, 111, 118, 118n10, 149, 150 Psalm 51, and sin of, 21, 23–24 resistance model in narrative of, 121, 122–123nn18–20 Samuel and, 115, 115n6, 118 Saul and, 113–114, 117–118, 122–123, 122–123nn18–20, 129–130, 132, 142 slander, in comparison between Speght and, 127–129, 128n29, 129nn31–32, 141, 141n51 songs of women, and successes of, 114, 124 women’s role in successes of, 113–114 writings of women, and influence of, 6, 10, 111, 123–127, 123n21, 127nn25–26, 129, 143–144, 146–148, 148n53 David (Donatello), 134 David and Jonathan (Giovanni Battista Cima de Conegliano), 133, 135 David and Jonathan (Rembrandt), 133n40 David Killing Goliath (Titian), 146, 147, 147 David Victorious Over Goliath (Caravaggio), 144, 146–147 David with the Head of Goliath (Caravaggio), 146, 146, 148n53 Davids Palme and Cedar (Leigh), 115, 150 Davies, Eleanor, 37, 96–99, 96nn37–39, 97n40, 99n42 Deborah arrogance of men, and rhetoric of, 100, 104 Barak and, 2n6, 80, 87, 87n19, 94–95, 149 celebration of God and of women juxtaposed with criticism of men by, 5–6, 78, 80–81, 80n9, 81n10, 92–93, 93n30, 100–101, 106 Children of Israel’s success, and leadership of, 81, 84, 84n18 corruption of speech of, 1, 5, 78, 90 Elizabeth, in comparison with, 5, 77–78, 77n2, 78, 78nn4–5, 81–86, 84nn17–18 enlightenment and, 108, 108n58, 110 female authority models and, 5, 78 female silence challenged by, 78


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

as human counterpart to God, 81n10, 83, 110 Jael, and song of, 81, 81n10, 87–88 Joan la Pucelle modeled on, 88–90, 88n21, 89n22, 110 judicial authority of, 91, 91n24, 103, 104 masculine pose of, 106 maternal representation of, 80, 97, 98 Meroz curse and, 81, 93–95, 95n34, 110 mockery song of, 92–94, 93nn30–33 name of, 87, 90, 149 narrative of, 78–81 pageants of Elizabeth, in comparison with, 83–86, 84nn17–18 as poet, 91–92, 91–92nn25–28, 103–108 power and responsibilities of, 1–2, 2n5, 82, 82n12, 95, 103 as prophetess, 1–2, 2nn5–6, 77–79, 77n1, 82, 88, 97, 104, 129 song of, 1, 1nn3–4, 2n6, 10, 80, 81, 81n10, 87–88, 87n19, 103 speech and, 1–2, 1nn1–4, 2n6, 3, 5, 78, 86–95, 110, 149 Speght on, 62–63, 100 untraditional gendered behavior of women and, 78, 83, 105, 106 as wife, 79, 108, 108n58 women’s prophecies, and influence of, 6, 9–10, 37, 95–103, 96–97nn37– 40, 110 writings of women, and influence of, 6, 9–10, 95–103, 96n35, 97n40, 99n42, 103–108, 110, 149 Defense of Poesy (Sidney), 10 Dekker, Thomas, 139, 142 Delilah, 107, 107n56, 108, 136 Dennis, Trevor, 32, 34, 45, 64, 74 “Diana Described” (Vickers), 135 disgrace in death caused by women, 79, 79n7 disobedience. see also obedience by Children of Israel, 19, 79, 81, 142 of citizens under rule of Elizabeth, 117–121, 119n11, 120n13, 121n15, 142 by David to Saul, 117, 121–122 to God, 57, 117–118, 118n9, 119–121, 119nn11–12 by Hannah to her husband, 50

by Miriam to God, 5, 18–20, 30 by Saul to God, 115n6, 117–118, 118n9, 142 “The Ditchley Portrait” (Marcus Gheeraets the Younger), 109, 110 Domesticity and Dissent in the Seventeenth Century (Gillespie), 6 Donatello, David, 133, 134 Donawerth, Jane, 61 Donne, John on David, 116, 117n8 on Deborah, 91–92, 91–92nn25–28, 110 on feminized posture model, 57–58, 57n21 on God as defender of weak, 150 on Hannah, 52n14, 53–55, 54n18, 55, 57, 59, 61 humility and, 54–55, 57 on Jael, 108n57 on Miriam, 13–14 on Moses’ meekness, 38n59, 41n64 A Sermon Upon the XX Verse of the V Chapter of the Booke of Judges, 91–92 The Sermons of John Donne, 14, 54, 57, 92, 116 on Sidney Psalms, 11–12 on triumph of weakness, 116, 117n8 on untraditional gendered behavior of women, 83 Downame, John, 17, 32, 34, 64, 74, 93, 98 Dunton, John, 136, 137n46 education, of women, 9, 141 Eli Hannah narrative and, 48, 52, 54, 65, 72 priest’s flaws and, 55, 61, 62 sons of, 55, 57, 68, 73–74, 73n47 Elizabeth I anxieties and consequences implicit in comparison of Deborah with, 5, 78, 82–85 authority of mothers and, 118–119 barrenness and, 46, 46n6 Bathsheba as representation of, 137n45 David, in comparison with, 6, 115, 116–121, 119n11 Deborah, in comparison with, 5, 77–78, 77n2, 78nn4–5, 81–86, 84n17, 91, 108, 109, 110

Subject and Author Index disobedient citizens under rule of, 117–121, 121n15, 142 enlightenment and, 109, 110 feminine identity, and limitations for, 112, 112n2, 121 Jael, in comparison with, 91, 108 Joan la Pucelle, in comparison with, 90 judicial authority of, 83–84, 115–119, 139 Judith, in comparison with, 83, 115, 116, 150 literary cross-dressing and, 139 masculine depiction of, 40, 40n63, 83n16, 110, 112, 112nn1–2 maternal representation of, 97–98, 118, 119 Old Testament authorized translations by, 7, 7n16 other Old Testament women, and representation of, 78, 78n5 pageants of, 83–86, 84nn17–18 portrait of, 109 Protestantism, and role of, 81, 84 Sidney, Mary’s dedicatory poem to, 40–42 throne of England and, 82, 82n11, 84N17, 115, 116 “Elizabeth Triumphans” (Aske), 97 Elkanah, 47, 47n9, 48n10, 49, 50, 59n54, 68, 68n36, 74 empowerment of women. see also authority, female female silence and, 3 Hannah and, 50, 52–53, 60, 75 Judith and, 150–153, 153n3 motherhood and, 68, 69, 70, 71, 75 Old Testament and, 9, 52, 60, 75, 105 speech, female and, 3–4, 9, 10, 16, 38, 149–155, 153n3 England, 7–8, 7–8nn18–19, 13, 82, 82n11, 115, 116 The English Gentlewoman (Braithwait), 2 enlightenment, 108, 108n58, 109, 110 Ephraim, Michelle, 78n5, 137n45 Essay to Revive the Antient Education of Gentlewomen (Makin), 9, 129 Essays Upon Several Subjects (Chudleigh), 131 Ester hath hang’d Haman (Sowernam), 102 Evans, Arise, 12


Eve, 7n14, 10, 60, 70–71, 99, 99n43, 137 The Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts of Nine The Most Worthy Women of the World (Heywood), 86 Exum, J. Cheryl, 107n56 fasting, 55n20, 59, 59n24 Featley, Daniel, 58–59, 75, 75n48 “feet” as euphemism, 107, 107n54, 110 Fell, Margaret, 4, 8, 61–62, 62n26, 64, 75, 110, 149, 151 The Female Advocate (Chudleigh), 6, 130, 140, 140n50, 141 female authority. see authority, female female autonomy, 50, 52–53, 108, 108n57 Female Excellency (R. B.), 151 female inferiority, 60–61 female obedience, 2n8, 5, 18, 19, 27, 50, 75 female silence. see silence, female female speech. see speech, female feminine identity. see identity, feminine feminine potential, 6, 111–112, 124–125, 143 feminized posture model, and Protestantism, 45, 57–58, 58nn22–23, 60 Ferguson, Margaret W., 2, 2n7 Ferrell, Lori Anne, 75n49 Finch], Anne, Countess of Winchilsea, 10, 105–106, 149 The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (Knox), 82 G., I., An Apologie for Womenkind, 77 Garber, Marjorie, 139, 140–141 Gataker, Thomas, 74 “The Gender of Religious Devotion” (Schoenfeldt), 58, 59 gendered behavior of women, untraditional. see untraditional gendered behavior of women The Geneva Bible, 7, 7n17, 9n22, 14, 21n27, 35n54 Gibson, Anthony, 84 Gillespie, Katharine, 6, 62 Giovanni Battista Cima de Conegliano, David and Jonathan, 133, 135 God Children of Israel’s disobedience to, 19, 79, 81, 142


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Children of Israel’s protection by, 13, 15, 22, 79 creation of woman by, 99, 99n43, 100 David, and selection as king by, 115–116, 115n6, 138 Deborah as human counterpart to, 81n10, 83, 110 Deborah’s celebration of, 5–6, 10, 78, 80–81, 80n9, 81n10, 92–93, 93n30, 100–101, 103, 106 as defender of weak, 83, 116, 150 discursive authority of, 153 disobedience to, 57, 117–118, 118n9, 119–121, 119nn11–12 divine communication between Miriam and, 25 “face to face” with, 25, 25n38 individual’s relationship with, 7 Jael as human aid to, 81 Judith’s celebration of, 153, 154, 154n5 Miriam’s disobedience to, 5, 18–20, 30 Protestantism, and women as celebrants of glory of, 45, 61–62 Samuel, and dedication to, 48, 51, 66–67, 68, 72–73 Saul’s disobedience to, 115n6, 117–118, 118n9, 142 writings of women, and influence of celebration of, 67–70, 70nn37–38, 99–101, 100n45, 103–108, 149 God, spirit of. see grace God’s judgments against whoring (Anon.), 137 Goitein, S. D., 4, 92, 98, 111 Goliath, and narrative of David, 6, 111– 112, 114–117, 115n5, 124–127, 124n22, 127nn25–26, 143–144, 144, 146–147, 148n53 Goodwin, John, 122–123, 122nn18–19 Gosselin, Edward A., 143 Gowing, Laura, 128, 128n28 grace David and, 119, 150, 150n2 Hannah and, 58, 69, 73, 74, 75, 76 Miriam and, 14, 15, 16, 16n19, 31 Sidney, Mary and, 34, 35 Sidney, Philip and, 39 speech and, 9, 65 women and, 62, 62n26, 75 Greenblatt, Stephen, 32

Greene, Robert, 37n57 grudge, Miriam’s, 16n20, 28, 29, 30 Grymeston, Elizabeth, 66n32, 66–67 Habits of Thought in the English Renaissance (Shuger), 48–50 Hakewill, George, 113 “Half a dozen dangerous Words” (Cerasano), 128 Half Humankind (Henderson and McManus), 101, 130n33 Hamlin, Hannibal, 10, 10n24, 21, 111, 129 Hammons, Pamela. S., 10 Hannah. see also Eli; Samuel arrogance of men, and rhetoric of, 10, 63, 64 authority of mothers and, 67–74, 73n47 barrenness and, 45, 46, 46n6, 47, 47n9, 52, 53, 54 breastfeeding and, 48, 69–70 childbirth celebration in song by, 46, 71, 72 children of, 46, 51, 64n29, 67, 73n47 disobedience by, 50 Elkanah, and narrative of, 47, 47n9, 48n10, 49, 50, 59n54, 68, 68n36, 74 expression and belief in Protestantism, and paradigm of, 5, 45, 47, 61, 72 fasting and, 47, 55n20, 59, 59n24 female autonomy and, 50, 52–53, 60 female silence, and answered prayer of, 5, 53, 59, 61–62, 75 feminine identity of, 52–53 feminized posture model in Protestantism and, 5, 45–47, 46n3, 57–60, 58nn22–23, 64–65 gender in relation to divinity in Protestantism and, 5, 45–47, 46n3, 59–60, 64–65 grace in character of, 51, 52, 58, 69, 73, 74, 75, 76 grief of, 47, 47n9, 54, 56, 66, 74 humiliation, and transformation of, 47, 53nn15–16, 53–55, 54n18, 55n20 lips and mouth of, 48, 65–66, 75, 76 motherhood and, 45, 47, 50–51, 67n33, 72, 72n43, 73–75, 74 name of, 76 narrative of, 45–48

Subject and Author Index peace of mind through prayer of, 51–52, 52n14 Peninnah and, 47, 48, 50, 53, 64n29, 74 priestly corruption and, 46, 48, 55, 57 private prayer of, 5, 45–49, 48n10, 49n12, 66, 74–76 as prophetess, 6, 45, 62, 63, 75 the self and prayer in Protestantism and, 5, 46, 46n5, 48–49, 74 shame and, 48, 53, 54 speech, and divine approval in prayer of, 5, 45, 47, 61–67, 64n28, 74–75, 76, 149 subjection of women in marriage and, 50–51, 60 weeping and tears of, 54, 55, 56, 58, 59, 66 women’s prayers and, 45, 66, 67 writings of women, and influence of, 67–70, 70nn37–38 Hannah Weeping (Holbien), 56 Hannay, Margaret P. on Sidney, Mary, 11n1, 12, 20, 24, 26–27, 34, 36, 43 writings of, 12, 16, 20, 26–27, 36, 39n61, 43 An Harborovve for Faithfull and True Subjects (Aylmer), 83, 115, 116–118 The Heart and the Stomach of a King (Levin), 82, 140 Henderson, Katherine Usher, 101 Henry VI, Part I (Shakespeare), 88–90 Henry VIII, 7, 7n15, 82 Herbert, Sidney, Mary. see also Sidney, Mary The Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, 11n2, 12, 13, 13n6, 34, 38 portrait of, 33 Heywood, Thomas, 86–88, 87n20, 90, 149, 153, 153n4 Hic Mulier: Or The Man-Woman (Anon.), 140 Hill, Christopher on The Geneva Bible, 7, 21n27, 35, 35n54 on Old Testament, 4n13, 9, 12, 81, 105n51, 111 on Sidney Psalms, 21n27, 35, 35n54 The History of Judith in Forme of a Poem (Hudson, trans.), 151, 154 Hobby, Elaine, 69


Holbein, Hans, Icones Historiarum Beteris Testameni, 55, 56 Holofernes, and Judith narrative, 150–153, 152, 154n6 “Homily against disobedience and wilfull rebellion,” 18–20, 19n23, 30, 121, 121nn15–16, 123 “House-Confinéd Maids” (Hannay), 26–27, 36 Howard, Jean E., 139–140, 140n49, 141, 142 Hudson, Thomas, 151, 153, 153n4 Hulda, 82n14, 149 Hull, Suzanne, 58, 58n23, 104–105 humility Donne and, 54–55, 57 of Joceline, 69 Marshall on, 95 of Moses, 41 of priests, 54 of Sidney, Mary, 34, 37, 39 Hyman, Naomi Mary, 45, 69 hyssop, 21, 22, 22n29, 23, 35 Icones Historiarum Beteris Testameni (Holbein), 55, 56 identity, feminine of men, 60, 115–121, 117n8, 125, 141–143 of women, 36–37, 43, 52–53, 111, 121 idleness, 95, 137, 137n46 inferiority, female, 60–61 The Israelite Women (Brenner), 34, 106 Jabin (king of Canaan), 79, 80, 93, 108 Jackson, Gabriele Bernhard, 89n22 Jacob, 25n38, 47n7, 71 Jael Deborah’s song and, 81, 81n10, 87–88 Elizabeth, in comparison with, 91, 108 female autonomy and, 108, 108n57 as God’s human aid, 81 Judith, in comparison with, 154 narrative of, 77, 77n1, 80, 106, 154 sexual tones in language of, 89, 89n23, 106–108, 107nn54–56 Sisera and, 80, 93, 107, 107n56, 108, 110, 154 untraditional gendered behavior of women and, 83, 103, 105, 106, 108, 108n57


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Jewel, John, 97–98, 121n15 Joan la Pucelle (character in Henry VI, Part I), 88–90, 88n21, 89nn22–23, 110 Joan of Arc, 88 Joceline, Elizabeth, 9, 67n34, 67–69, 68n35, 75, 76 Johnson, Barbara, 91n24 Jonathan, and David, 33nn40–41, 132nn38–39, 132–133, 135 Jones, Anne Rosalind, 2 Jordan, Constance, 112 The JPS Torah Commentary: Numbers (Milgrom), 17 judicial authority, of women, 83–84, 91, 91n24, 103, 104, 115–119, 139 Judith beauty of, 151, 153n4 as beheading hero, 116, 145, 147 celebration of God and of women, juxtaposed with criticism of men in song of, 153, 154, 154n5 celebration of God as discursive authority and, 153 Elizabeth, in comparison with, 83, 115, 116, 150 Holofernes and, 116, 150–153, 152, 154n6 masculine spirit of, 153–154, 153n4 narrative of, 77, 77n1, 150–154, 154nn5–6 Ozias and, 150–151, 153 speech, and empowerment of, 150–153, 153n3 wisdom in Old Testament and, 151, 153 Judith and Holofernes (Artemesia Gentileschi), 151, 152 Kaplan, Lawrence, 94 King, J. N., 13, 81 King James Bible, 54n19, 97n41, 127n27 Kinnamon, Noel J., 24 Knox, John, 82, 82nn13–14, 115 Krontiris, Tina, 8n20, 104n50, 105 The Ladies Defense (Chudleigh), 138, 141 Lamb, Mary Ellen, 20 lamp citations. see The Monument for Matrons (Bentley) “Language, Power, and the Law” (Gowing), 128, 128n28

Lanyer, Aemilia, 9–10, 42, 42n65, 104n50, 104–106, 106nn52–53, 110 Leigh, William, 114, 115, 119n11, 120, 150 leprosy, 17–19, 22–23nn29–34, 22–24, 29, 30n46, 35, 129 Lethal Love (Bal), 6 Levin, Carole, 82, 83n16, 112, 112n1, 140 Lewalski, Barbara Kiefer on Lanyer’s writings, 105 on the self and prayer in Protestanism, 49 on Speght’s writings, 62n27, 99n44, 101n46, 102, 123n21, 125n23, 128n29, 141 on Swetnam’s writings, 125n23 Writing Women in Jacobean England, 49 The Yearbook of English Studies, 105 lewedness, of women, 19–20, 19n24, 20n25, 62n27, 129 licentiousness, 2, 137 The Life and Death of Stephen Marshall (Anon.), 93, 94 The Light of Britaine, 110 Lightfoot, John, 137 literary cross-dressing, 6, 112–113, 139–143 Lloyd, John, 46, 93, 95 Locke, Anne, 65 love, 60, 132–133, 132n39, 133n41, 135–136, 136n43 Luckyj, Christina, 3, 3n10 lust, and behavior of David, 23, 136–138, 137n46, 138n48 Makin, Bathsua, 7–8n18, 9, 9n23, 129 male silence, 3, 3n10, 151 Marcus, Leah S., 83n16, 90, 112, 112n2 Marcus Gheeraets the Younger, “The Ditchley Portrait,” 109, 110 marriage disobedience of biblical women to husbands and, 71 favored wives in Old Testament, 47, 47nn7–9, 53, 53nn15–16 obedience of women to husbands and, 50, 60, 70, 130 subjection, humiliation and abuse of women in, 8–9, 50–51, 53, 53nn15–16, 60, 129–131, 130n37, 138–139, 141

Subject and Author Index Marshall, Stephen, 93–95, 95n34, 110, 149 Mary, 13–14, 14n8, 71, 74 Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke (Waller), 13, 20, 21 “Mary Sidney and the Sidney Legend” (Hannay), 12 Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke (Simon van de Passe), 33 masculine depiction of women of Elizabeth, 40, 40n63, 83n16, 110, 112, 112nn1–2 Judith’s spirit and, 153–154, 153n4 “Material Girls” (Purkiss), 100, 102 maternal women. see motherhood McBride, Kari Boyd, 105, 106, 106n52 McCarter, P. Kyle, Jr., 73n44 McManus, Barbara F., 101 Mede, Joseph, 137 Meditation of a penitent sinner (Locke), 65 meekness, of Moses, 38n59, 41n64 men. see also celebration of God and of women; masculine depiction of women empowerment of, 9 feminized, 60, 115–121, 117n8, 125, 141–143 love and, 132–133, 132n39, 133n41, 135–136, 136n43 marriage and, 8–9, 50–51, 129–131, 130n37, 138–139, 141 mutual respect between women and, 129–130, 130nn33–35 obedience of wives to, 50, 60, 70, 71, 130 private prayer and, 46, 76 rhetoric against arrogance of, 10, 63, 64, 100–101, 104 silence of, 3, 3n10, 151 subordination of women by, 50–51 Merbecke, John, 133 Meroz, 81, 93–95, 95n34, 110 Meroz Cursed, or A Sermon Preached To the Honourable House of Commons (Marshall), 93–94 Michal, 113, 113n3, 130n35 Middleton, Thomas, 139, 142 Milgrom, Jacob, 15n16, 17 Milton, John, 107n56, 107–108 Miriam brothers’ petitions for, 17–18


character of, 14, 14n10, 15, 15n16 disease of, 16, 17–18, 18n22, 19 disobedience to God by, 5, 17–20, 30 divine communication between God and, 17 exodus from Egypt, and role of, 14–15, 24n37, 25–28 female authority and, 14–15, 26 female silence and, 17–18, 19, 24, 27, 29 grace of, 14, 15, 16, 16n19, 31, 149 grudge of, 16n20, 28, 29, 30 leprosy and, 17–19, 22–24, 22nn29–31, 23n32, 23n34, 29, 30n46, 35, 129 lewedness and, 19–20, 19n24, 20n25 Moses, and assistance from, 14, 15, 16 name of, 13–14, 14n8, 14n9 narrative of, 13–15, 154, 154nn5–6 as prophetess, 11, 11n3, 14–17, 15n11, 15n16, 21, 24, 129, 149 Psalm 51 in Sidney Psalms and, 20–25, 35 Psalm 62 in Sidney Psalms and, 28–31 Psalm 68 in Sidney Psalms and, 25–28, 27n40, 28n41 shame of, 17, 18, 24, 24n36, 43 Sidney, Mary, in comparison to, 5, 11–14, 11n3, 20, 43 Sidney Psalms, and allusion to, 20–31, 43 song of, 15, 15n15, 24, 24n35, 26–28, 28n41, 32, 34, 42 speech against Moses by, 5, 16–19, 16nn20–21, 27, 28–31, 28n42, 31n49 speech and, 5, 16, 27 writings of women, and influence of, 42, 100, 100n45 Miscelanae, Meditations, Memoratives (Grymeston), 66–67 mockery songs, 92n29, 92–94, 93nn30–33 modesty, 5, 34, 41, 41n64, 42, 69 The Monument for Matrons (Bentley), 14, 54, 73, 76, 87, 90, 150 Moses Aaron’s speech against, 16–18, 16n20, 18n22, 28, 31, 31n49 “face to face” with God by, 25 humility of, 41 meekness of, 38n59, 41n64 Miriam’s assistance to, 14, 15, 16 Miriam’s speech against, 5, 16–19, 16nn20–21, 27, 28–31, 28n42, 31n49


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

petition for Miriam by, 17–18 as prophet, 17, 25 Sidney, Philip, in comparison to, 11–12, 11n3, 12n4, 20, 34, 38, 38n59 song of, 15 motherhood authority of mothers and, 67n34, 67–74, 73n47, 118–119 breastfeeding and, 8, 69–72, 70nn37–38, 71n40 Catholicism and, 74 empowerment of women and, 68, 69, 70, 71, 75 female silence and, 69, 75 female speech and, 67–74, 75, 80 figurative representations and, 80, 97–98, 107n55, 119 Hannah and, 45, 47, 50–51, 67n33, 72, 72n43, 73–75, 74 in Protestantism, 72, 72n43, 74 wifely duties versus privilege of, 8–9, 69–72, 70n38 A Mouzell for Malestomus (Speght), 4, 4n12, 16, 62, 99, 100, 101, 123–128 A Moving Rhetoricke (Luckyj), 2–3 Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare), 128n30 Murder and Difference (Bal), 90–91, 108 Naomi, 107 Nathan, 136 New Testament authority of, 3, 4, 4n13, 9, 81, 105, 105n51 Christ and, 60, 104–105, 104n50, 106nn52–53 female authority in, 104–105, 104n50, 106nn52–53 female silence and, 3, 4, 4n12, 16, 50, 60, 61–62 Nichols, John, The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, 82, 85, 91, 97, 108, 110, 150 obedience. see also disobedience female, 2n8, 5, 18, 19, 27, 50, 75 to God by David, 119–121, 119nn11– 12, 120, 120n13, 121, 121n16 motherhood, and demands for, 75 of women to husbands, 50, 60, 70, 71, 130

OED (The Oxford English Dictionary), 1, 1n4, 19n24, 28, 34, 41, 76, 90, 127, 127n25, 137–138 “Of the Four Humours in Man’s Constitution” (Bradstreet), 143n52, 143–144, 146 Old Testament. see also specific biblical characters; specific editions, for example The Geneva Bible authority of, 4n13, 9, 10, 12, 81, 105, 105n51 authorization of speech and, 1, 2, 9, 15–20, 16n19, 154–155 contradictions, and multiplicity of meanings within, 9, 111, 121 as guide for individuals, 12, 32, 34 instructions on reading, 7, 12, 20, 32 private prayer in, 5, 45, 46, 48, 49, 51, 52, 52n14, 54 translations of, 7, 7nn15–17 writings of women, and influences of, 6, 8, 10, 12–13, 32, 34 Osborne, James, The Quenes Maisties Passage, 77, 83 Osborne, Melanie, 103 Otten, Charlotte F., 8, 50, 66, 66n50, 70 The Oxford English Dictionary, 1, 1n4, 19n24, 28, 34, 41, 76, 90, 127, 127n25, 137–138 Ozias, and Judith narrative, 150–151, 153 Pardes, Ilana, 19, 53, 53n15 Partridge, A. C., 1, 1n1 Paster, Gail Kern, 8, 57n21, 57–58, 68, 69–70, 70n38 Paul (saint), on female silence, 3, 4, 4n12, 16, 50, 59, 61–62 Peninnah, and Hannah narrative, 47, 48, 50, 53, 64n29, 74 Perkins, William, 50 Philip’s Phoenix (Hannay), 20, 39n61, 43 Philistines, 113–115, 114n5, 117, 122, 124, 124n22, 127 Phipps, William E., 32, 79n7, 82n12 The Poems and Prose of Mary, Lady Chudleigh (Chudleigh), 138, 140 The Poems of Aemilia Lanyer: Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (Lanyer), 10, 42, 104–105

Subject and Author Index Pope, Mary, 113, 120n13 potential, feminine, 6, 111–112, 124–125, 143 Preston, John, 8, 51–54, 59 priests. see also Eli corruption of, 46, 46n4, 48, 55, 57, 61, 72n43 humility of, 54 Protestantism, and profession of, 68, 68n35 Samuel, and service to, 48, 51, 70, 72–73, 72–73nn42–45 weeping and tears of, 55, 57, 57n21 private prayers Catholicism and, 66 Grymeston and, 66n32, 66–67 of Hannah, 5, 45–49, 48n10, 49n12, 66, 74–76 Joceline and, 67–69 Locke on, 65 of men, 46, 76 in Old Testament, 5, 45, 46, 48, 49, 51, 52, 52n14, 54 peace of mind through, 51–52, 52n14 in Protestantism, 49–50, 51–52, 58–59, 66, 74, 76 psalms and, 111 shame in, 48 speech and, 62 of women, 45 The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth (Nichols), 82, 85, 91, 97, 108, 110, 150 prophets/prophetesses Aaron, 11, 17 Daniel, 37, 96n37, 112n1 Deborah, 1–2, 2nn5–6, 77–79, 77n1, 82, 88, 97, 104, 108n58, 129 Deborah’s influence on female, 6, 9–10, 37, 95–103, 96nn37–39, 97n40, 110 Hannah, 6, 45, 54, 54n18, 62, 63, 75 Hulda, 82n14, 149 Joan la Pucelle, 88, 90 Miriam, 5, 11, 11n3, 14–17, 15n11, 15n16, 21, 24, 75, 129, 149 Moses, 17, 25 Samuel, 48, 75, 115 women as, 6, 9–10, 37, 61, 90, 95–103, 96nn37–39, 97n40, 110


Protestantism Catholicism, and independence of, 7, 81 celebration of childbirth in, 46, 75, 75n49 celebration of God in, 45, 61–62 Children of Israel and, 7–8, 7–8nn18– 19, 13, 13n5 expression and belief in, 5, 45, 47, 61, 72 fasting and, 59, 59n24 feminine inferiority and, 60–61 feminized posture model and, 45, 57–58, 58nn22–23, 60 feminized posture model in Protestantism and, 5, 45–47, 46n3, 57–60, 58nn22–23, 64–65 love and, 60 motherhood in, 72, 72n43, 74 priests in, 55, 57, 68, 68n35 private prayer in, 49–50, 51–52, 58–59, 66, 74, 76 the self in, 5, 7, 46, 46n5, 48–49, 50, 74 subordination of women in, 60 weeping and tears of priests in, 55, 57, 57n21 Psalm Culture and Early Modern English Literature (Hamlin), 10, 111 psalms, biblical. see also Sidney Psalms; songs characteristics of, 10, 10n24 defined, 34 as feminine genre, 111 genre of, 3–4, 10, 15, 63, 92, 105 popularity of, 20, 111, 129 private prayer and, 111 Psalm 51, 20–25, 35 Psalm 62, 29–31, 30n45 Psalm 68, 26–28, 27–28, 27n40, 28n41 Psalm 104, 36–37 women’s Old Testament, 3, 4, 4n11, 15, 15nn14–15, 43, 92, 111 Purkiss, Diane, 95, 100, 102, 103 Puzzling Shakespeare (Marcus), 90 Queene Elizabeth, paraleld in her Princely vertues (Leigh), 114, 120 The Quenes Maisties Passage (Osborne), 77, 83 Rachel, 47nn7–8, 53 “Reader” (Davies), 98


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Reading Prophetic Narratives (Simon), 55, 66 Rebecca, 71, 71nn40–41 Rembrandt, 62, 63, 133n40 resistance model, in narrative of David, 121, 122–123nn18–20 “The Restitution of Prophecy” (Davies), 98 Rickey, Mary Ellen, 119, 121n15, 123 The Roaring Girl (Middleton and Dekker), 139, 140n49, 142 Rogers, Timothy, 7n15 Ruth, 7n14, 107, 149 Sabie, Francis, 138 “Sacred Celebration” (McBride), 105, 106 The Saints Daily Exercise (Preston), 51 Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (Lanyer), 10, 42, 104–105 Samuel birth of, 48, 71, 71n39, 72, 75 David as leader, and role of, 115, 115n6, 118 dedication to God and, 48, 51, 66–67, 68, 72–73 naming of, 65, 65n30, 71, 71n39, 72–73n44 as prophet, 48, 75, 115 religious leadership models and, 55, 62, 73 service to priests by, 48, 51, 70, 72–73, 72–73nn42–45 Sarah, 47n8, 53n15, 70–71, 149 Sarah Laughed (Dennis), 74 Saul David and, 113n3, 113–114, 117–118, 122–123, 122–123nn18–20, 129–130, 132, 142 disobedience to God by, 115n6, 117–118, 118n9, 142 dressing David in armor by, 142–143 Jonathan, son of, 132nn38–39, 132–133 Michal, daughter of, 113, 113n3, 130n35 Samuel, and name of, 65, 72–73n44 songs of women, and response by, 92n29 Schneider, Laurie, 133 Schoenfeldt, Michael, 53, 58, 59

the self, in Protestantism, 5, 7, 46, 46n5, 48–49, 50, 74 A Sermon Upon the XX Verse of the V Chapter of the Booke of Judges (Donne), 91–92 The Sermons of John Donne (Donne), 14, 54, 57, 92, 116 sexuality in Jael narrative, 89, 89n23, 106–108, 107nn54–56 in reader’s response to Speght, 126n24, 126–127, 127n25 Speght ‘s writings and, 126n24, 126–127, 127n25, 141 Shakespeare, William, 88, 90, 110, 128n30, 149 shame barrenness and, 53, 54 breastfeeding and, 70 of Hannah, 48, 53, 54 men’s actions and, 126, 151 of Miriam in Sidney Psalms, 24, 24n36, 43 Sidney, Mary and, 24, 24n36, 35–36, 43 Shepherd, Simon, 103, 103n48 Sherman, William H., 31–32 Shuger, Debora Kuller, 12, 46n5, 48–50, 50n13, 105n51 Sidney, Mary. see also Herbert, Sidney, Mary; Sidney Psalms character and presentation of, 5, 11, 20, 32–43, 41n64 on divine communication between Miriam and God, 25 Elizabeth, and dedicatory poem by, 40–42 as female authority, 20, 24, 26–27, 36, 37, 39–42, 39n60, 43 feminine identity of, 36–37, 43 grace and, 34, 35 Hannay on, 11n1, 12, 20, 24, 26–27, 34, 36, 43 humility of, 34, 37, 39 on leprosy, 22–24, 23n32, 23n34, 35 literary influences on, 21n27, 31n51 Miriam, in comparison to, 5, 11–14, 11n3, 20, 43 modesty and, 5, 34, 41, 41n64, 42 Old Testament influences and, 12–13, 32, 34

Subject and Author Index patronage of, 12, 43 as poet, 12, 31n52, 43 Psalm 51 in Sidney Psalms by, 20–25, 21n27, 35 Psalm 62 in Sidney Psalms by, 28–31, 30nn47–48 Psalm 68 in Sidney Psalms by, 25–28, 27n40, 28n41 Psalm 104 in Sidney Psalms by, 36–37 Psalm 106 in Sidney Psalms by, 35, 36 psalmist posture of, 34–37, 37n57 shame and, 24, 24n36, 35–36, 43 Sidney, Philip, and relationship with, 12, 34, 38–40, 38n59, 39n60, 41 Sidney Psalms of, 11, 11nn1–2, 20n26 song of Miriam and, 24, 24n35, 26–28, 32, 34 speech, and potential dangers described by, 5, 27 Triumph of Death, 26–31, 26n39 on vanity, 30 Sidney, Philip authorship of Sidney Psalms and, 11, 11n2 on Deborah’s song, 10, 103 Defense of Poesy, 10 grace and, 39 literary influences on, 21n27, 31n51 Moses, in comparison to, 11–12, 11n3, 12n4, 20, 34, 38, 38n59 Sidney, Mary, and relationship with, 12, 34, 38–40, 38n59, 39n60, 41 Sidney Psalms. see also psalms, biblical authorship of, 11, 11n1, 11n2 classification as original or translation, 20n26 Deborah’s song and, 10, 103 drafts of, 26–31 Hill on, 21n27, 35, 35n54 Miriam, and allusions in, 20–31, 43 Psalm 51, 20–25, 21n27, 35 Psalm 62, 28–31, 30nn47–48 Psalm 68, 25–28, 27n40, 28n41 Psalm 104 in Sidney Psalms by, 36–37 Psalm 106 in Sidney Psalms by, 35, 36 shame in, 24, 24n36, 35–36, 43 of Sidney, Mary, 11, 11nn1–2, 20n26 speech, and potential dangers described in, 5, 27


silence, female. see also speech, female challenges to, 3, 3n10, 10, 78, 149, 155 character of women and, 2, 2nn7–8, 5, 19, 27, 120n14 Deborah and, 78 empowerment of women and, 3 Hannah’s answered prayer and, 5, 53, 59, 61–62, 75 male silence versus, 3, 3n10, 151 Miriam and, 17–18, 19, 24, 27, 29 New Testament and, 3, 4, 4n12, 16, 50, 59, 61–62 Old Testament and, 3, 3n10, 10, 149 paradox of speech versus, 16 silence, male, 3, 3n10, 151 Silent But for the Word (Hannay), 16 Simon, Uriel, 47n9, 55, 60, 66, 68, 71n39, 72 Simon van de Passe, Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, 33 Sinfield, Alan, 49 Sisera, 77, 77n1, 79–81, 87–89, 87n20, 106, 108, 154, 154n6 slander, 127–129, 128–129nn28–32, 141, 141n51 social injustice, and women, 140, 140n50 songs. see also psalms David’s successes praised in women’s, 114, 124 feminine identity and, 111 of Miriam, 15, 15n15, 24, 24n35, 26–28, 28n41, 32, 34 mockery, 92n29, 92–94, 93nn30–33 of Moses, 15 women’s, 15, 15nn14–15 writings of women, and influence of David’s, 6, 10, 111, 129 Sowernam, Ester, 99, 102n47, 102–103, 103n49, 106 speech, female. see also silence, female constraints, and authority in Old Testament, 3–4, 4nn12–13 cultural constraints on, 2–5, 2nn7–8, 37n57, 59, 149, 154–155 Deborah and, 1–2, 1nn1–4, 2n6, 3, 5, 78, 86–95, 87n19, 110, 149 empowerment of women and, 3–4, 9, 10, 16, 38, 149–155, 153n3 grace and, 9, 65 Hannah and, 5, 45, 47, 61–67, 64n28, 74–75, 76, 149


Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England

Judith and, 150–153, 153n3 linguistic enterprises and, 76 male interests supported by, 6–7, 7n14 motherhood and, 67–74, 75, 80 Old Testament and, 15–20, 16n19, 154–155 oppositional voices and, 8, 8n20 paradox of female silence and, 16 potential dangers of, 5, 27 private prayer and, 62 Speght on, 16, 62–63, 100 Speght, Rachel on celebration of God and of women, juxtaposed with criticism of men, 63–64, 99–101, 100n45 Certaine Quares to the Bayter of Women, 62–64, 99–100 David, and influence on writings of, 123–127 on David’s relationships as model for marriage, 129–130, 130nn34–35 on Deborah, 62–63, 100 discursive models for, 101–102, 139, 140, 141 on God’s creation of woman, 99, 99n43, 100 on Hannah, 62–63 Lewalski on writings of, 62n27, 99n44, 101n46, 102, 123n21, 125n23, 128n29, 141 literary cross-dressing and, 139–141 on Miriam, 16 A Mouzell for Malestomus, 4, 4n12, 16, 62, 99, 100, 101, 123–128 on Paul, and female silence, 4, 4n12 puns and witty spellings in writings of, 101, 101n46 reader’s responses to, 124, 125, 125n23, 126, 127 self-identification in writings of, 102 sexuality, and writings of, 126n24, 126–127, 127n25, 141 slander, in comparison with David in writings of, 127–129, 128n29, 129nn31–32, 141, 141n51 on speech, 16, 62–63, 100 Swetnam, and responses by, 62, 62n27, 63–64, 99–101, 100n45, 124, 127, 129, 129n32

spirit of God. see grace Stroup, Thomas B., 119, 121n15, 123 subordination, of women, 50–51, 60 Swetnam, Joseph Araignment of Lewde, idel, froward, and unconstant women, 62, 99, 99n44, 123 on characteristics of women, 62n27, 99, 129 slander, and writings of, 128, 129, 129n32 Speght’s writings and, 62, 62n27, 63–64, 99–101, 100n45, 124, 125n23, 127, 129, 129n32 tail, as euphemism, 127, 127n25 Tanakh/The Holy Scriptures, 17, 80n9 Taylor, Jeremy, 138 Taylor, Thomas, 137 tears and weeping, 54–59, 56, 57n21, 66 The Book of Common Prayer, 75n49, 76 “The Politics of Renaissance Rhetorical Theory by Women” (Donawerth), 61 Titian, David Killing Goliath, 146, 147, 147 “To the Ladies” (Chudleigh), 140n50 The Tragedy of Mariam (Carey), 19 Travitsky, Betty, 66, 67, 67n34, 72, 72n43, 73n46, 105 A Treatise of Effectual Faith (Preston), 8, 51 Tribble, Evelyn B., 7, 9n22 Trible, Phyllis, 6 Trill, Suzanne, 2n8, 36, 103 Triumph of Death (Sidney), 26–31, 26n39 Tyndale, William on Children of Israel, 8n19 on Deborah’s song, 1n3 on Hannah, 60, 64n28, 73 instructions on reading Old Testament by, 7, 12, 20, 32 on Miriam’s leprosy, 23, 23n34 on Saul dressing David in armor, 142 on Sisera’s death, 106–107 Tyndale’s Old Testament, 1n3, 7, 12, 20, 23, 32, 60, 73, 73n45 untraditional gendered behavior of women Deborah and, 78, 83, 105, 106 divinity in Protestantism and, 5, 45–47, 46n3, 59–60, 64–65

Subject and Author Index Jael and, 83, 105, 106, 108, 108n57 writings on, 78, 79, 79n7, 83, 110 van Dijk, Fokkelien, 2n5, 80n8, 92, 107n55 van Dijk-Hemmes, Fokkelien, 43, 92, 98 Van Dorsten, J. A., 12n4 vanity, 30, 30n48, 70, 118n9 Vaughan, Edward, 31 Vennard, Edward, 10, 91 Vested Interests (Garber), 140–141 Vickers, Nancy J., 135, 135n42 virginity versus motherhood, in Catholicism, 74 The Virtue of Necessity (Hobby), 69 virtue of women female silence and, 2, 2nn7–8, 5, 19, 27, 37n57 Old Testament references to, 9, 9n21, 9n23, 150 Wall, Wendy, 2, 37 Waller, Gary F., 13, 20, 21, 26–31, 26n39, 31n52 Warrior, Dancer, Seductress, Queen (Ackerman), 79 Waterhouse, Edward, 137, 138 weeping and tears, 54–59, 56, 57n21, 66 white/whiteness, 17, 21–24, 23nn32–33 whoring, 137–138, 138n48 Wiesner, Merry E., 136


“A Wife in Deed” (Gataker), 74 Wilson, Elkin Calhoun, 77–78, 78n4 wisdom, of women, 9, 9n21, 14, 16n19, 71, 82n14, 90–92, 149–151, 153 Women and Religion in England (Crawford), 59 “Women as Creators of Biblical Genres” (Goitein), 92, 98, 111 Women’s Speaking Justified (Fell), 4, 61, 151 Woodbridge, Linda, 136 Writing Women in Jacobean England (Lewalski), 49 writings of women. see also specific authors David’s influence on, 6, 10, 32, 33, 111, 123–127, 127n26, 129, 143–144, 146, 148, 148n53 Deborah’s influence on, 6, 9–10, 95–108, 97n40, 99n42, 110, 149 Hannah’s influence on, 9, 61, 62–63, 65–70, 70n38, 73, 75 Miriam’s influence on, 14–16, 42–43, 100n45 Old Testament, and influence on, 6, 8, 10 The Yearbook of English Studies (Lewalski), 105 Zim, Rivkah, 26n39, 35n54, 111