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Fatherly violence, motherly absence, servants' resistance in Shakespeare and his time

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Abstract:

This essay explores the significant roles played by non‐relatives who function as mother‐surrogates to endangered children. The essay introduces the non‐relatives, including servants, who intervene on behalf of passive mothers to confront violent masters/ fathers. The essay challenges the Renaissance dichotomy between loving biological parent and dangerous non‐biological parent by taking up various literary examples of violent fathers, passive mothers, and active non‐relatives who serve as the only protector/ guardian of the child in danger. The essay also points out the Renaissance addition of the active servant as a way to show a changing social environment. The resistance on the part of non‐relatives is a Renaissance addition to the medieval representations of famous stories of patient Griselda: Petrarch, Boccaccio, and Chaucer, focusing on the silent mother who easily succumbs to her husband's child murder, do not provide any equivalent to the Renaissance creation of non‐relatives as an active guardian of the child in danger. By focusing on the need for non‐biological parents who provide safety to children from their biological parents' violence, this essay explains why surrogate parents emerge as a necessity in Renaissance England and why tyrannous patriarchal violence is legitimately resisted.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1477-4658.2010.00699.x

Affiliations: North Greenville University

Publication date: November 1, 2011

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