Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Summer 2000 v40 i3 p413

Warrior Women in the Plays of Cavendish and Killigrew. RABER, KAREN L.

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2000 Rice University

The figure of the Amazon or warrior woman repeatedly emerges from classical and Renaissance cultural documents as an integral part of the story of national identity and state formation. Travel narratives, epics, stage plays, masques--these diverse forms collectively mobilize the warrior woman to make issues of gender difference, chastity, and sexuality central to the imaginative construction of nationhood. For adventurers like Sir Walter Ralegh, "Amazons figure the sense in which boundaries between experience and fantasy are permeable," allowing the recuperation of classical models of heroism. [1] William Shakespeare might use Joan la Pucelle to denigrate French Catholicism and justify English military aggression, or offer his audience a subjugated Amazon such as Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night's Dream to explore masculine anxiety over England's anomalous rule by a woman. [2] Similarly, Edmund Spenser's national epic, The Faerie Queene, imaginatively reconciles English civil order to its female ruler through conflicts between warrior women and associated conflicts over types of chastity. The appearance of a pantheon of Amazonian characters in Ben Jonson's Masque of Queens demonstrates that the importance of the figure of the Amazon was not limited to Elizabeth's reign. While a great deal has been written on Elizabethan and Stuart uses of the Amazon myth, there has been less consideration of how the figure of the Amazon develops through the Civil War and into the Restoration. For English writers of this later period, national identity again became a question of immediate and material importance; the reality of war gave the figure of the warrior woman greater ideological urgency and also changed the material pretexts for her representation. When real women fought on English soil, established relationships between the mythology of warrior women and the lived experiences of women at war were liable to dissolve quickly, making those relationships susceptible to new and different meanings. History records the many hero ic exploits of women during this period of social and political crisis; through their deeds, the warrior woman was temporarily liberated from her position within the safe prison of myth and metaphor to prove her currency, her power to inspire Royalist and Roundhead women, and her potential as flesh and bone. The anxieties and possibilities attendant on the figure of the warrior woman are charted in works by two Civil War exiles, Margaret Cavendish and Thomas Killigrew. Similar in cultural position and political sympathies, Cavendish and Killigrew also wrote remarkably similar closet plays during their time away from England, addressing and imaginatively redressing the traumas of war. But their warrior women function quite differently, suggesting the ways that authorial gender influences the place of the warrior woman in their visions of restored nationhood.

For both Cavendish and Killigrew, personal upheaval, civil war, and the death of the king represented the end of all the constitutive hierarchies that had shaped their identities. Prior to the Civil War, Killigrew and Cavendish moved in the same court circles and might well have crossed paths more than once: Margaret Cavendish, then Margaret Lucas, was sent to serve as maid of honor to the queen in 1642; while she was shy and withdrawn, she nonetheless found a place among the young women who surrounded Henrietta Maria and would have witnessed their dramatic entertainments, appreciated the queen's interest in performance, and circulated among the many courtiers who fed the court's appetite for plays with their creative talents. [3] Another of the queen's maids of honor, Cecilia Crofts, became Killigrew's wife in 1636. After holding various positions with the court, Killigrew turned to playwriting in the comic mode preferred by Caroline audiences with his first publicly performed work, The Parson's Wedding (16 42). Killigrew and Cavendish, in sum, shared their focus on the court as the center of power, privilege, and intrigue--and consequently shared their devastation at its dissolution.

The years leading up to Charles I's execution saw the destabilization of the world both writers occupied, and the consequences for Killigrew were predictable: without court preferments, he ran into debt. He was arrested in 1642 for procuring arms in the Royalist cause and may have been imprisoned. [4] Alfred Harbage speculates that Killigrew probably voyaged to the Continent in 1644 with Henrietta Maria and her entourage--if so, he may have traveled on the same ship as Lucas. Once in Europe Killigrew seems to have taken up arms as a soldier of fortune. Whether he did so or not, his play Thomaso or the Wanderer (on which Aphra Behn later based The Rover) shows intimate familiarity with the life of a rootless, debt-ridden Englishman abroad. The outcome of Killigrew's time in exile, however, is clear from the body of his exilic writings: he felt and observed in others the growing influence of dislocation and disorder created by the war and the court's tenuous position in Europe. Margaret Cavendish also experien ced the extremes of loss and disruption: she accompanied Henrietta Maria's court to Paris, where she soon learned that her family home had been devastated by Parliamentary attack, during which her family tomb was desecrated. Although Cavendish made a brilliant marriage to William Cavendish, then marquess of Newcastle, their early married years were marred by his continuing battles with creditors, which necessitated their removal from Paris to Antwerp. Cavendish was thus doubly exiled, first from her home in England, and additionally from the English court in France.

Both Killigrew and Cavendish used their writing as refuge from exile's material and emotional discomforts; both wrote about the world they had left behind, the world as it had become, and the future they dreamed might happen. Many miles away from the wars, they nonetheless thought constantly about war and its aftermath. Killigrew actually fought briefly before fleeing England, and the Cavendishes had reports from home to keep the reality of war fresh. It is natural, then, that both writers look to traditional imagery of war, including the figure of the warrior maiden, to dramatize their common sense of social and political dis-ease. For Killigrew, however, partial remedy for this illness lies in the warrior woman's conquest and submission to a restored, patriarchal order that recalls England's prewar stability and resurrects the nation's earlier reputation for cultural cohesiveness and military might. For Cavendish, the remedy lies rather in the incorporation of the warrior woman into a new model of civil li fe that gives women a measure of pragmatic political power.

Generically, the plays both writers produced return to prewar forms which recuperate a sense of lost expectations and opportunities. Tragicomedy, which describes most of Killigrew's and many of Cavendish's plays, was a dominant genre for the Stuart court. Variously described as conservative (in the sense of preserving elite values), flexible (for allowing "playful" recasting of sex roles), or subversive (for allowing a forum for women's "action" on stage or at court entertainments), tragicomedy blends serious social commentary and happy resolutions, making it a complex mirror of both the values and the criticisms of court culture. John Fletcher's wary "neither-nor" definition of the genre in his 1610 preface to The Faithful Shepherdess suggests its multiple uses: "A tragie-comedie is not so called in respect of mirth and killing, but in respect it wants deaths, which is inough to make it no tragedie, yet brings some neere it, which is inough to make it no comedie: which must be a representation of familiar p eople, with such kinde of trouble as no life be questioned, so that a God is as lawfull in this as in a tragedie, and meane people as in a comedie." [5] Carefully negotiating the boundary between life and death, war and peace, comedy and tragedy, tragicomic plays provide war-shocked exiles with an especially sensitive tool for examining their experiences. Given its capacity to include both the providence of tragedy and the class consciousness of comedy, tragicomedy, however, achieves only an uneasy balance between its subversive and its conservative content. As Walter Cohen observes, gender and class provide key thematic areas where that balance is negotiated. In Cohen's reading, tragicomedy is confused about where its sympathies lie in representing ideologies of gender, more so than about its treatment of class. [6] Kathleen McLuskie, on the other hand, sees more successful topsy-turviness in tragicomic gender inversions recuperated primarily at the level of theatricality and spectacle, which enforces a new role for women--the role of consumed object rather than active consumer and material agent-one finally no less restrictive than its Elizabethan precursors. [7] But civil-war tragicomedy, like the sort Killigrew and Cavendish experiment with, must react to a world in which ideological disruption is no longer theory but reality; yet it is also a world in which the use of native English theatrical spectacle to contain or negotiate that reality is ruled out. Thus their plays are--not surprisingly-- newly and differently sensitive to gender roles and political hierarchy.

In Cicilia and Clorinda, or Love in Arms, one of Killigrew's three closet plays, the love of its protagonist Otho for the warrior maid Clorinda is paralleled in the troubled love of his soldier Lucius for Clorinda's attendant Cicilia. Thus the play's subtitle embraces a double sense: in Clorinda's case, war interposes itself between her and her lover to the extent that she is bodily wounded by him on the battlefield. But for Cicilia, it is her lover's jealousy and the misunderstandings and assaults on her reputation for chastity and virtue that constitute "love in arms." The play's plot, its many rhetorical flourishes on the themes of virtue, honesty, war, peace, sexual desire, and love, and its weaving of gendered love and virtue with conflict, corruption, and resolution provide a map for the preoccupations of an exiled class and an exiled court. Cavendish's landscape is similarly configured in her closet dramas: Loves Adventures, Bell in Campo, and Youths Glory and Deaths Banquet treat the (related) subjec ts of female virtue, the importance and difficulty of maintaining a chaste reputation, and the intrusion of women into martial pursuits. In the discussion that follows, I will account for the differences in these two authors' deployment of the warrior woman in the reconstruction of a class and gender system temporarily dismantled by civil war.

Killigrew's Cicilia and Clorinda revolves around marriages which are delayed by civil and personal disputes. Clorinda, the chaste warrior maid, must first help resolve political strife before love can come to fruition; Cicilia must educate her lover to trust her chastity and refrain from insulting her feminine integrity before he will make a suitable husband. Whether in Elizabethan or Stuart drama, celebrations of chastity, the triumph of chaste women in gaining powerful and virtuous husbands, and the vagaries of star-crossed lovers who persevere to produce neat resolution in marriage effect the policing of sexuality in women, subjecting women characters to a code that privileges the enclosed, untouched female body, while guaranteeing sufficient desire on women's part to ensure happy pairings and successful marriages. But the period immediately before the Civil War saw increased participation by women in public life both in sectarian politics and in court intrigue. As Cohen points out, the resulting "instabi lity of traditional categories" is reflected in tragicomedy's murky, sometimes outright contradictory, relationship to "proper" gender roles and behavior. [8] However unstable such categories were before war broke out, so much more were they thrown into question by the cataclysmic disruptions caused by civil conflict, the loss of the court, and the redefinition of English social and political life.

When Clorinda, sister to the Gauls' King Amadeo, meets Rome's military leader Otho in battle, his assault on her body literalizes the traumas of war. Otho takes woeful responsibility for wounding what he calls "th[is] Temple" (I,II.iii) of virtue and beauty, thus translating the physical body of the martial woman into the architectural locus of peacetime harmony. [9] Killigrew depicts Clorinda's military occupation as an aberration that directs our focus to the generally aberrant nature of war--that is, the fact that a woman must fight at all is an anomaly which signifies war's erasure of traditional social and political roles. Clorinda belongs to a representational tradition which structures national origins in terms of gender difference: as Jodi Mikalachki has observed about Clorinda's historical precursor, Boadicea, "powerful and rebellious females in native historiography threatened the establishment of a stable, masculine identity for the early modern English nation." The repression of the savage martia l woman in myth, history, and other forms of cultural production could overwrite England's national origins in favor of, for example, "the masculine embrace" of Roman Britain. [10] Killigrew's play, however, articulates a rebirth out of civil war; here, Rome and its barbarous, feminized Other represent two factions within a single nation. Killigrew thus uses Clorinda to evoke the dangers of rebellion, but also insists that she be valued, and that she eventually participate in the union of Rome with the Gauls. Her gender and her actions as a military hero problematize gender difference as constitutive of national identity; but her chaste service to her nation can be refigured, her threatening aspects contained, through her marriage to Otho. The disruptions of war are resolved when the warrior woman puts down her arms and embraces love and marriage rather than battle.

Otho and Clorinda begin to woo each other after Otho has defeated her in single combat but has himself been taken prisoner. Clorinda tells Otho that the wound he gave her during their fight will heal if and when peace is made between their nations:

'Twas the first favour I ever received from Prince Otho; 'tis an honour I shall ever be proud of; from this wound I gathered Courage, and began to hope your Highness had some value for me; Whilst Prince Otho turn'd away in Battle, whilst he received my Blows, and would not deign to strike again; he call'd me Woman and despis'd Clorinda, which made me both with Love and danger hunt him till I had gained this Wound; then I began to hope, since he thought me worthy of his Sword, when we were Enemies, if we live to see a Peace, I might be worthy of his Friendship too; and if this Wound can make Prince Otho kind, I am happy to have bled for the health and safety of my Countrey.


Clorinda's wound is produced by her valorous defense of her nation; it represents her insistence that he acknowledge her as a fit opponent. Clorinda's function in the play is to prove herself worthy of Otho, as well as to reform and educate him and his invading armies. That is, through her own chastity and valor she chastises and subdues the warlike male aggressor, returning her country and his to peace.

Killigrew forges a complex network of martial themes, chastity, and deserving feminine virtue which at all moments is also a discourse on the causes and solutions of England's sociopolitical predicament. The women of prewar Stuart theatrical tragicomedy demonstrate their chaste and virtuous qualities by passively or actively resisting male assaults; their male tormentors are ultimately chastened and led down the wedding aisle. Virtuous women in literature and culture exert a civilizing influence, publicly exemplified and authorized in prewar England by Queen Henrietta Maria's function in her marriage and at court. In Stuart court performances, Henrietta Maria was lauded for having a sobering and harmonizing effect on her husband--especially after George Villiers's death she was perceived to have "chastened" Charles and his followers. Despite Puritan convictions that Henrietta Maria was guilty of whorish, papist excess, her presence and authority, combined with the king's natural inclination, created a seriou s and decorous atmosphere at court. [11] Plays of the 1630s reflect the coincidence of the Platonic cult with celebration of the monarchs' chaste marriage: for William D'Avenant, for instance, that union was a supreme example of the reconciliation of "the tension between sexual appetite and the need for order," the triumph of self-control that was essential to the good citizen and the good ruler. [12] Jonson's masques represent the queen as the center of the court orbit:

Cho. For Love without his object is soon gone;

Love must have answering love to look upon.

Amph. To you, best judge, then, of perfection!

Euph. The queen of what is wonder in the place!

Amph. Pure object of heroic love alone!

Euph. The centre of proportion,-

Amph. Sweetness,

Euph. Grace! [13]

In quite practical terms, Henrietta Maria often was the court's arbiter, as is registered in one ambassador's recommendation that representatives to the court cultivate the queen and her ladies "since here many negotiations are conducted through women." [14] Chastity in the prewar years was thus aligned with political sobriety and power. The proper "proportion," sweetness, and grace lauded in Jonson's masque make women's domestic enclosure (the "centre") synonymous with political stability.

Killigrew's Amazonian heroine does not, at first glance, support such a Platonic model translated into propriety in domestic bliss. She violates standards of feminine deportment: she is aggressive, she becomes the hunter, she earns her brother's esteem as a warrior, she invites the broaching of her chaste and virtuous body by the enemy's weapon. She aspires to a "friendship" in which Otho treats her as equal. However, we should not read this as an example of protofeminist instincts in Killigrew or as a substantial revision of the gender roles underwritten by the Platonic model. What Clorinda represents is the ideal of chastity elevated and literalized beyond its prewar manifestation on the stage so that it may be mobilized to foreclose on the instability of gender roles it also represents. Again, we should remember that the physical wound Otho gives her obligates and transforms him. He learns to value not only her own prowess, but her countrymen, her brother, and the Gauls' independence as well. When another character, Orante, dismissively tells one of the Roman camp that Clorinda's people make "no difference betwixt the Sexes, but that they esteem them less then Men: Their Cowes plow too, and their Mares bear burthens, and their Women fight" (I, III.ii), he signals his lack of honor, borne out in his later underhanded scheming to disrupt the peace. The fact that Killigrew does not accept the usual association of supposed barbarism with inappropriate gender roles suggests to me that rather than two distinct nations fighting for supremacy and the imposition of a single national identity, the Gauls and the Romans stand for two groups within a shared culture, both of which are dislocated by war and consequently forced to behave "unnaturally." The only way to resolve this conflict, if it is indeed internecine, is thus to accept one another and restore order through negotiation, the salient paradigm for which is marriage. Through the marital union, not only will Clorinda be restored to the proper role of passive, dis armed wife, but the Gauls' exuberant martial prowess will be harnessed by its conjunction with Roman (masculine) discipline.

Clorinda and Otho's love, founded on her virtue, beauty, and military prowess, has two contradictory consequences. Fulfilling the promise of harmony and peace achieved through negotiation, Clorinda uses her sterling qualities as grounds to plead for Otho's life and the cessation of war: "Let a Virgins divining Soul prevail once, though my words seem now most unreasonable to common sence. Now when he has power to kill, now when Conquest is in his hand, when flight, dishonour, and certain death hangs over his enemy, 'tis like Amadeo, now to sound a retreat; Now offer Peace, offer all but our Honours and Freedom for it; This my Soul prompts me to say" (I, II.i).

Many Royalists hoped that their own queen, Henrietta Maria, might intervene in their civil conflicts in just this fashion, trading on her feminine virtues to influence her husband and bring the war to a quick conclusion through a negotiated peace. Their hopes were dashed by the reality of Henrietta Maria's behavior during the war: not only did she not encourage peace, she actively participated in fanning the flames of war. She was determined that Charles should resist at all costs the abrogation of monarchic privilege and advised him against accepting a compromise government. Killigrew replays the expectations of his Royalist sympathizers in this play but imaginatively revises the reality of Henrietta Maria's role in Clorinda's successful restraint of Amadeo. Thus, while Clorinda cannot be read as a simple reflection of Henrietta Maria, she does offer an ex post facto literary restoration of the queen's salvatory potential, which not coincidentally erases the practically disastrous outcomes of the queen's po litical power.

Clorinda's successful efforts on behalf of her nation, however, are counterbalanced by her unwitting creation of complications for the second plot. Manlius, another Roman soldier who has never been interested in marriage, is smitten by Clorinda and Otho's love for each other: "There is something seems new and strange to my mind; 'tis troublesome, and yet 'tis pleasing, 'tis a vexation I never felt before...I never was concern'd in a Womanns thoughts before" (I, II.iii). Although Manlius's transformation initially seems a benefit, since it further affirms the value of marriage and might even help cement the peace with further weddings, his disordered mind resolves itself not into love for Cicilia's maid Cloris who loves him already, but for Cicilia, who has promised herself to Manlius's jealous brother Lucius. Thus the harmonizing and civilizing influence of Clorinda's chaste, virtuous love actually provokes the second plot's most threatening test of loyalty. In that second plot, poor Cicilia is beset: she ha s secretly pledged herself to Lucius, but Otho, wanting to please his new bride, pressures Cicilia to marry Amadeo. Jealous Lucius suspects her virtue at every turn, seeing Amadeo as a superior suitor, but also believing she might be susceptible to the overtures of the utterly ignoble Orante. Finally Lucius and Manlius also come to blows over Cicilia. But the purpose of all these dangerous developments seems simply to be the more extensive and effective education of the play's characters about civil behavior and proper attitudes toward love. Without rehearsing the long, convoluted plot, it is safe to say that all are chastened in the end--Lucius for suspecting his love's chastity, in itself an ignoble act, Manlius for coveting his brother's lover, and Cicilia for her secret promise to Lucius. In a bizarre parallel to the plot of Clorinda and Otho, all these (and more) are wounded: Lucius is shot, then stabs himself, Manlius is stabbed, and Cicilia stabs herself when Orante threatens to rape her. The character s' many wounds repeat and amplify Clorinda's injury in battle. Coppelia Kahn has observed that Roman wounds are "a site of anxiety and indeterminacy; a point at which it is possible to identify an ideology of gender difference in process." [15] For the male Roman hero, the wound signifies both masculine military prowess and feminine vulnerability, requiring the anxious suppression of the latter effect. In Killigrew's play, wounds rather seem to signify a necessary introduction of effeminized suffering, the bodily manifestation of "chastisement" which can result in new bonds and restored order--perhaps unsurprising in a play whose masculine Roman hero Manlius proves the source of destructive incoherence.

Both plots of the play, then, revolve around the need to chasten male characters, whether by virtuous battle or by the example of a virtuous maid. Chastity, or the lack of it, is an integral part of traditional formulations of the warrior woman's mythology. Amazon women's freedom from the constraints of marriage could resonate with the quest for political self-determination; for this reason, Amazons were most often invoked to suppress female agency and valorize chastity. Queen Elizabeth could appropriate the authorizing persona of Diana, the chaste goddess, yet Diana's most common cultural association was with the story of Actaeon, a tale of figurative (visual) penetration punished by castration. Spenser's Britomart functioned in some tension with his queen's self-representation--although her warrior-like defense of her own and other maidens' chastity resonated with Elizabeth's material and ideological functions at court, Britomart's chaste body is ultimately valued for its utility to the state through sanct ioned procreation. The rape of the chaste warrior derives its impact from the various implications of all these traditions. The bared, or in some versions amputated, breast of the classical Amazon signifies the rejection of the sexualized femininity expected of women in favor of masculine, violent pursuits. The rape of this unruly body restores it to an appropriately sexualized, dominated position, even as it returns violence upon violence. Assaults on chaste women such as Diana or Britomart present different, albeit related logics: men's violence against virtuous women must be--and is--successfully repudiated. Women's warlike skills in these instances preserve the all-important integrity of the "good" female body, but at a high price, either in the form of intense male anxiety over women's castrating power, or in the form of increasingly intense sexual self-policing.

Killigrew links Clorinda's story to Cicilia's in suggestive ways. The price of Clorinda's military prowess is not only her own suffering in battle--her own symbolic rape through wounding by Otho--but her fellow woman's suffering in the play's subplot. As a gloss on the significance of the two plots, I find Stephanie H.Jed's argument about the topos of the rape of the chaste woman most useful: analyzing cultural uses of the Lucrece story, Jed remarks that "it is interesting to observe how many incidents of sexual offense registered in ancient historiography are necessary markers of change in a legal and political system." [16] Jed analyzes the reproductions of Lucrece's rape in humanist literature, exploring the ways that the violation of women's chaste bodies is specifically deployed to serve political ends, helping to negotiate the transition from one system of government to another. Certainly Killigrew's play about chastity, war, and potential and symbolic rape invites English men and women to think about their country's sufferings by metaphorizing civil war as an assault on a chaste, whole, unified female body. When Lucius, wrongly suspecting Cicilia's virtue, believes his own honor wounded and turns to Memnon and Cleon for advice, the scene evokes the cautionary literary tradition which registers tyrannical behavior by the monarch's ability, or lack thereof, to accept good advice. Indeed, Lucius resists Memnon's sober reason; even Cleon opposes him, angering Lucius who "looked for a Satyre, or some Ralliry" (I,IV.iii) rather than serious counsel. While Clorinda's announcement that her physical wound represents the state's condition makes explicit the connection between the state and women's chastity, Lucius and Cicilia less explicitly but no less effectively represent conflicts over judgment, caution, and self-control integral to English definitions of monarchy, polity, and statehood. Not only is marriage to a chaste and virtuous woman necessary to maintain civilization, but it is the domain in which good ru le--of one's self, of one's emotions, as well as of the state--is established and policed.

Clorinda and Cicilia participates equally effectively in an alternative tradition which defines and defends English national identity. Clorinda's self-identification with her country, compounded by her prowess in battle, makes her heir to the warrior women of Elizabethan romance, and hence the image of Stuart nostalgia for the Elizabethan past. One of Elizabeth's triumphant appropriations of patriarchal ideology was her inscription of her own female body with the signs and ciphers of English nationalism. Using both masculine and feminine imagery, Elizabeth cast herself in various cult personae--Diana, as I have noted, as well as Astraea, Gloriana, and Judith, and also Daniel, Alexander, and other great male princes. The story of her appearance at Tilbury has become a commonplace to recent history and criticism, as familiar as it likely was to the English of her reign and after: riding before her troops, dressed in armor, she marked her dual gender as a response to national military crisis, crying "I have the body of a feeble woman, but the heart and stomach of a king." [17] The magnitude of cultural production under Elizabeth is testimony to both the effectiveness of her strategies and the anxieties they produced; yet after Elizabeth's death, and during the troubled years that followed, nostalgia for her strength and leadership overcame relief at England's liberation from its uncomfortable rule by a woman. Killigrew's warrior maiden collapses this nostalgia for the long-dead Amazon Elizabeth into painful longing for the immediate past of the prewar Stuart court, even for its initial military confidence in war. In Clorinda, the glorious Elizabethan past with its military triumphs intersects complexly with Henrietta Maria's successes and failures as the Caroline version of the Amazon princess.

During the years of Charles's personal rule, Henrietta Maria was both the ideal image of harmonious civility and the practical means many poets and advisors saw to perpetuate that peace by moderating the king's political behavior. In war, however, the queen became the defender of her adherents: she gathered arms and money for her embattled husband, and upon returning to England in 1643 she attached herself to the army of William Cavendish, eventually duke of Newcastle and Margaret Cavendish's husband. Newcastle's troops soon became known as the "queen's army," an apt description since Henrietta Maria contributed leadership (whether desired or not) as well as arms. Rather than acceding to the king's request that Newcastle keep Cromwell engaged at Oxford, Henrietta Maria made the decision to allow Newcastle's judgment to rule his troops' movements. In her letters to her husband, she once referred to herself as a "she generalissima." [18] If she could not be the guarantor of England's peace through a strong mon archy, she would don military garb to defend its government. Clorinda's battlefield exploits and self-identification with her nation's condition echo some of the history of England's exiled queen--but they change the ground and raise the stakes in the concatenation of military might and chaste virtue. Royalists in England and abroad were uneasy with the banished queen's interventions; discovery of letters she exchanged with her husband while separated was used to show her recalcitrance on the subject of a compromise between king and Parliament, and represented to the public as evidence that her continued scheming from France was a threat to the English state.

Killigrew thus uses Clorinda in part to assuage current confusion and frustration over the role of the Stuart queen with a sanitized version of England's Elizabethan past. The play might be read as encouraging Henrietta Maria, chaste and virtuous object of desire, to return to her prewar role in the ideology of power at court. She might thus function as Elizabeth's resurrected image, a warrior queen to heal English civil strife, to salve English self-disgust by retrieving English honor. At the same time, however, the queen's disastrous real impact on policy and politics leads Killigrew to imagine a self-denying warrior woman, one whose ultimate salvatory act involves a voluntary act of self-erasure and self-containment. Once married to Otho, there is no need for Glorinda to fight; instead, she can become the epitome of the virtuous Roman wife. Jed's discussion of chastity's role in humanist debates over state formation is again useful here: equally important to Jed is the way the literary topos of the violat ed woman is reiterated at the cost of its material or historical specificity, so that, for instance, the brutality of Lucretia's treatment and her self-wounding are erased, metamorphosed into the insult done her male relatives and thus to the honor of Rome itself. Killigrew's Clorinda is wounded so that she can unify two nations, rewrite the history of England's real warrior queens, and in effect become a new kind of Lucrece, one who does not die bodily, but representationally, surrendering her military identity to marital subordination.

The same Stuart dramatic traditions which inform Killigrew's characters in Clorinda and Cicilia are available to Margaret Cavendish. However, while her chaste and virtuous women and military maids are also deployed to explore the fate of Royalist values in exile, they achieve a markedly different relationship to gender and class ideologies of prewar and civil-war England. Most saliently, the two characters in her first collection of plays who fully resonate with Killigrew's Cicilia (and the long heritage of chaste and chastening women to which she belongs) [19] appear not in tragicomedies, but tragedies. Youths Glory and Deaths Banquet offers a secondary plot in which Lady Innocence's virtue and chastity are assaulted by the plotting Lady Incontinent. Lady Innocence is promised in marriage to the Lord L'amour, who is swayed by the testimony of a perjured maid and the machinations of his mistress Incontinent into accusing his intended. She, defenseless and unable to demonstrate her virtue in court, is condemn ed, her reprieve through the confessions of all involved coming too late to prevent her suicide. The Unnatural Tragedy revolves around the incestuous passion of Monsieur Frere for his married sister. Unlike many Stuart plays that dabble in incestuous passions only to resolve them into marital pairings, this closet drama ends in actual rape and the suicide of both its protagonists. [20] Nor is the rape recuperated by their deaths--this is no revision of the rape of Lucrece, but rather a register of that myth's utter failure to signify beyond the kind of material consequences Killigrew chooses to elide. The Unnatural Tragedy's secondary plot might also stand as a corrective to fantasies that involve the chastisement of men by virtuous women in Stuart drama generally: rather than perceiving his wife's sterling qualities, Monsieur Malateste gradually supplants her with her apparently more accommodating maid, Nan. Finally putting aside his wife and marrying her maid, he reaps misery from his new cruel mistress. Dy ing, neglected, despised, and denuded of his fortune, he laments his blindness: "I mistook her patience for simplicity, her kindness for wantoness, her thrift for covetousness, her obedience for flattery, her retir'd life for dull stupidity." [21] The fantasy that promises women's virtues will transform men is punctured by this alternative fantasy in which women can do nothing to ensure that their virtues are valued--except die and leave their belatedly enlightened mates to expire shortly afterwards from grief. Cavendish's treatment of her chaste and virtuous women reintroduces a sense of material consequences to such actions as rape and incest. Her husband's epilogue to The Unnatural Tragedy goes so far as to suggest its events are not merely fiction: "and you / To make it sadder, know this Story's true," which, if the claim is sincere, fully restores a historical, material basis to what for most prewar Stuart plays is pure propaganda.

Cavendish's martial women also differ from Killigrew's Clorinda. There are striking parallels between Cavendish's Loves Adventures and Killigrew's play: the young Lady Orphant, promised at birth to the Lord Singularity, follows him into war disguised as a boy, Affectionata. Her exploits, her grace, intelligence, and winning ways attract the attention not only of Lord Singularity, who makes her his heir, but the admiration of generals, emperors, and even the pope. Like Clorinda, Lady Orphant as Affectionata is able to educate her lover, although in this case she uses long discussions about love, loyalty, and women rather than actual battle wounds to do so. Called "one of the diligent'st boys" the Lord Singularity has had, "Affectionata" replies: "How can I be otherwise, Sir, since you are the Governour of my soul, that commands the Fort of my passion, and the Castle of my imaginations, which are the heart, and the head" (IV.xxii). Given access to her beloved by her cross-dressing, Affectionata uses the metaph oric language of war and conquest to suggest that she is, as boy servant or wife-to-be, his loving subject.

Killigrew's Clorinda provides an initiating frame to Cicilia's story, virtually disappearing once that is accomplished; in contrast, Lady Orphant's martial position is the primary focus of Cavendish's drama--far beyond securing her lover as a marital partner, she achieves personal fame and even fortune when estates and rewards are settled on her. The Lord Singularity cannot believe her acumen in battle: after she addresses a congregation of soldiers and military commanders, he remarks, "Why you didst speak at the Council of War, as if thou hadst been an old experienced souldier, having had the practice of fourty years, which did so astonish the grave Senators and old Souldiers, that they grew dumb, and for a while did only gaze on thee" (III.xv). During the wars, the Lord Singularity is so taken with his boy that he officially adopts Affectionata. Stunned to find his "son" and servant is really Lady Orphant, Lord Singularity pledges to become her "devotee." Reversing the master/servant and husband/wife hiera rchy, he kneels to her in the play's concluding scenes. Again, the ideological dimension of prewar Stuart themes is hijacked in Cavendish's play, gradually colonized and displaced by new fantasies of female value and independence. Cavendish envisions marriage as the ultimate goal of this new scope for women's actions, but the kind of marriage these heroines make is often subversive: Affectionata, for instance, becomes not just wife, but heir (no longer "Orphant") to a Lord, and his "goddess" at whose altar he will now worship. [22]

But it is Bell in Campo which provides Cavendish's most complex revision of the theme of martial maids. It is quite clearly about the Civil War, barely bothering to provide allegorized translations like those Killigrew uses. The kingdom of Faction attacks the kingdom of Reformation. The general of the latter state must leave behind his wife, who argues that he should rather keep her and others of her sex with the "masculine army" to help during this civil conflict. Cavendish has Lady Victoria dispute her husband's insistence that war is not women's work with a fascinating version of the story of Penelope and Ulysses. When the general insists that women are "like China, or Pursleyn [porcelain]" (I,I.ii) and not fit for battle (echoing Otho's initial, incorrect views of Clorinda), Lady Victoria replies:

[T]he lovingest and best wife in all story that is recorded to be; the most perfectest and constantest wife in her Husbands absence was Penelope, Ulysses wife, yet she did not Barricado her Ears from Loves soft Alarums; but parled and received Amorous Treaties, and made a Truce untill she and her Lovers could agree and conclude upon conditions, and questionless there were Amorous Glances shot from loving Eyes of either party; and though the Seige of her Chastity held out, yet her Husbands Wealth and Estate was impoverished, and great Riots committed both in his Family and Kingdome, and her Suters had absolute power thereof; thus though she kept the fort of her Chastity, she lost the Kingdome, which was her Husbands Estate and Government, which was a dishonour both to her and her Husband; so if you let me stay behind you, it will be a thousand to one but either you will lose me in Death, or your honour in Life, where if you let me go you will have both.


Penelope's virtue is unraveled in this description; her "proper" decision to stay at home is exposed as merely the choice to wage another kind of war, in which her chastity is besieged, shots are fired by glances, and she is able to "parle" and receive "Amorous Treaties." Rather than a figure for stoic, passive virtue, Penelope is here a negative example used to make the case that only an active virtue and an aggressive honor are useful to the state. [23] Women will act out, and if not given an appropriate arena for their actions, will destroy their husbands' "kingdoms."

Cavendish does not credit Penelope for defending the fort of her chastity, so much as blame her for allowing the depredation of Ulysses' property. We might read this quite literally--that is, we should consider the material, historical analogues to what Cavendish is saying here: as she knew firsthand and by the stories carried abroad by visitors from England, many Royalist men who fought in the war or escaped to the Continent left behind wives and families who struggled valiantly. Some of these, in the fashion of more warlike Penelopes, led their households in quasi-military resistance to assaults by Commonwealth forces. lady Mary Winter held her estate against Parliament's forces; the marchioness of Winchester made bullets for her husband's men to shoot at William Waller's forces, defending Basing House with skill and determination; Brilliana Lady Harley's defense of Brampton Bryan Castle earned her the credit for "a Masculine Bravery," and even for the king mitigated his anger that she resisted Royalist fo rces. [24] Newspapers such as Mercurius Rusticus carried accounts of such brave women as Lady Bankes, defender of Corfe Castle, to Royalists eager for heroic figures to stimulate their cause. Women of the lower ranks took to the battlefield to aid their husbands and male relatives, and some became full-fledged soldiers, if we can believe ballads such as "The Gallant She-Soldier" or such Restoration fictions as John Lacy's The Old Troop. [25] The Civil War made Penelope's passivity a handicap, not a virtue, and provided numerous examples of actively martial women for an imagination such as Cavendish's to shift the emphasis of Stuart dramatic tradition from besieged chastity to militant engagement with the enemy. [26] Killigrew's plays might respond to the existence of these real martial women, but if so, they do so by erasing women's material participation in war in favor of the mythic dimension typical of Amazon accounts in Elizabethan and Jacobean literature. Cavendish's warrior women, however, are not purel y metaphorical or mythological; they do not necessarily restore or contain the threat of war to gender difference. Many of them exploit the opportunity to reject or revise women's roles. Moreover, the language and imagery Cavendish uses in describing their training and battles are redolent of the materiality of war itself: these warrior women know how wars are conducted and show that women are capable of learning new skills in time of crisis.

Lady Contemplation, in Cavendish's play of the same name, fantasizes about being a general, drafted into the position when her husband is killed in war: "to express my courage, I told them, That if they would give me leave, I would take my Husbands Office, and lead the Army" (II,II.x). Bell in Campo details the military life that Lady Contemplation can only imagine. The army of Heroickesses mustered by Lady Victoria follows a rigorous plan of training which includes wearing at all times heavier armor than they will carry into battle, to accustom them to the weight, keeping long hours at watch, digging entrenchments, and studying military history. Victoria's speeches to her female army maintain that women must adapt to new roles in war lest men's evaluation of their worth be borne out: "we are thought not only unusefull, but troublesome, which is the reason we were sent away ... only fit to breed and bring forth Children, but otherwise a trouble in a Commonwealth, for though we encrease the common-wealth by o ur breed, we encomber it by our weakness" (I,II.ix). To change men's minds, the female army will overcome their weak and gentle natures: "if we were both weak and fearfull, as they imagine us to be, yet custome which is a second Nature will encourage the one and strengthen the other, and had our educations been answerable to theirs, we might have proved as good Souldiers and Privy Counsellers, Ruler and Commanders, Navigators and Architectors, and as learned Sholars [sic] ... as men are."

We can see here how substantial are the differences between Cavendish's warrior women and Killigrew's Clorinda. There is only one Clorinda, whose sole purpose is to body forth the violations of war and the healing power of peace. She frames and in some ways precipitates the drama of Cicilia's assaulted chastity (a subplot which revolves around the role of chaste women in peacetime rather than war), but her example is static, exotic, and quickly foreclosed, and she is domesticated by marriage. The whole purpose of endowing Clorinda with battle skills is to ensure that she attracts the right husband; her prowess will be contained or erased in marriage--should she continue to function as a warrior maid, she would threaten the very stability her military skills gain in the first place. Cavendish's Heroickesses, on the other hand, are a host of married and single women, sisters, mothers, and lovers who permanently transform themselves, overwriting what men call their "nature" with custom, training, and experience . Cavendish's Amazon army finds its value not in passive defense of its own chastity, or in a metaphoric relationship to king and country, but in active intervention in the doings of war. Killigrew's military maid is an allegory for the anxieties, the pain, and the possible salvation of England, figured through images that reflect past and present queens. Cavendish rejects allegories of chastity and passive virtue, insofar as they are represented through the Penelope story, and instead makes the case for women's functional participation in government and politics.

At the conclusion of Bell in Campo, the king decrees the following:

First, That all women shall hereafter in this Kingdome be Mistris in their own Houses and Families.

Secondly, They shall sit at the upper end of the Table above their Husbands,

Thirdly, That they shall keep the purse.

The list of special privileges continues with provisions for women to have sway over their servants, for them to purchase what clothing they wish, to go to plays and other public entertainments at will, and "Lastly, That they shall be of their Husbands Counsel." Those women who have fought in the war will be elevated in social status: "All the Chief Female Commanders shall have place, as every Lords wife shall take place of an Earls wife that hath not been a Souldier in the Army; every Knights Wife before a Barons wife," and so on. It has been pointed out that the reforms the female army effects on the restored social order are limited to the domestic sphere; and we might add to that the fact that Cavendish imagines the female Amazons not eliminating social class, but merely rising in it above those Penelopes who did not prove useful in war. [27] Rather than blaming Cavendish for failing to be a good feminist who can reconceptualize government and society from the ground up, however, we might remember that wh ile Cavendish had models in reports of warrior women at home, she had none for women's place in some future restored government. To the exile, especially the aristocratic exile, there was no comfort from or liberation in dissolving the structures on which power, place, and privilege depended. In her representations of war, Cavendish offers a radical revision of women's roles; in her imagination of a peacetime world, she remains as conservative as Killigrew. [28] Yet what we can claim about Cavendish's account of the female army's gains is that they do, even if only in domestic and predictably patriarchal terms, constitute change: Cavendish's warrior women do not disappear into the mists of myth after war ends. Their success as soldiers parlays into political recognition and public memorial: to Lady Victoria, the king decrees that poets will sing her praises, and her gallant acts "shall be recorded in story, and put in the chief Library of the Kingdome." Her armor will be placed in the king's museum and her im age cast in brass and placed in the city center--all the trappings accorded to great military heroes will be hers, and the concrete difference her deeds have made to the state will be preserved in weighty tomes and statuary.


Both Cavendish and Killigrew call upon dramatic themes in their closet dramas that connect them to prewar court theater, signaling a common and in most respects essentially conservative position on the social and political changes mobilized by war. For both, the embrace of tragicomedy represents resistance to the upheavals of civil war--readers who pick up the work of either writer engage in nostalgia for a lost, supposedly harmonious and peaceful Arcadian world, violated by faction and civil war. However, where the intersection of gender and the defense of nation becomes their subject matter, their representations diverge: in Killigrew's work ideologies of gender remain unchanged, erasing the instabilities of war and guaranteeing a return or restoration of social order without difference; in Cavendish's Playes those ideologies are inverted or rejected, and restoration must occur with a difference--while the order of rank and privilege remains unaltered, the place of women within the highest ranks registers the effects of their participation in war. Precisely because the power Cavendish imagines her female characters wielding is not metaphoric, not figurative, not fully predicted by literary or historical traditions, it is unprecedentedly exploitative of her cultural displacement through civil war and exile.

Karen L. Raber is assistant professor of English at the University of Mississippi. This essay is part of a book-length study of women writers of closet drama.


(1.) The quotation is from Kathryn Schwarz, "Amazon Reflections in the Jacobean Queen's Masque," SEL 35, 2 (Spring 1995): 293-319, 295. Using Amazons to recapture a lost sense of heroism is offered as an explanation for the explosion in Amazon imagery during the Renaissance in Abby Wettan Kleinbaum's The War against the Amazons (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1983), pp.71-100. See also Celeste Turner Wright's "The Amazons in Elizabethan Literature," SP 37, 3 (July 1940): 433-56.

(2.) Louis A. Montrose observes that "Amazonian mythology seems symbolically to embody and to control a collective anxiety about the power of the female not only to dominate or reject the male but to create and destroy him" ("A Midsummer Night's Dream and the Shaping Fantasies of Elizabethan Culture: Gender, Power, Form," in Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe, ed. Margaret Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan, and Nancy Vickers [Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press], p.71).

(3.) The details of Margaret Cavendish's life are available from her narrative in The Life of William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle to Which Is Added the True Relation of My Birth Breeding and Life by Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, ed. C. H. Firth (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1890), from Douglas Grant's Margaret the First (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1957), and from Kathleen Jones's A Glorious Fame: The Life of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (London: Bloomsbury, 1988).

(4.) For Thomas Killigrew's biography, see Alfred Harbage, Thomas Killigrew, Cavalier Dramatist, 1612-83 (New York: Benjamin Blom, 1930).

(5.) An Anthology of Elizabethan Dedications and Prefaces, ed. Clara Gebert (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1933), pp. 188-9.

(6.) Walter Cohen, "Prerevolutionary Drama," in The Politics of Tragicomedy: Shakespeare and After, ed. Gordon McMullan and Jonathan Hope (New York: Routledge, 1992), pp. 122-50,128.

(7.) Kathleen McLuskie, "'A maidenhead, Amintor, at my yeares': Chastity and Tragicomedy in the Fletcher Plays," in The Politics of Tragicomedy, pp. 92-121.

(8.) Cohen, p. 128.

(9.) Killigrew, Cicilia and Clorinda, or Love in Arms, in Comedies and Tragedies (New York: Benjamin Blom, 1967), pp. 215-309. These plays were printed in 1663, but Killigrew's preface to the reader emphasizes that these are exilic writings, wishing the reader enough leisure to read "though I wish it you upon better terms then Twenty Years Banishment" (p. 2). All references to Killigrew's plays are to this edition and will be indicated parenthetically by part (where applicable), act, and scene number.

(10.) Jodi Mikalachki makes this latter observation about Shakespeare's Cymbeline; see her Legacy of Boadicea: Gender and Nation in Early Modern England (New York: Routledge, 1998), pp. 11, 16.

(11.) "Cavalier plays are clean because the court was beginning to boast a veneer of refinement, and court ladies must needs be protected against embarrassment," remarks Harbage rather misogynistically in Cavalier Drama (New York: MLA; London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1936), p. 40, contrasting court plays with the ribald comedy that was being performed on the public stage at the same time.

(12.) Kevin Sharpe, Criticism and Compliment. The Politics of Literature in the England of Charles I (London and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987), p. 80.

(13.) BenJonson, Loves Triumph through Calliopolis, in Masques and Entertainments, ed. Henry Morley (London: Routledge and Sons, 1980), p. 364.

(14.) Gregorio Panzani, quoted in R Malcolm Smuts, Court Culture and the Origins of a Royalist Tradition in Early Stuart England (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1987), p. 195.

(15.) Coppelia Kahn, Roman Shakespeare. Warriors, Wounds, and Women (New York: Routledge, 1997), p. 18.

(16.) Stephanie H. Jed, Chaste Thinking The Rape of Lucretia and the Birth of Humanism (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1989), p. 3.

(17.) Whether this episode is spurious or not has been debated but is irrelevant to the fact that subsequent generations of English men and women found it a powerful symbolic moment. See Susan Frye, Elizabeth I: The Competition for Representation (New York and Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1993), pp. 3-4, on the sources and interpretation of the Tilbury episode. On Elizabeth as Amazon, see Winfried Schleiner, "Divina virago: Queen Elizabeth as an Amazon," SP 75,2 (Spring 1978): 163-80.

(18.) Quentin Bone, Henrietta Maria. Queen of the Cavaliers (Chicago: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1972), p. 165.

(19.) With an exception: Poor Virtue in The Lady Contemplation does represent the tradition of triumphant chastity I have been examining. She suffers the onslaught of prurient male attention, her chaste and virtuous demeanor ultimately winning the hand of her most noble suitor. The Lady Contemplation is a straightforward comedy, for the most part uninfluenced by the kind of fear and anxiety tragicomedies tend to allow.

(20.) Cohen comments on the prevalence of incestuous brother-sister relationships in Stuart tragicomedy, noting that the period seems to replace concern for vertical hierarchies (father-daughter relationships) with an obsession about "horizontal" power (p. 145).

(21.) Margaret Cavendish, Playes (London: A. Warren, 1662), part II, act V; scene xlv; future references are to this edition by part (where applicable), act, and scene number.

(22.) Loves Adventures strongly resembles Cavendish's prose romance Assaulted and Pursued Chastity (in The Description of a New World Called the Blazing World and Other Writings, ed. Kate Lilley [London: Penguin Books, 1992], pp. 45-118). In that text an unnamed lady (who later signs the name "Affectionata" to her letters) is cast adrift by war. The lady's homeland, the Kingdom of Riches, "after a long and sleepy peace, overgrown with plenty and ease" breaks out into "factious sores" and "plaguey rebellion" (p. 48). Cavendish here reflects critically on the prewar English court's complacency, but also brands civil insurrection a "dis-ease." When the queen is taken prisoner by the opposition, the lady is "high enraged, which choler begot a masculine and courageous spirit in her" (p. 95), which inspires her to address the country's troops and incite them to fight. The lady's scheme to use her troops only five ranks deep is more successful than her opponent's traditional placement, since "ranks of ten deep ... are not only unuseful and troublesome, but so many men are lost to employment; for the hindermost ranks come seldom, or never to the charge" (p. 97).

(23.) Defending Lady Victoria's decision to follow her husband to war, a Gentleman in scene iv cites the example of Agamemnon's wife as good reason not to leave women at home. For an account of Penelope's uses for Renaissance writers, see Georgianna Ziegler, "Penelope and the Politics of Woman's Place in the Renaissance," in Gloriana's Face: Women, Public and Private, in the English Renaissance, ed. S. P. Cerasano and Marion Wynne-Davies (New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992), pp. 25-46.

(24.) See Antonia Fraser, The Weaker Vessel (New York: Vintage Books, 1985), pp. 163-84.

(25.) Fraser, pp. 196-9.

(26.) Fraser repeatedly comments on the confusion these warlike women caused, recounting both the language in which they were celebrated and the terms in which they were deplored. She uses Cavendish's own work, the 1653 Epistle to Souldiers (p. 163), to illustrate this ambivalence, since in it Cavendish emphasizes that military skill is alien to a woman's fearful nature. However, what Fraser takes at face value in Cavendish's letter seems ironic, rather than sincere, when contextualized as part of her larger body of work with its plethora of women warriors, meant perhaps to point out the very thing she suggests is "unnatural" and which she capitalizes on so thoroughly in her plays.

(27.) These issues are expressed most cogently by Susan Wiseman in Drama and Politics in the English Civil War (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998): "The list of demands returns the play from celebration of heroinism to analysis of women in their domestic relations, as they articulate demands for domestic autonomy which seem petty in comparison to the great triumphs of the Lady Victoria" (p. 109). Wiseman also notes that Cavendish tends to envision the rejection of masculine authority through well-born and unique women characters, not extending her critique to women in general. Wiseman's excellent and nuanced reading of class and gender in Cavendish's works nonetheless assumes that the imagination of a restored civil/peacetime order should equal or exceed the vitality of wartime women's exploits--which I suspect asks more of Cavendish as a protofeminist woman writer than is warranted.

(28.) It is also true that Cavendish uses the figure of Lady Victoria as a punitive mechanism to aid state control over women: one of the king's decrees concerning her triumph is that all women who do not live up to her image, especially those who do not show her "exemplary virtues," will "be more severely punished than before" (II,V.xx). Women who are equally chaste and virtuous, however, will "have respective honour done them by the State." I would not want to foreclose on analysis which explores this kind of result as evidence of Cavendish's internalization of patriarchal imperatives. Yet neither do I want to evacuate the real differences in her portrait of women in war--both must, I believe, uneasily coexist in our readings of the plays.