Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Spring 1999 v39 i2 p357(2)

Fletcher's 'The Tragedie of Bonduca' and the anxieties of the masculine government of James I. Crawford, Julie.

Abstract: John Fletcher's drama 'The Tragedie of Bonduca' tells the story of an Iceni queen who challenged Roman rule and became famous through Elizabethan history as a national heroine, and a capable queen and warrior. It was originally performed in the first decade after the accession of James I. Some critics have characterized James with the brother of Bonduca named Caratach. Some even correlated the relationship between Bonduca and her brother with competing ideas of honor.

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1999 Rice University

Bonduca. A woman beat 'em . . . a weak woman, A woman beat these Romanes. Caratach. So it seems. A man would shame to talk so.


In the above exchange from John Fletcher's The Tragedie of Bonduca (1610-14), Bonduca (Boadicea) - the Iceni queen who challenged Roman rule and was praised throughout British, particularly Elizabethan, history as a national heroine, female worthy, and capable queen and warrior - is rendered boastful and incompetent: a man would shame to talk as she does. Caratach, historically a brother or cousin of Boadicea, is the "real" hero of Fletcher's play. Swetonius, the Roman governor of occupied Britain, dismisses Bonduca as a "proud woman" but speaks respectfully of Caratach as the central threat against Roman occupation: "The vertues of the valiant Caratach / More doubts me then all Britain."(1) Caratach himself further rebukes Bonduca, declaring that she is, like most women, not a conqueror at all, "but a talker" (I.i.24). Afar being represented as incapable and thus in need of male governance and guidance, Bonduca asks, "What wouldst thou make me, Caratach?" (I.i.127), reestablishing the proper patriarchal order of things in which men are the makers of society and the rulers of women.

Bonduca was originally performed in the first decade after James I's accession, and some critics have seen Caratach as a figure for James, while others have interpreted the relationship between Caratach and Bonduca in terms of gendered responses to war and as representative of competing ideas of honor.(2) In this paper I build upon such readings by examining the play's topical and political implications in terms of the functional problematics of James's reign and his relationship to Elizabeth I. I do not offer a reading that posits one-to-one topical corollaries (that James I is Caratach and Elizabeth I is Bonduca), but I do argue that Fletcher's Bonduca articulates an important cross-section of anxieties and conceptual shifts about women worthies and male homosociality that alludes to the court and reign of James I. The figure of Boadicea as a powerful, warlike, or "Amazonian" woman identified with British nationalism necessarily constituted a challenge to the official ideology of James's court. Fletcher's Bonduca, with its emphasis on military loyalty and honor, contains the threat Boadicea represented, but the imaginative reformulation is not absolute. Fletcher's play seems to promote a male ruler's usurpation of a woman warrior's historical and representational role when Caratach denigrates and displaces Bonduca, but Caratach himself is not unequivocally heroic. Just as James's homoerotic and even sodomitical behaviors compromised the homosociality of his court and further troubled public perception of his ability to govern England, in Bonduca, Caratach's overzealous allegiance to male alliances and affinity for all things Roman trouble his heroism and cast doubt on his ability to serve the Britons.

The Amazon, as critics have pointed out, was a multi-valenced representational force during Elizabeth's reign.(3) The specter of the Amazon was wielded to warn against the rule of women, as in John Knox's First Blast against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558), but it was more often used to flatter the reigning monarch. Winfried Schleiner and Gabriele Bernhard Jackson remark that "only 'good' Amazons appeared in entertainments and masques in Elizabeth's presence" and that "Elizabethan stage Amazons are all either neutral or positive."(4) Elizabeth was specifically identified with Amazons in 1579, when in the presence of the agent of Elizabeth's suitor Alencon, "an entertainment in imitation of a tournament between six ladies and a like number of gentlemen, who surrendered to them,"(5) was performed, suggesting a comparison between Elizabeth and the victorious Amazons on the one hand, and between Alencon and the surrendering gentlemen on the other.(6) Supporters of Elizabeth also used "female worthies," historical and powerful biblical women of repute, to justify or buttress the idea of female rule. Celeste Turner Wright points out that female worthies were used to discredit the Salic law of France which debarred women from the throne, and to display the practicability of a "gynecracie." Specifically, she notes that "[a] female Worthy is a queen or leader manifesting the same kind of excellence as a Hector, David, or an Arthur," and that it is often Boadicea who is compared to Arthur and seen as the ultimate English female worthy.(7) Boadicea is in many ways the prototypical Amazonian female worthy and thus the most appropriate and deployable allegorical representation of Queen Elizabeth.

In an essay on Boadicea, Sharon Macdonald discusses some of the ways in which the reign of Elizabeth specifically invoked the memory and myth of Boadicea. The manuscripts of Tacitus and Dio Cassius, which record the life of Boadicea, were largely unknown to medieval historians, and it was not until the sixteenth century that she again appears in English histories.(8) Antonia Fraser points out that the story of Boadicea had already been introduced to readers in Latin through the English History (probably 1512-13) of Polydore Vergil.(9) Significantly, the first English translation of Tacitus (by Sir Henry Savile in 1591), which includes Boadicea's story, was dedicated in flattering terms to Queen Elizabeth herself.(10)

Stories of Boadicea and her rebellion against the Romans flourished during Elizabeth's reign and the evaluation of it that continued after her death. In many cases, previous accounts of Boadicea's life were used selectively and "reinterpreted" to provide commentary on Contemporary politics, as though the problem of a powerful woman could be dealt with most safely through the intermediary of a historical female figure.(11) Sharon Macdonald notes that "[t]wo of the Boadicea myths - namely, that she was Queen of England, and that she was victorious - were both prevalent in literature at this time," and that other ingredients of the myth, notably Boadicea's motherhood, her daughters, and the rape of her daughters, were ignored in praises of the Virgin Queen.(12) Such Elizabethan representations of Boadicea were similar to Elizabethan representations of Amazons, which, as Wright points out, "were arbitrary in selecting parts for emphasis."(13)

There was a noticeable shift in representations of powerful women after James ascended to the throne, however, and many Jacobean representations of Amazons were somewhat less than ambiguous: "Beaumont and Fletcher [in The Sea-Voyage (1622)] located [the Amazons'] imaginary colony behind a black lake avoided by even the stag as more fearful than death."(14) Women warriors and queens did not escape reconceptualization either. Most importantly for this paper, the mythology and the literary representations of Boadicea changed dramatically after James's ascension, softening and domesticating her into powerlessness.(15) The fact that Fletcher has a hero - not a heroine - at the center of Bonduca stands in marked contrast to Elizabethan texts such as Spenser's The Faerie Queene (1590), in which Britomart, a woman warrior and explicit allegory of Elizabeth, saves the nation.

On one level, Fletcher's Bonduca can be read as a marker of the troubled representational possibilities of the virago in the Jacobean reign, and as a parody, or at least representation, of Elizabeth. After James accedes to the throne, viragos and warrior women are no longer celebrated and rarely even ambivalently represented either textually or on stage; instead, they are grouped with all gender-subversive women. In fact, the interrelated types of the Amazon, the warrior woman, the cross-dressing woman, and the witch, all of which are condemned in the querelle des femmes and contemporary controversies about the nature of women, are relevant to the ideological policing of James's reign, and to the representation of women in Bonduca.(16)

When James I succeeded as king of England, the throne had been occupied for more than half a century by women, and James offered the promise of succession from father to firstborn male: "One panegyrist exclaimed in 1610, seven years after James's accession, 'O happy English, that have no more women and children for your king, but a King full of strength.'"(17) However, as literary historians have remarked, within a few years after the king's accession, Elizabeth was being recalled with a fervent nostalgia.(18) James himself was anxious about the specter of Elizabeth: "No one, M. Sully noted, could come into the king's presence dressed in mourning black in memory of Queen Elizabeth. Indeed, 'so strong an affectation prevailed [at court] to obliterate the memory of that great princess, that she was never spoke of, and even the mention of her name industriously avoided.'"(19)

James defined his reign, in many ways, in opposition to Elizabeth's. In turn, Elizabeth's image, according to Leah Marcus, "functioned in Stuart England as a symbol for civic and parliamentary opponents of James's absolutism."(20) As critics have pointed out, James consciously placed a "Roman stamp on his reign," particularly in respect to claims for imperial precedent and absolutism, and James's critics were leery of his Roman identifications.(21) Throughout 1610, when Bonduca was first performed, king and parliament debated over royal prerogative, and James ultimately dissolved parliament in 1611. Furthermore, James gained a reputation as being pro-Spanish and pro-Catholic - "Romish" - rather than the Protestant figurehead the Protestant English had hoped for. Among the Jacobean policies that made the English uncomfortable was James's project for a union of England and Scotland, a desire which led to the English "muttering patriotic slogans about their nation's safety in isolation . . . stating serious reservations, on grounds of legal and religious principles, about James I's strong identification with Roman ideas and institutions."(22) Protestants felt betrayed by James's peacemaking in the 1610-11 unrest following the assassination of Henry IV of France, and "[o]pposition writing used [Elizabeth's] reign as an example to the corrupt, Catholic-flirting court of James the peace-maker."(23)

Just as James resisted the specter of Elizabeth, the representation of powerful women was also, apparently, unwelcome in his court. I refer here to a masque that was not played at court, The Masque of Amazons, prepared by Lady Hay for New Years Night, 1617-18. For some unexplained reason - "neither the Queen nor King did like or allow of it" - the king and queen refused to allow The Masque of Amazons to be presented.(24) The reason for this refusal seems to lie with both the presenters and the represented; James did not want women performing Amazonian roles in his court, even as entertainment.

As Stephen Orgel and Jonathan Goldberg have shown, masques were serious business in the Jacobean court and were often employed to celebrate the official ideologies of the court. Particularly in Ben Jonson's The Masque of Queens Celebrated from the House of Fame, by the queen of Great Britain with her ladies, written for James's wife Queen Anne, 2 February 1609 - which represents both Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons, and Boadicea - women sovereigns were anxiously reinscribed in the national imaginary.(25) Both Orgel and Goldberg suggest that in this masque, in which a male martial hero, Perseus, overcomes war-like women (the Gorgon sisters, witches), Jonson writes something of a patriarchal family drama. Orgel argues that The Masque of Queens rewrites the Elizabethan past and James's own problematic relationship to two powerful women, Elizabeth and Mary. Although women rulers appear in the masque, queens, like James's (Bel-Anna), are merely figureheads. In both Orgel's and Goldberg's interpretations, no power inheres in the women; the specter of female evil - female power - is negated and overruled by the forces of heroic masculinity.(26)

Significantly, on the same day that The Masque of Amazons was supposed to be presented at James's court, James made his favorite courtier, George Villiers, the marquis of Buckingham, and there was a great feast for him that evening.(27) The fact that the suppression of a masque celebrating female power coincided with a dinner celebration of one of the king's favorite male courtiers - done "for the affection [James] bore him, more than ever he did to any man" - may be coincidental in terms of specific dates, but not in terms of court values.(28) This juxtaposition of events crystallizes the homoeroticism and male-centrism of James's court, one which allowed no representational space for powerful women. As I will show, the seemingly anti-woman, pro-male sentiment of Fletcher's Bonduca is ideologically related to such juxtapositions of values and validation and the resituating of the place of women in the English court.

In Fletcher's Bonduca, women are represented as whores, witches, monsters, poor rulers, Amazons, and "desperate" (I.ii.199). They are a threat both to male control and national safety. Bonduca's daughters, historical rape victims, are, in Fletcher's play, Amazonian monsters who exploit their threatening sexuality to lure men into captivity. When Bonduca's second daughter learns of the Roman soldier Junius's love for her, she uses it to gain advantage over the Romans. The daughters behave with cruelty, treating their captured Romans "unfairly." For example, when they treacherously capture Junius and some fellow Roman soldiers, Bonduca's daughters reverse the courting ritual:

2. Daughter. Bring 'em in,

Tie 'em, and then unarm 'em.

1. Daughter. Valiant Romans,

Ye are welcome to your Loves.

2. Daughter. Your death, fools.

(III.v. 26-8)

The daughters' act of disarming the men, and verbal play on the idea of love as death, caters to misogynist fears that male love for women is emasculating and can endanger more important (military) causes. Similarly, the "[i]nsulting wrongs, and ravishments of women" (III.i.28) that the daughters are trying to avenge (one daughter asks, "Are they [the Romans who raped them] not our tormentors?" [II.iii.40]) are not at issue; the play's concern is with how women threaten the solidarity, masculinity, and inviolability of men, regardless of the national identity or criminal behavior of those men. As is clear in the following admonition from Caratach - who comes to free the wrongly besieged Roman soldiers - women are to be banished from any honorable military or societal role:

A womans wisdome in our triumphs? Out, Out ye sluts, ye follies; from our swords Filch our revenges basely? Arm again, Gentlemen:

2. Daughter. By - Uncle, We will have vengeance for our rapes. Caratach. By - You should have kept your legs close then.

(III.v.66-71; emphasis added)

The crime in this play, according to Caratach, is disarming men, not rape. What was historically the virtuous heroism of Boadicea's daughters (avenging their rapes, which were also conceived of as a violation of their nation), is replaced by Caratach's assertion of their inherent culpability and weakness: they should have kept their legs closed. Through this judgment, Caratach also makes it clear that his alliance is with soldiers - even enemy soldiers - not women, and that he is concerned less with female honor, or national vengeance, than he is with male honor.

Caratach aggressively discourages women's involvement in the world of military politics. When Caratach asks if the Romans were taken by Bonduca's daughters through treacherous means, and the first daughter asks, "Is't not allow'd?" (III.v.63), she reveals that she, like her mother, misunderstands the rules of soldierly honor and war. Ultimately, the rules of the game are not only male but also must be played out by men; as Caratach says, there will be no "womans wisdome in [their] triumphs." Rather than the heroic leadership recorded in earlier histories, Bonduca's contribution to the war effort, according to Caratach, is "fretfull prayers . . . whinings, and . . . tame petitions" (III.i.55-6).

When Caratach commands Bonduca's daughters to rearm/remasculate the Roman soldiers ("Give 'em their swords" [III.v.80]), he also returns the daughters to a domestic, private sphere, ordering the soldiers to "[b]ear off the women / Unto their Mother" (III.v.80-1). When the daughters bemoan their fate, Caratach says, "Learn to spin, / And curse your knotted hemp" (III.v.84-5), asserting that women's fate, like their social and domestic role, is preordained. When Bonduca herself attempts to aid the war effort a second time, Caratach reprimands her in a similar way:

Why do you offer to command? the divell, The divell, and his dam too, who bid you Meddle in mens affairs? Bonduca. I'll help all. Caratach. Home, Home and spin woman, spin, go spin, ye trifle.


In the same exchange, Caratach positions Bonduca both as a witch (a woman commanded by the devil), and as a disempowered, domesticated woman, a positioning that reflects James's own well-publicized opinions about women's roles.

Caratach's injunction against Bonduca addresses several related concerns about women's roles in the Stuart court. First is the clear gendering of social roles. In his History of Scotland, George Buchanan, tutor to the young King James of Scotland, discusses the unnaturalness of female government and soldiership in terms similar to Caratach's: "Tis no less unbecoming [in] a Woman to pronounce Judgment, to levy Forces, to conduct an Army, to give a Signal to the Battle, than it is for a man to tease Wool, to handle the Distaff, to Spin or Card, and to perform the Services of the Weaker Sex. For that which was reckoned 'Fortitude and Severity' in a man turned to 'Madness and Cruelty' in a woman."(29)

Caratach makes it equally clear that men are to "levy forces" and women are to "spin or card." Secondly, Caratach's punishment of Bonduca is an inversion of the Amazonian punishment for men (Hercules forced to spin thread under the command of Omphale; Artegall under Radigund); by commanding Bonduca to spin, Caratach implicitly denies warrior women the right to reject their allotted fate as domesticated members of the social order. The notable history of warrior women who particularly hated needlework and spinning (Britomart, Clorinda, Long Meg) for its very domestic and passive connotations is evoked, and then defused.(30) Finally, and most importantly, Caratach's command for Bonduca to go "[h]ome and spin woman" alludes very specifically to James's attitudes about women's roles and to the now-famous story of James's encounter with a "learned Maid." After being told that a certain young woman could speak and read Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, James asked merely, "But can she spin?"(31) Caratach's insistence that the women of England return to spinning and other "trifling" matters would not be lost on the Jacobean audience.

This ultimate conscription of women's lives in Bonduca is made clear when the women discuss what is, within the parameters of the play, their only possible avenue of resistance: suicide. One daughter asks her sister, "What would ye live to be?" and Bonduca replies for her, "A whore still" (IV. iv. 97-8), cynically (re)articulating the possibilities for their lives under Roman rule. When Swetonius asks Bonduca to "[y]eeld, and be a Queen still, / A mother, and a friend" (IV.iv.94-5), offering her a falsely-assured social position, we know that his desire that she stay and "[b]e any thing" (IV.iv.140) cannot but be an ironic echo of Bonduca's earlier comment on her own powerlessness and subjection: "What wouldst thou make me, Caratach?" (I.i.127).

Shortly after Bonduca acknowledges her powerlessness, Caratach blames her for the destruction of the nation she believed she was defending. Bonduca, once represented as the valorous defender of Britain, is now deemed its destroyer:

O thou woman, Thou agent for adversities, what curses This day belong to thy improvidence? To Britanie by thy means, what sad millions Of widows weeping eyes? The strong mans valour Thou hast betraid to fury; the childes fortune To fear, and want of friends: whose pieties Might wipe his mournings off, and build his sorrows A house of rest by his blest ancestors: The virgins thou hast rob'd of all their wishes, Blasted their blowing hopes, turn'd their songs, Their mirthful Marriage songs to Funerals, The Land thou hast left a wildernesse of wretches.


Caratach's final word on Bonduca is that she has left Britain "a wildernesse of wretches" and destroyed the fabric of society (the lives of widows, men, children, virgins). In other words, Caratach's indictment of Bonduca supports the idea that women involved in public matters threaten (male) British cohesion and hegemony. The turnaround in the representation of Boadicea/Bonduca is complete: Caratach presents the British heroine as the enemy.(32)

Yet this is not the entire picture. Just as it is possible to read Bonduca as a demonized Elizabeth, the topical reading of Caratach as James is equally convincing. As has already been noted, there are parallels between James's and Caratach's problematic nationalism and love of all things "Roman." In his essay on Bonduca, Paul Green notes that throughout the play Fletcher provides continual clues to the British general's attachment to Rome and his movement away from his own troops.(33) Out of admiration for what he sees as their honor, Caratach feeds and frees the Roman soldiers, including Judas, who will later kill Caratach's nephew Hengo. In Bonduca, Caratach's loyalty to men (Roman soldiers) ultimately overrides his loyalty to Britain, and at the end of the play he capitulates to Rome. In fact, the play allows a reading that Caratach and his complicated alliances endanger his ability to serve Britain. That it is Caratach who accuses Bonduca of destroying England suggests that his version is not necessarily the only way to read the play's concerns with leadership and nationalism.

At this point, I turn to a related discussion about male alliances in the court of James I. From the beginning of his reign,James's (real or suspected) loyalties to the Scots and the Catholics, and his personal alliances with his male favorites, were sources of suspicion about his fitness to rule England. A Report on England presented by the Venetian Ambassador to the Government of Venice in 1607 describes James as an unpopular and unsuccessful sovereign: "He does not caress the people nor make them that good cheer the late Queen did, whereby she won their loves... this king manifests no taste for them but rather contempt and dislike. The result is he is despised and almost hated. In fact his Majesty is more inclined to live retired with eight or ten of his favourites than openly, than is the custom of the country and the desire of the people."(34) The report records some discomfort with James's male-specific reclusive court, pointing out that it is structured both against English custom and without the acceptance of the populace.

In The Court and Character of King James I, Sir Anthony Weldon states that James "was naturally of a timorous disposition... his beard was very thin . . . his skin was soft as taffeta sarsnet . . . his legs were very weake . . . that weaknese made him ever leaning on other men's shoulders; his walke was ever circular, his fingers ever in that walke fidling about his cod-piece . . . he was very constant in all things, (his favourites excepted), in which he loved change."(35) James is represented not only as effeminate (thin beard, soft skin), but as phallically-fixated: "his fingers ever in that walke fidling about his cod-piece." The nature of James's affection for men also caused anxiety among his subjects, as is evident in the following evaluation from Francis Osborne: "Nor was [James's] love . . . carried on with a discretion sufficient to cover a lesse scandalous behaviour; for the kings kissing [his favorites] after so lascivious a mode in publick, and upon the theatre, as it were, of the world, prompted many to imagine some things done in the tyring house, that exceed my expression no lesse then they do my experience."(36) The nonpublic "things done in the tyring house" were, of course, sodomitical.(37) The allusions to secrecy, imagination, and the theater - "upon the theatre, as it were, of the world" - invoke Philip Stubbes's evaluation of the outcome of theatergoing in The Anatomie of Abuses (1583): "[t]han these goodly pageants being done, every mate sorts to his mate, every one bringes another homeward of their way verye freendly and in their secret conclaves (covertly) they play the sodomits or worse."(38) The sorts of things done in secret ("sodomy," as Alan Bray points out in Homosexuality in Renaissance England, also represented a wide range of activities disloyal to and subversive of the social order) could be guessed at only from outward manifestations and behaviors.(39) Criticism levied against James cast aspersions on his manliness, honor, and his ability to rule - his public persona - and was easily read through the already anxiety-laden optic of sodomy.

The connections I draw between the homosociality and homoeroticism of the court of James I and Bonduca are not absolute; the militarized, ancient Roman arena in which the play is set adds inescapable elements of honor and historical distancing to the representation of male alliances. Unlike the warlike Caratach, James was seen as weak and "a man who naturally loved not the sight of a souldier, nor of any valiant man."(40) Yet, like Caratach, James's primary loyalties were to men. His male alliances, associated as they were with homoeroticism and sodomy, threatened the acceptability of male homosociality.(41) Sir John Oglander reported the king as saying, when told that his subjects came out of love to see him, "God's wounds! I will pull down my breeches and they shall also see my arse."(42) James's comment, which is at once sexual and contemptuous, suggests the extent to which James himself rendered his court sodomitical, with all its threatening connotations.

Fletcher employs similar metaphorical representations of male homoeroticism in his portrayal of male rule and power in Bonduca. Homoeroticism, as both Jonathan Dollimore and Bruce Smith point out, finds its allowable dramatic expression not in James's lascivious kissing, but in man-to-man combat, a more acceptable, if violent, form of male physical interaction. Smith suggests that desire in tragedies and history plays exists more often between men than between men and women, and that it is man-to-man combat which "occasions the rhetoric of homoerotic desire."(43) Indeed, as evinced in the following speech made by Caratach, this is how male/male interaction is played out in Bonduca:

I love an enemy: I was born a souldier; And he that in the head on's Troop defies me, Bending my manly body with his sword, I make a Mistris. Yellow-tressed Hymen Ne'er ty'd a longing Virgin with more joy, Then I am married to that man that wounds me.


Throughout Bonduca, male alliances are validated, and male love for women is seen as threatening to male power. When the Roman Junius falls in love with Bonduca's daughter, his fellow soldiers see it is as a threat to male military strength and solidarity, and attempt to dissuade Junius from his affection with gynophobic comments and to displace his love for women with the desirable ideal of male combat. Consider, for example, Petillius's speech to Junius:

Love no more great Ladies, Thou canst not step amisse then; there's no delight in 'em; All's in the whistling of their snatcht up silks; They're onely made for handsome view, not handling; Their bodies of so weak and wash a temper, A rough-pac'd bed will shake 'em all to pieces;

They live in cullisses like rotten cocks Stew'd to a tendernesse, that holds no tack: Give me a thing I may crush.

(IV.i.30-41; emphasis added)(44)

The arena of the "rough-pac'd bed" places the sexual failings of women (who are "stew'd to a tendernesse") in contrast to something better, presumably physical interaction - "handling" - with a man.(45) The thing a man "may crush," is, of course, another man, a concept which supports Jonathan Dollimore's explanation of the erotic paradox of alliance/violence between male soldiers. Dollimore points out that in Beaumont and Fletcher's plays, "valorous males" often "oscillate between honorable antagonism and honorable alliance in an almost erotic state of arousal," enacting "that always unstable disjunction between identification (imitative alliance) and desire."(46)

In one scene, the Roman Judas expresses his admiration for Caratach in terms that are conscious of the tension between sexual desire and soldierly combat:

Judas. We are Roman boyes all, And boyes of mettle: I must doe that Captain, This day, this very day. Decius. Away, ye Rascal. Judas. Fair words, I say again. Decius. What must you doe, Sir? Judas. I must do that my heart-strings yern to do: But my word's past. Decius. What is it? Judas. Why, kill Caratach.

(II.iv. 65-70; emphasis added)

There is an obvious play on "do" and "die" in this exchange; to "do" is not only to act but also to copulate.(47) Judas's desire to "do" the captain is a play on both the desire to vanquish and the desire to have sex with him. The seemingly disingenuous final line - "Why, kill Caratach" - underlines the homoerotic import of what his "heart-strings yern to do." Death is highly eroticized, not only in terms of orgasm as a "little death," but also in the sense that death is always, as Smith points out, the end of homoerotic desire.(48)

In another scene, young Hengo sees his uncle Caratach fighting a Roman, and says

Kill him, dear Uncle, kill him; one good blow To knock his brains into his breech: strike's head off, That I may pisse in's face.


As in James's comment about greeting his subjects - "I will pull down my breeches and they shall also see my arse" - Hengo's comment intertwines insult, eroticism, sodomy, and violence. The ostensibly virtuous homosocial nature of soldierly interaction can be violent and disruptive as well as cohesive. The Roman soldier Judas's threat to Hengo also raises the specter of sodomy: "Yeeld willingly, your uncle's out of hearing; / I'll tickle your young tail else" (IV.ii.51-2).Judas's references to "breech," "tail," and "pisse" - as well as his clear threat of violent rape - highlight the paradox of male alliance/violence, and belie the valorous nature of the ways men interact in the play.

Caratach brings Hengo, the future of his reign ("this bud of Britain" [I.i.114]), and indeed his own sexualized minion ("[m]y sweet chicken" [V.i.27]), with him into battle. Caratach informs Hengo of the violently martial - and homoerotic - nature of his future:

And, little Sir, when your young bones grow stiffer, And when I see ye able in a morning To beat a dozen boys, and then to breakfast, I'll tye ye to a sword.


Hengo says that the enemy soldiers "look / Like emptie scabbards, all, no mettle in 'em" (II.iii.61-2), representing the enemy as an arena to be penetrated, and enters into the homoerotic and violent economy dutifully and willingly - "see how I charge this staff" (IV. ii.68).(49) It is clear that Hengo's participation in this ethos is his induction into Caratach's world, which will, however, be short-lived.

Significantly, when Caratach banishes the women from the battlefield, Hengo wants to escape as well, but Caratach refuses to let him:

No boy, thy fortune's mine, I must not leave thee; get behind me; shake not, I'll breech ye, if ye do boy.


Not only does Caratach further affirm that it is a man's world, but he outlines the appropriate behaviors for membership in such a world and the punishments for failure to declare appropriate loyalties and alliances. Caratach enacts a literal separation of the boys from the women, coded in consciously gendered, as well as sexually threatening, terms ("I'll breech ye, if ye do").(50)

Whether or not the limited representational sphere of Bonduca renders male homosociality and homoerotic desire acceptable, even heroic or kingly, in many ways, the male alliances of Bonduca stand in contrast to the condemnatory contemporary accounts of James I's homoerotic activities. Can a male-only court, somewhat reminiscent of Edward II's semi-ironic approbation that even "[t]he mightiest kings have had their minions,"(51) be rendered acceptable by implicit comparison with noble soldiers or the ideal of male friendship? Perhaps, but I think the play questions the extent to which the Roman setting legitimates such a male-centered order. In fact, despite the surface acceptability of the Roman setting, and the heroic military nature of the male/male relationships, I argue that the play not only questions the nature of such alliances and desires - threatened as they are by sodomy and other treasons - but also criticizes Caratach's defense of Britain. Further, through its critique of Caratach and his "Roman" alliances, as well as through the varied representations of Bonduca herself, Bonduca also implicitly criticizes James's rule.

Hengo's death is central to this criticism. The play presents Hengo's death as preordained - "I was born to die, Sir" (V.iii.150) - in much the same way as contemporary accounts depicted the death of Prince Henry, James's son: "Prince Henry . . . the Darling of Mankind . . . was too soon Man, to be long liv'd."(52) Caratach's failure to save Hengo is in some ways similar to James's relationship to his son Henry.(53) Like the memory of Elizabeth, Henry was the focus of Protestant opposition to James, as well as a hero for the old Elizabethan war party who saw Henry - who was admired, and often represented, as a heroic soldier - as an alternative to James.(54) The year 1610 marked Henry's full arrival on the public stage, culminating in his investiture as Prince of Wales in June.(55) Henry stood in relation to James's rule of England as a displaced variable in much the same way as Hengo stands in relation to Caratach and the future of Britain.(56) Caratach's highly emotional eulogy to Hengo, "[f]arewell the hopes of Britain, / Thou Royall graft, farewell for ever" (V.iii.160-1; emphasis added), highlights the fact that the "Royall graft" - the future of England - is dead. Hengo is literally killed by the enemy - the Romans - but his death is also a result of Caratach's shortsightedness. The end of Caratach's putatively homosocial and yet destructively homoerotic political economy is the death of Hengo, the "bud of Britain." Caratach, in short, sends Britain to its death.

The homosociality Caratach enacts in Bonduca is ostensibly honorable, yet Caratach's comment, "where we have found vertue, though in those / That came to make us slaves, let's cherish it" (I.i.138-9) is also dangerous. If male loyalties (to foreign soldiers) supersede a leader's duties as nation defender, they are problematic; such admiration can make Britons slaves. The alliance of honor and homosociality leads Caratach to choose Roman men like Judas not only over Bonduca's daughters, but also over the safety of Hengo, and thus of England. With the non-nation-specific nature of soldierliness, the Roman soldiers call Caratach "[t]he king of all good-fellows" (II.iv.55), and he in turn rescues them from the non-honorable treacherousness of Bonduca's daughters. At first it seems that Caratach is a nationalist, defending the Britons against the Romans:

But where we grapple for the ground we live on, The Libertie we hold as dear as life, The gods we worship, and next those, our Honours, And with those swords that know no end of Battel:

Let's use the peace of Honour, that's fair dealing, But in our ends, our swords. That hardy Romane That hopes to graft himself into my stock, Must first begin his kindred under ground, And be alli'd in ashes.

(I.i.159-74; emphasis added)

Yet Caratach allows Hengo - the graft of English stock - to be killed by the Romans Caratach himself freed. Despite his claims to the contrary, Caratach allows Rome to subsume Britain.

Interestingly, Bonduca opens the third act of the play with a nationalist plea similar to that of Caratach quoted above:

Rise from the dust, ye relicks of the dead, Whose noble deeds our holy Druids sing, Oh rise, ye valiant bones, let not base earth Oppresse your honours, whilest the pride of Rome Treads on your Stocks, and wipes out all your stories.

(III.i.12-6; emphasis added)

The play, at least on some levels, aggressively "wipes out [some] stories" of English history - such as Bonduca's heroism - much in the same way that the reign of James attempted to "wipe out" all memory of Queen Elizabeth specifically, and the positive representation of female worthies or powerful women generally. It is equally notable, however, that Bonduca was right: Rome does tread on Britain's stocks. The stronghold of British power - and history and "stories" - is only as powerful as the current ruler renders it or allows it to be rendered. Thus although the play seems to render Bonduca powerless, she is the only Briton who truly recognizes the Roman threat to her nation.

There are further indications of Bonduca's heroism in the play. When Swetonius says that "[t]here's nothing done /Till [Bonduca] be seiz'd; without her nothing won" (IV.i.70-1), he acknowledges her historical role as a warrior. When Decius tells her to yield, Bonduca replies, "I am unacquainted with that language, Roman" (IV.iv.9), and responds to his injunction that she "must adore and fear the power of Rome" (IV. iv.14) with the following nationalist homily:

'tis fitter I should reverence The thatched houses where the Britains dwell In carelesse mirth, where the blest houshold gods See nought but chaste and simple puritie. 'Tis not high power that makes a place divine, Nor that the men from gods derive their line. But sacred thoughts in holy bosoms stor'd Make people noble, and the place ador'd.


Simon Shepherd points out that Bonduca rejects the false religion of Rome (Catholicism) and that "[a]gainst it is placed the religion of common households, the religion of the family, that is British."(57) In contrast to Bonduca's reverence for thatched houses and household gods, Caratach absorbs Roman ideals and loyalties in a disturbingly simple manner:

Caratach. I am for Rome? Swetonius. Ye must. Caratach. Then Rome shall know The man that makes her spring of glory grow.


Caratach ends up grafting himself onto Roman stock, in a direct inversion of his original nationalist intent. Significantly, Bonduca is a nationalist to the end - a nationalist of the people - telling her enemies, "[p]lace in your Romane flesh a Britain soul" (IV.iv.153); Bonduca dies a nationalist, Caratach lives a traitor. Fletcher does not present Bonduca's destructiveness and Caratach's heroism as unequivocal; Bonduca may be belittled as a warrior and as a woman, but Caratach capitulates to the enemy; Bonduca may be demonized, but it is Caratach who demonizes her.(58) It is possible to read the play as allowing Bonduca, and perhaps by comparison, Elizabeth, to stand in implicit reproval to the ruling male.

Despite his popularity at James's court and his relationship with the King's Men, Fletcher was not an unequivocal royalist. Philip J. Finkelpearl argues that Fletcher's patron, Henry Hastings, fifth earl of Huntingdon, was a Puritan, anti-Court, "James-persecuted" country lord, and that Fletcher was not as indebted to the court as is commonly believed.(59) Finkelpearl argues that Fletcher wanted James to go to war with Spain, and that "attitudes implicit in some of his plays [reveal] his dismay at the frivolity and extravagance of James's court."(60) Again, James's alliances and loyalties - with the Scots, with Catholic countries, with his favorites - occasioned suspicion on the part of his English subjects, including those who wrote plays. Although plays were censored for being overly critical of James, and John Day was imprisoned for The Isle of Gulls (1606) which satirized James's hunting, boasting, and devotion to favorites, such critical works obviously existed in various degrees of audacity, and James did not have complete control over theaters or the political dissidence expressed therein).(61) Furthermore, Robert Y. Turner notes that by 1607 or 1608 another anxiety about James emerged and was exploited by Fletcher's plays, "that of living under an implacable and inescapable monarch."(62) Turner suggests that Fletcher criticizes tyrannical kings on stage but also depicts subjects who are both heroic and loyal.(63) In other words, Turner suggests that Fletcher wrote as much to please varied audiences as he did to please the king.(64) One cannot assume that Fletcher - whose plays were performed both at the Globe and the Blackfriars, as well as at court - was committed to representing kings, or James, in the best possible light.(65)

Bonduca's ambiguity about the "heroism" and good governance of the male ruler, Caratach, does, I argue, reflect contemporary ambivalence about James as a ruler. Caratach is ostensibly the hero of the play, redressing the dangerous interventions of a woman warrior and defending his country, yet he is also criticized. His leadership leads to the death of Hengo (who symbolizes the future of Britain), the loss of his country, and his own capitulation to Rome. Like James, Caratach is in some ways a Romish (Catholic and/or absolutist) king, whose patriotism is suspect, who is more concerned with his love for men, and for making suspect alliances, than with his job as defender of Britain. The thatched-roofed, people- and family-focused, militant nationalism that Bonduca evinces in the play can be - and I think is meant to be - favorably contrasted with the Few Good Men ethos of Caratach who chooses masculine alliance over his country. Caratach, the leader who displaces and denigrates the Briton queen, fails at the job he accuses Bonduca of being incapable of doing. In the end, the play does not fully demonize Bonduca. Like the mythologized Elizabeth, who was not to be mourned in James's court, and yet was still very much a presence, Bonduca remains in some ways the nostalgic specter of a glorious past, a true, if forever lost, defender of Britain. In Bonduca, as in Jacobean England, the question of who can best serve and protect England remains perilously unanswered.


1 John Fletcher, The Tragedie of Bonduca, ed. Cyrus Hoy, in The Dramatic Works in the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon, 10 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1979), 4:149-259, I.ii.254-5. Subsequent references to the play will be cited parenthetically in the text.

2 In a brief discussion of Bonduca as a rare example of a negative representation of Boadicea (who was more often a figure of praise for Elizabeth I), Sharon Macdonald states that "[t]he hero of [Fletcher's] play is Caratacke (Caractacus) who represents James" ("Boadicea: Warrior, Mother and Myth," in Images of Women in Peace and War: Cross-Cultural and Historical Perspectives, ed. Sharon Macdonald, Pat Holden, and Shirley Ardener [Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1988], pp. 40-61, 49). Simon Shepherd does not explicitly compare Fletcher's Caratach with James, but he does suggest connections between Caratach's and James's attitudes to women. See Amazons and Warrior Women.' Varieties of Feminism in Seventeenth-Century Drama (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1981), p. 148. Both Macdonald and Shepherd discuss the prevalence of stories about Boadicea during the Elizabethan period, but neither compares Fletcher's Bonduca with Elizabeth. In "'I am unacquainted with that language, Roman': Male and Female Experiences of War in Fletcher's Bonduca," Alison Calder examines the different responses that women (as opposed to men) have to war, particularly in terms of the specter of rape (MRDE 8 [1996]: 211-26). Paul D. Green discusses the competing ideas of English and Roman honor in "Theme and Structure in Fletcher's Bonduca," SEL 22, 2 (Spring 1982): 305-16, and Andrew Hickman responds to his thesis in "Bonduca's Two Ignoble Armies and The Two Noble Kinsmen," MRDE 4 (1989): 143-72.

3 See Celeste Turner Wright, "The Amazons in Elizabethan Literature," SP 37, 3 (July 1940): 433-56, and Winfried Schleiner, "Divina Virago: Queen Elizabeth as an Amazon," SP 75, 2 (Spring 1978): 163-80.

4 Schleiner, p. 163, and Gabriele Bernhard Jackson, "Topical Ideology: Witches, Amazons, and Shakespeare's Joan of Arc," ELR 18, 1 (Winter 1988): 40-65, 51. Representations of Amazons and warrior women were not uniformly positive, however. For example, Gabriele Jackson reads Shakespeare's Joan de Pucelle in I Henry VI (1589-90) as a "double-valenced Amazon figure . . . an anti-Elizabeth, a parodic non-virgin whose soldiership (finally) fails" (p. 56).

5 Calendar of Letters and State Papers Relating to English Affairs Preserved Principally in &e; Archives of Simancas, ed. M. A. S. Hume (London, 1892-99), 2:630, qtd. in Schleiner, p. 164 n. 3.

6 A Masque of the Amazons . . . played March 3, 1592, Henslowe's diary, qtd. in William Painter, The Palace of Pleasure, ed. Joseph Jacobs, 3 vols. (London, 1890) 1:lxxxi; John Nichols, The Progresses, Processions, and Magnificent Festivities of King James the First, Volume III (London: J. B. Nichols, 1828), p. 539. There are other examples of Elizabeth-as-virago. Wright points out that the 1588 Spanish Armada occasioned allusions to Elizabeth as an Amazon, some of which referred to her as Angla virago or Britanna virago (Wright, "The Amazons," p. 443).

7 Celeste Turner Wright, "The Elizabethan Female Worthies," SP 43 (October 1946): 628-43,641-2,629.

8 Macdonald, p. 46.

9 Vergil was an Italian humanist who came to England at the beginning of the sixteenth century and became a member of the circle of Sir Thomas More (Antonia Fraser, The Warrior Queens [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989], p. 216).

10 A second account of Boadicea also appeared in the sixteenth century in H. Boece, The Chronicles of Scotland, trans. (into Scots) J. Bellenden, 1551 (Edinburgh and London: Chambers and Batho, 1938): "Boadicea, called Voada by Boece, is situated in northern Britain, and said to be sister of Caratak (Caratacus) and Corbreid, Kings of Scotland. Her husband is keen to make alliance with the Romans, and at one stage even imprisons her in order to go adultering with a Roman woman . . . he also has a son who he has been trying to disinherit, to the boy's uncle's annoyance" (p. 46). R. Holinshed, The firste volume of the Chronicles of England, Scotland and Irelande (London: George Bishop, 1577), pp. 60-4, includes a description of Boadicea (here called "Voadicea, alias Bunduica") with elements from previous accounts (Macdonald, p. 48).

11 See Macdonald, p. 48.

12 Ibid.

13 Wright, "The Amazons," p. 435.

14 Wright, "The Amazons," pp. 434-5. The Sea-Voyage, in The Works of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, 10 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1910), 9:1-65.

15 Fraser points out how representations of Bonduca in the seventeenth century changed from "Fletcher's boastful venal creature" at the beginning of the century to a "fragile blossom" at the end (p. 324). Thomas Heywood says Boadicea was not a "martiall Bosse, or Amazonian Giantesse" but rather a "comely lady," in The Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts of Nine of the Most Worthy Women of the World (London, 1640), p. 72. See also Shepherd, p. 144.

16 On the interrelated types of demonized women, see Jackson, p. 44. In 1620, the pamphlet Hic Mulier or the Man-Woman tells women not to "thinke you may be attired like Bradamant, who was taken for Ricardetto her brother; that you may fight like Marfiza, and winne husbands with conquest or ride astride like Claridiana, and make Gyants fall at your stirrops" (Hic Mulier or the Man-Woman [London, 1620], sig. B3r; qtd. in Shepherd, p. 71).

17 Leah Marcus, Puzzling Shakespeare: Local Reading and Its Discontents (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1988), p. 4.

18 Stephen Orgel, "Jonson and the Amazons," in Soliciting Interpretation: Literary Theory and Seventeenth-Century English Poetry, ed. Elizabeth D. Harvey and Katharine Eisaman Maus (Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1990), pp. 119-39, 123.

19 Memoirs of Maxmilian de Bethune, Duke of Sully, trans. Charlotte Lennox (London, 1756), 2:188-9, in David M. Bergeron, Royal Family, Royal Lovers: King James of England and Scotland (Columbia and London: Univ. of Missouri Press, 1991), pp. 85-6. Bergeron continues: "Sully detected other evidence of James's contempt for Elizabeth, as James insisted that he had actually ruled England in Elizabeth's last years. Surely part of this attitude grew out of James's jealous response to his revered predecessor. So James indulged in a kind of reverse fiction about Elizabeth: that is, she and Mary seem to have exchanged positions in James's mind, diminishing the role of Elizabeth and elevating that of his mother" (p. 86).

20 Marcus, p. 128.

21 Jonathan Goldberg suggests that James's Roman style and claim to imperial precedent was in the "style of the Gods": "those were the laws he depended upon to assert his prerogative and mystery, that was the form of his entertainments, his Banqueting House, the ideology of his reign," James I and the Politics of Literature: Jonson, Shakespeare, Donne, and Their Contemporaries (Baltimore:Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1983), p. 165. Roman topics were also prevalent in Jacobean drama, and Fletcher wrote two Roman tragedies, Bonduca and Valentinian (1610-14), perhaps in ackowledgment of the central place of Roman ideology in Jacobean statecraft. However, this Romanization was also negatively appraised. John Chamberlain wrote to Sir Dudley Carleton in 1614 that "omnia Romae vaenalia" (in Rome everything is for sale), and James was compared with Tiberius, and other Roman despots (The Letters of John Chamberlain, ed. Norman McClure, 2 vols. [Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1939], 1:548).

22 Marcus, p. 122. Marcus continues: "Despite his disclaimers, it seems clear that James I preferred Scots law over the English system and hoped to mold Britain's 'one law' in accordance with the Roman model, which he considered clearer, more succinct, and more hospitable to his views on royal absolutism. But that hope was dashed by English parliamentarians and common lawyers, who viewed the import of aliens and the imposition of an alien legal system as tantamount to national extinction" (p. 123). Marcus also points out that "members of parliament conjured up horrific visions of beggarly Scotsmen swarming across the border and devouring England's prosperity" (p. 131).James I and his advisors claimed there could be no act of union until "the marks of the stranger" had been removed from the Scots (Marcus, p. 133). This plan was ultimately rejected by Parliament in 1608 or 1609.

23 Shepherd, p. 128. Leah Marcus takes Shakespeare's Cymbeline (1609) as a case study for the conflict between James and Elizabeth, suggesting that through the wicked queen "Shakespeare marginalizes the image of Elizabeth and its association with the valorization of England's 'virginal' isolate intactness, in favor of the Stuart vision of internationalism and political accommodation" (p. 131). Marcus reads Cymbeline as having a "harmonious internationalism and accommodation that mirrors James's own policy. The British and Roman ensigns wave 'Friendly together,' the fragmented kingdom of Britain is reunited and the nation embarks on a new and fertile era of peace" (p. 122). I think the merging of English and Roman at the end of Bonduca marks a similar union, although I would argue that it was not considered to be so unproblematically friendly or desirable.

In "The Masculine Romance of Roman Britain: Cymbeline and Early Modern English Nationalism," Jodi Mikalachki argues for the importance of Jacobean enthusiasm for Augustan analogies and Rome's place in chronicle history, suggesting that "[i]n their attempts to reconcile ancient British patriotism and a civilized union with Rome, English historians acknowledged and developed a hybrid nationalist response to the Roman Conquest" (SQ 46, 3 [Fall 1995]: 301-22,309). She suggests that Holinshed criticizes Boadicea's savagery and fierce nationalism, and that "Caratacus, on the other hand, wins unqualified historiographical praise for both his initial resistance and his eventual submission to Rome" (p. 310). In other words, she argues that his Roman virtus is set in favorable contrast to Bonduca's feminine government. In a brief discussion of Fletcher's Bonduca, Mikalachki argues that when Bonduca dies, she leaves "the 'Romophile' Caratach to represent Britain in the last act" (p. 311). However, as I argue, his status as a 'Romophile' is not unequivocally heroic, and the "masculine embrace" between men, and between Rome and Britain, that ends the play is not unequivocally idealized.

24 On 3 January Chamberlain wrote to Sir Dudley Carleton: "There was a Masque of nine Ladies in hand at their own cost, whereof the principal was the Lady Hay, as Queen of the Amazons . . . They had taken great pains in continual practicing and were almost perfect, and all their implements provided; but, whatsoever the cause was, neither the Queen nor King did like or allow of it - so all is dashed" (Nichols, p. 453).

25 In "The Court of the First Stuart Queen," Leeds Barroll argues that Queen Anne played a bigger role in court culture than has previously been acknowledged: not only did she have her own court, but she was an important patron of the arts. Barroll points out that one of the artists whom Anne supported was Jonson-collaborator Inigo Jones, whom she provided "with his first full-scale monumental commission" ("The Court of the First Stuart Queen," in The Mental World of the Jacobean Court, ed. Linda Levy Peck [Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991], pp. 191-208, 208). Like Barroll, Barbara K. Lewalski suggests that other women besides Anne, chief among them the countess of Bedford, were powerful players in the Stuart court. Interestingly, the countess of Bedford played Penthesilea, Queen of Amazons in The Masque of Queens (in a costume designed by Inigo Jones). Lewalski points out that after 1610, "the queen and her ladies were much less prominent as masquers: several masques planned by the queen were 'postponed' or canceled, and there is a clear shift to men's masques, tilts, and barriers when Prince Henry came of age to present masques with his attendants. Later the king's male favorites took over that function" ("Lucy, Countess of Bedford: Images of a Jacobean Courtier and Patroness," in Politics of Discourse: The Literature and History of Seventeenth-Century England, ed. Kevin Sharpe and Steven N. Zwicker [Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1987], pp. 52-77, 59). Lewalski's observation further supports my argument about the unplayed Masque of Amazons and the male-centered nature of court celebration.

26 Orgel links the masque to James's fascination with witchcraft, which is, to him, "clearly related to his general distrust of women, and his compulsive and public attachment to young men" (p. 125). According to Orgel, "Jonson's witches and queen represent the limits of the Jacobean patriarchy" (p. 126). Similarly, Jonathan Goldberg reads the Masque of Queens as a patriarchal myth in which the king is Bel-Anna's (Anne's) source of power - what Goldberg calls the "Fatherly authority" (James I, p. 81). I think the work of Barroll and Lewalski complicates "the limits of the Jacobean patriarchy" and the James-centeredness of all court culture, but I agree with Orgel that official statecraft was often consciously patriarchal and concerned with relegating powerful women to representational silence.

27 Nichols, p. 453.

28 Ibid.

29 Buchanan citation in James E. Phillips Jr. "The Woman Ruler in Spenser's Faerie Queene," HLQ 2 (January 1942): 211-234, 220.

30 Britomart, for example, explicitly rejects domestic occupations:

Sithence I loathed to have my life to lead, As Ladies wont, in pleasures wanton lap, To finger the fine needle and nyce thread;

(Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, ed. Thomas P. Roche [London: Penguin, 1978], 3.2.6). See also Shepherd, p. 7.

31 Cited in Violet A. Wilson, Society Women of Shakespeare's Time (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1924), p. 177; Shepherd, p. 148.

32 Although Swetonius is impressed enough with Bonduca's valor to demand she be given a funeral, as "Is]he was truely noble, and a Queen" (IV.iv.156), it must be compared to the funerals of the Roman soldiers like Penyus, and compared with Caratach's panegyric eulogy to Penyus (V.i.55-80).

33 Green, p. 315.

34 "Report on England presented to the Government of Venice in the year 1607, by the illustrious Gentleman Nicolo Molin, Ambassador there," in Robert Ashton, ed., James I by His Contemporaries, An Account of His Career and Character as Seen by Some of His Contemporaries (London: Hutchinson, 1969), p. 9.

35 Sir Anthony Weldon, The Court and Character of King James I, in Secret History of the Court of James the First, ed. Sir Walter Scott, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: Ballantyne, 1811), 2:1-12; Ashton, pp. 12-3, emphasis added. Sir Anthony Weldon was particularly anti-king and anti-Scot, but his opinions about James's interactions with his favorites were shared by others (see Ashton, p. 11). I do not suggest that any of these comments accurately summarize the reputation of James's reign, but only that such readings and criticism circulated during and shortly after his reign.

36 Francis Osborne, Traditional Memoirs (1658) in Weldon 1:257; Bergeron, p. 87.

37 Alan Bray notes that "the public signs of a male friendship - open to all the world to see - could be read in a different and sodomitical light," as is indeed the case here ("Homosexuality and the Signs of Male Friendship in Elizabethan England," in Queering the Renaissance, ed. Jonathan Goldberg [Durham and London: Duke Univ. Press, 1994], pp. 40-61, 53).

38 Phillip Stubbes, The Anatomie of Abuses (1583), facsimile, ed. Arthur Freeman (New York: Garland, 1973), [N8.sup.r-v].

39 Bray, Homosexuality in Renaissance England (London: Gay Men's Press, 1982).

40 Weldon in Ashton, p. 13. Sir John Oglander describes James as "the most cowardly man that ever I knew" (A Royalist's Notebook. The Commonplace Book of Sir John Oglander of Nunwell, 1622-1652 [1936], pp. 193-4); qtd. in Ashton, p. 13.

41 Bruce R. Smith suggests that "[i]n terms of the male power-structure of English Renaissance society, James's homosexuality may be the equivalent of Elizabeth's virginity: the erotic seal of men's political transactions with one another" (Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare's England: A Cultural Poetics [Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1991], p. 75). However, I think James's homoeroticism fails to draw the line - what Goldberg calls a "lethal" line - between the sexual energies of the fantasy or ideal of all-male relations - homosociality - and those energies which are sodomitical (Jonathan Goldberg, Sodometries: Renaissance Texts, Modern Sexualities [Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1992], p. 237).

42 Oglander, pp. 196-7.

43 Smith, "Making a Difference: Male/Male 'Desire' in Tragedy, Comedy, and Tragicomedy," in Erotic Politics: Desire on &e; Renaissance Stage, ed. Susan Zimmerman (New York: Routledge, 1992), pp. 127-49,134. According to Smith, what he calls the three radicals - "English," "male," and "tragedy" - define the imagined space within which plays were written, rehearsed, and acted. In this imagined space, "homoerotic desire assumes a shape and a voice that may admit the 'not English' in the guise of ancient Rome, but radically excludes the female. In the violent politicized male worlds of these plays, desire is constructed out of differences that are violent, political, male" (p. 135). Smith also points out that Greece and Rome, as settings for tragedy, "set in place all-male power structures that replicate the all-male power structure of early modern England, with its legal proscription of sodomy, its economic investment in marriage - and its privileging of male/male friendship above all other bonds" (pp. 136-7).

44 The fear of women in the play is fear not only of warrior women, but also of witches, as can be seen in the following lines from a Roman soldier:

desperate women, That neither fear, or shame ere found, the devill Has rankt amongst 'em multitudes: say the men fail, They'll poison us with their petticoats: say they fail, They have priests enough to pray us into nothing.


The specters of witchcraft ("the devill," "poison") and gynophobia ("they'll poison us with their petticoats") dovetail into an anxiety about the power of women. Petillius explicitly calls Bonduca "[t]he devils dam" (I.ii.270). There is more at work here than James's well-documented anxiety about witches; the only kinds of "female" power Fletcher seems to allow Bonduca and her daughters are those explicitly demonized by the Jacobean court.

45 The heterosexual love that Junius initially desires is supplanted with a different male-specific military ideal Due largely to the misogynist abuse of his fellow soldiers, Junius interrupts his conventional blazon about Bonduca's daughter ("red and white,/An eye, a nose, a cheek - " [II.ii.25-6]) with a military blazon:

Why should not I Doat on my horse well trapt, my sword well hatch'd? They are as handsom things, to mee more usefull, And possible to rule too.


He ultimately gives up women for war.

46 Dollimore spells out the feelings soldiers have for one another as "I don't desire you, I desire to be like you" (Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991], p. 303).

47 Do; action, proceeding, conduct, performance or execution of something, b) euphem.copulation (OED).

48 Smith, "Making a Difference," p. 136.

49 The Latin word for "vagina" is the same for "scabbard," or sword sheath (the place where the sword/penis ought to be sheathed).

50 Mikalachki's argument that Caratach nurses Hengo at the end of the play, and "takes on the maternal role that Bonduca, in her unfeminine lust for battle, has refused to exercise" (p. 313) not only suggests a gendered behavioral norm that I think neither history nor the play poses, but also that Caratach's relationship with Hengo is nurturing, as opposed to martial and homoerotic. It also fails to address the fact that Caratach is indirectly responsible for Hengo's death.

51 Christopher Marlowe, Edward the Second, in The Complete Plays, ed.J.B. Steane (London: Penguin, 1969), pp. 434-533, I.iv. 393.

52 James Welwood, Memoirs of the Most Material Transactions in England for the Last Hundred Years, 4th edn. (Originally published 1700; London, 1702), p. 23. In his attempt to date the play, Hickman cites William Appleton's suggestion that the elegy for the young Hengo is "an appropriate tribute to a young prince Henry," who died in November 1612 (William W. Appleton, Beaumont and Fletcher: A Critical Study [London: Allen and Unwin, 1956], p. 55); Hickman, p. 143.

53 Mikalachki suggests a different historical referent: "Hengo's name (Fletcher's invention) points to Hengist, the first Saxon ruler in Britain, often used in early modern iconography as the representative of England's Saxon heritage" (p. 314).

54 Bergeron, pp. 92-107. In 1610 George Marcelline writes of Henry in The Triumphs of King James the First: "This young Prince is a warrior alreadie, both in gesture and countenance, so that in looking on him, he seemeth unto us, that in him we do not yet see Ajax before Troy, crowding among the armed Troops, calling unto them, that he may joyne body to body with Hector, who standes trembling with chill-cold feare" (London, 1610), pp. 50-1; qtd. in Bergeron, p. 98.

55 Bergeron, p. 93.

56 "James in 1603 stated his awareness of Henry's obvious function: 'He was not ours only, as a child of a natural father; but as an heir apparent to our body politic, in whom our estate and kingdoms are especially interested.' The child, like his father, had two bodies: his natural body and his body politic. Henry belonged to the country as well as to his family" (Bergeron, p. 92).

57 Shepherd, pp. 148-9. Macdonald also points out that Boadicea's fight against the Romans was given a contemporary religious slant in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and was used to Protestant ends (p. 48).

58 Mikalachki writes: "In contrast to the ancient queen's savage refusal of empire, the masculine embrace of Roman Britain became the truly generative interaction, producing a civil masculine foundation for early modern English nationalism" (p. 322). I argue that the "masculine embrace" and masculine foundations of English nationalism are complicated by the history more immediate to the writing and performance of Bonduca, the conscious battles fought by James's statecraft, and the criticism of his Romish ways.

59 Philip J. Finkelpearl, Court and Country Politics in the Plays of Beaumont and Fletcher (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1990), p. 31. Finkelpearl notes further that unlike Charles,James did not commission plays to suit his taste, and that Fletcher made most of his money from the "private" Blackfriars and the "public" Globe (p. 51).

60 Finkelpearl, p. 29.

61 Jonson was called before the star chamber for possible treason over his play Sejanus (acted by King's Men, 1603, printed 1605), and John Day was imprisoned for The Isle Of Gulls (1606) which includes "passages that touch on the king's dishonest favourites, on the Scots, on homosexuality at court, and on a very foolish sovereign" (Finkelpearl, p. 64). Finkelpearl also notes that in 1608 two plays performed by children at Blackfriars were banned for criticizing the king, again for his love of hunting, boys, and Scots (p. 65). Andrew Gurr points out that "[s]atire against James appeared mostly in the period from 1603 (when the Queen was said to be enjoying stage parodies of her husband) to 1608" (Playgoing in Shakespeare's London [Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987], p. 159). Gurr, n. 75, reads: "Henry Crosse, Vertues Commonwealth, 1603, [P3.sup.r], complained that 'there is no passion wherwith the soveraigne majestie of the Realme was possest, but is amplified, and openly sported with, and made a May-game to all the beholders.' Anne of Denmark was reported by the French Ambassador in 1604 to have attended plays in order to enjoy the mockery of her husband (ES 1.325). Possibly her giving her name to the Blackfriars boys (the Children of the Queen's Revels) means that they were the company who provided her with that kind of entertainment." Indeed, Day's James-satirizing play the Isle of Gulls was performed by the Queen's Revels (Alfred Harbage, Annals of English Drama, 975-1700, 3d edn., rev. Sylvia Stoler Wagonheim [London: Routledge, 1989], p. 94). In 1609, of course, the Blackfriars was taken over by the adult players of the King's Men (Gurr, p. 169).

62 Robert Y. Turner, "Responses to Tyranny in John Fletcher's Plays," MRDE 4 (1989): 123-41, 124.

63 Turner suggests that Fletcher's plays "exploit the anxieties aroused by James's insistence on his power and placate them by the depiction of heroic subjects, whose dedication to honor even the most loyal Cavalier would find compelling" (p. 127).

64 Turner ultimately stakes out a middle ideological ground, deciding that "Fletcher and his collaborators managed to present the tyrant in ways that evaded censorship and appealed to the privileged theatergoers, whether royalist or oppositionalist," and that Fletcher was, like other theatrical professionals, ready to exploit the fears in the political climate (pp. 133, 137).

65 Although the King's Men took over the Blackfriars in 1609, there is no evidence before the late 1630s to suggest that the company chose to stage some plays at the Blackfriars and not at the Globe, and "[n]othing in the available evidence suggests that the King's Men's pre-eminence and their possession of the playhouse most frequented by the privileged altered in any way their assumption that they catered for the whole range of society" (Gurr, p. 169).

Julie Crawford is assistant professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.