"The Weaker Sex, To Piety More Prone"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Alexander is now considered a minor figure among the many writers of Eilzabethan times. A Scottish poet, he was a close friend of King James I and is better known today for the royal favors conferred upon him than for his writings. The largest of these favors was a grant of the entire eastern half of Canada, formerly known as Acadia; the king renamed it Nova Scotia for this occasion. Although Alexander lost this proprietorship through the French conquest of Canada, he was not without other profitable enterprises. The king made him sole printer of the King James version of the Psalms, the patent running for thirty-one years. Alexander achieved literary recognition through his Monarchicke Tragedies, a group of four Senecan dramas dealing with great political events of the ancient world. These employ the convention of a chorus and an alternately rhyming verse scheme; they are respectable works and exhibit considerable political wisdom, but do not observe the dramatic unities and lack interest for the modern reader. He also wrote a number of sonnets and a religious epic. The latter, entitled Doomes-day, contains twelve books, or "Hours"; the first four were published in 1614. In its final form as printed in Recreations with the Muses, the poem was extended to twelve Hours and a total of some 11,000 lines. This was Alexander's most ambitious literary effort and greatly admired in his own day. The first Hour argues the reality of God and describes the Creation; the second discusses the prophecies of Doomsday as given in the Bible; and in the third Hour Christ descends in glory to judge mankind. In the fourth Hour the last trumpet is sounded and the dead arise. The fifth Hour describes the great assemblage of souls, their vast diversity, their sins and confusion. Judgment begins, its first wrath falling on hypocrites and atheists. The poet reviews Biblical and Classical literature at some length; mention of Coriolanus turns his attention to the place of women in history, and he cites the examples of Thoas' daughter and of Antigone:

The weaker sexe, to piety more prone,
By rare examples, oft have beene renown'd,
When many murthers were bewail'd by none,
An isles whole men in bloud by women drown'd,
The aged Thoas (stolne out from his throne)
His daughter sav'd, though next him to be crown'd,
Whose Lord (though milde) one cruell did acquire,
Who kill'd her children, where she sav'd her sire.
Where all were ill, that Lady onely good,
Who though she had (of worth what wonders rife?)
Incestuous parents, brothers stain'd with bloud,
Time, state, sexe, race, oppos'd, with all at strife,
Blinde father led, griev'd mothers comfort stood,
Her brothers funerals urg'd with ventred life:
In Thebes she Altars more deserv'd to have,
Then one to wine, to lust another slave.