Rachel Speght Criticism - Essay

Cis van Heertum (essay date December 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: van Heertum, Cis. “A Hostile Annotation of Rachel Speght's A Mouzell for Melastomus (1617).” English Studies 68, no. 6 (December 1987): 490-96.

[In the following essay, van Heertum describes the misogynist annotations found in an early copy of Speght's A Muzzle for Melastomus, which the critic maintains give an idea of how Speght's defense of women might have infuriated many seventeenth-century men.]

Under the pseudonym of Thomas Tel-Troth a misogynist pamphlet was published in 1615 entitled The Araignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward and Unconstant Women. The pamphlet was reprinted in the same year, on which occasion the author's real name...

(The entire section is 3613 words.)

Elaine V. Beilin (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Beilin, Elaine V. “Piety and Poetry: Isabella Whitney, Anne Dowriche, Elizabeth Colville, Rachel Speght.” In Redeeming Eve: Women Writers of the English Renaissance, pp. 87-117. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987.

[In the following excerpt, Beilin focuses on the allegorical dream in Speght's Mortalities Memorandum, which, she argues, is radical in its assumption that women have the right to acquire knowledge and the ability to teach all humanity.]

… Rachel Speght's self-consciousness as a literary woman manifests itself both in the subject of her first work, A Mouzell for Melastomus (1617), a defense of women written in direct...

(The entire section is 2025 words.)

Mary Nyquist (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Nyquist, Mary. “The Genesis of Gendered Subjectivity in the Divorce Tracts and in Paradise Lost,” In Re-membering Milton: Essays on the Texts and Traditions, edited by Mary Nyquist and Margaret W. Ferguson, pp. 99-127. New York: Methuen, 1988.

[In the following excerpt, originally published in 1987, Nyquist contends that Speght's arguments for gender equality in A Muzzle for Melastomus place her work as one of the earliest feminist responses to Genesis and to John Milton's Paradise Lost.]

So it continues to matter that Adam was formed first, then Eve. As a further means of taking the measure of Milton's interest in this priority, I would now...

(The entire section is 806 words.)

Elaine V. Beilin (essay date 1990)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Beilin, Elaine V. “Writing Public Poetry: Humanism and the Woman Writer.” Modern Language Quarterly 51, no. 2 (1990): 249-71.

[In the following excerpt, Beilin argues that Speght was one of the earliest feminist writers to insist that education for women should not merely prepare them for domestic life but should also enable them to engage in public discourse.]

Had I a husband or a house,
          And all that longes therto
My selfe could frame about to rouse,
          As other women doo:
But til some houshold cares me tye,
          My bookes and pen I wyll apply.(1)

In these last lines of a verse letter to her sister, Isabella Whitney...

(The entire section is 2915 words.)

Ann Rosalind Jones (essay date 1990)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Jones, Ann Rosalind. “Counterattacks on ‘The Bayter of Women’: Three Pamphleteers of the Early Seventeenth Century.” In The Renaissance Englishwoman in Print: Counterbalancing the Canon, edited by Anne M. Haselkorn and Betty M. Travitsky, pp. 45-62. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1990.

[In the following excerpt, Jones examines Speght's scripturally based arguments for women's rights in A Muzzle for Melastomus, the first of several works written to refute Joseph Swetnam's popular anti-female pamphlet, The Araignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward and Unconstant Women.]

In 1615 Joseph Swetnam published The Araignment of Lewde, idle,...

(The entire section is 3670 words.)

Barbara Kiefer Lewalski (essay date 1993)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Lewalski, Barbara Kiefer. “Defending Women's Essential Equality: Rachel Speght's Polemics and Poems.” In Writing Women in Jacobean England, pp. 153-75. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993.

[In the following excerpt, Lewalski discusses Speght's life and two major works, A Muzzle for Melastomus and Mortalities Memorandum, which the critic argues establish Speght as one of the earliest European feminists who contested popular and biblically based ideas on the inferior status of women.]

Rachel Speght's importance has been seriously underrated. A well-educated young woman of the London middle class, she was the first Englishwoman to...

(The entire section is 12272 words.)

Kim Walker (essay date 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Walker, Kim. “‘This worke of Grace’: Elizabeth Middleton, Alice Sutcliffe, Rachel Speght, and Aemilia Lanyer.” In Women Writers of the English Renaissance, pp. 101-23. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1996.

[In the following excerpt, Walker discusses how Speght's “Dreame,” one of the poems in her Mortalities Memorandum, intends to show that women have the same ability as men to move from ignorance to knowledge.]

Rachel Speght is more radical in the strategies she employs to make herself a place in an overwhelmingly masculine literary tradition. In what Elaine Beilin describes as the “mythmaking” of the “Dream” narrative prefixed to...

(The entire section is 1806 words.)

Desma Polydorou (essay date March 2001)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Polydorou, Desma. “Gender and Spiritual Equality in Marriage: A Dialogic Reading of Rachel Speght and John Milton.” Milton Quarterly 35, no. 1 (March 2001): 22-32.

[In the following excerpt, Polydorou contrasts Speght's and John Milton's interpretations of biblical passages on gender roles and Christian marriage in order to argue that Speght far more than Milton should be seen as being at the forefront of seventeenth-century articulations of gender equality.]

While Milton may have been the first seventeenth-century canonical English writer to advance an arguably egalitarian view of woman,1 he is preceded and in some instances surpassed in this...

(The entire section is 3094 words.)

Linda Vecchi (essay date 2001)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Vecchi, Linda. “‘Lawfull Avarice’: Rachel Speght's Mortalities Memorandum and the Necessity of Women's Education.” Women's Writing 8, no. 1 (2001): 3-19.

[In the following essay, Vecchi argues that the central message of Speght's Mortalities Memorandum can best be understood by comparing its two poems, “The Dreame” and “Mortalities Memorandum,” the first of which bespeaks the author's thirst for knowledge, and the second of which exposes how difficult it was, even for an educated, self-confident woman like Speght, to escape the prison of seventeenth-century women's life.]

The publication in 1621 of Mortalities Memorandum by...

(The entire section is 7439 words.)