illustrated portrait of English playwright and poet William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

Start Free Trial


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2218

Fearful Simile: Stealing the Breech in Shakespeare's Chronicle Plays

Kathryn Schwarz, Vanderbilt University

The quene perswaded and encoraged by these meanes, toke upon her and her husbande, the high power and aucthoritie ouer the people and subiectes. And although she ioyned her husbande with hir in name, for a countenaunce, yet she did all, she saied all, and she bare the whole swynge, as the strong oxe doth, when he is yoked in the plough with a pore silly asse.

A domestick fury makes ill harmony in any family.1

Critically speaking, Shakespeare's Henry VI plays are always going to pieces. If the project of carving up these plays and giving only the best parts to Shakespeare has passed out of fashion, it has been replaced by various discussions of the plays as self-fragmenting—artifacts mirroring the disrupted state they describe. In this sense the logic of the plays might best be described in terms of repetition rather than linear progress: heroic flourishes, treacherous acts, the crowning, capturing, and killing of kings recur as patterns that all but eclipse the individuals concerned.2 And the female characters of these plays, like the men and the battles and the vicissitudes of kingship, might be less distinct than they are variations on a theme.3 Margaret is led onstage as Joan is dragged off; Joan's witchcraft anticipates that of the Countess; sexual excess is suspected about the virgin, suggested about the Countess, known about the queen; the woman warrior is reduced to ashes at the end of Part 1 only to reappear as the "Captain Margaret" of Part 3. Yet the progress in the second Henriad toward a centralized image of power is not absent from these earlier plays, although it is differently gendered and certainly far different in its effects; images of female transgression come ever closer to home and, when they are inside, look rather different than they did when they were outside. As Jean Howard and Phyllis Rackin observe in Engendering a Nation, "The French women who threaten to subvert the English historical project in Part 1 are unmarried; in Part II, the dangers they embody quite literally come home to England in the form of ambitious wives, married to the men who govern the land."4 In the first, second, and third parts of Henry VI, the consolidation of power is marked by a movement of monstrous female agency from margin to center, a movement that begins with the claim that the enemy is an Amazon and ends in the recognition of something distinctly amazonian about the woman who is queen, mother, and wife.

Conventions of female excess distinguish between the domestic and the imported, between transgressions that radically oppose socialized femininity and those out of which it is formed. In Still Harping on Daughters Lisa Jardine draws such a distinction between viragoes and shrews: "The threat of the scold is local and domestic; that of the Amazon/virago is generalised 'rejection of her sex', a strangeness which travesties nature."5 The amazonian references of Shakespeare's first tetralogy reflect early modern fascination with the possibility that the distinction might break down, that the two categories of transgression might, through the image of the amazonian wife, become one and the same. The result, I suggest, is an excursion into the uncanny, what Freud defines as "that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar."6 Images of Amazons in socially conventionalized roles locate the strange—and, indeed, the terrifying—within the familiar, resulting in the anxieties of conflation, displacement, and loss which Freud theorizes...

(This entire section contains 2218 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

as the uncanny's effect; this is the effect of bringing Margaret home, of locating female power at the intersection of the alien and the domestic. That intersection, Freud argues, is an effect of rhetoric, a collapse of opposition into conflation at the level of language itself. In his reading, the termheimlich identifies not only the home, with its structures of familiarity, but the ways in which those structures produce the conditions of their own disruption: "Thus heimlich is a word the meaning of which develops in the direction of ambivalence, until it finally coincides with its opposite, unheimlich. Unheimlich is in some way or other a sub-species of heimlich."7 With respect to Joan la Pucelle, rhetorically held at arm's length, the threat that the familiar might converge with the strange remains remote; but Queen Margaret, appropriating the heimlich, uncannily performs its conventions from within the terms of domesticity itself.

The shift inward is bracketed by the two kings' bodies: Henry V, who is mourned in his fallen presence and celebrated for his glorious past at the beginning of 1 Henry VI; and Henry VI, whose corpse appears onstage in the far more muted procession that begins Richard III. These spectacular royal corpses anticipate and summarize the progressive threat to sovereign male authority, a threat played out in the actions of the tetralogy's women. Readers have always recognized that the women of these plays have an enervating effect on the men: they are "domineering females," "typically defined as opponents and subverters of the historical and historiographic enterprise," "associated with bloody rites of violence and 'misrule,' " known to be from hell because of the confusion of gender," representative of "illegitimate and therefore unnatural power," possessing "all the coded and recognizable ambiguities of the castrating woman."8 Such vigorous consensus threatens to obscure the fact that its explanation is curiously doubled, conflating feminizing and effeminating processes that do not, upon consideration, add up to quite the same thing. Women, these readings suggest, destabilize male privilege through their appropriation of masculinity; at the same time, women sap male potency through their association with the feminized French. We might get around this rhetorical paradox by asserting that, in the Renaissance imagination, female masculinity is a sign of heterosexual excess, which is itself a conventionally feminine trait: "In life as on the stage," Rackin has argued, "masculine women were regarded as whores."9 But I want to take seriously for a moment the sense in which explanations of Joan and, to a still greater extent, of Margaret call on notions of femininity and masculinity in the same breath. It is this simultaneity, I will argue, that constructs the specifically disruptive effect of female agency; by invoking a doubled set of conventions, the Henry VI plays complicate the hierarchical relationship not only of men to women but also of homosocial systems of power to heterosexual conventions and roles. In both their iconographic and their sexual functions, Joan and Margaret challenge rather than consolidate the naturalized referential assumptions of masculinity, and this tetralogy chronicles an increasingly acute failure to use women in order to negotiate the bonds among men.10

Judith Butler has described gender as "an identity tenuously constituted in time, instituted in an exterior space through a stylized repetition of acts."11 For the female characters of the first tetralogy, gendered convention is not only highly and self-consciously stylized but doubled, presenting femininity and masculinity not as oppositional or mutually displacing terms but as simultaneous performative effects. It is a doubleness efficiently figured in the term Amazon, applied both to Joan and to Margaret; Amazon myth, with its paradoxical reference of masculine acts to female bodies, conflates the chivalric violence of encounters between men with the different violence of heterosexual conquest, with predictably disruptive effects. As objects of desire or items of exchange, Amazons do not consolidate male bonding; and if, as when Hercules "gives" the Amazon queen Hippolyta to Theseus, the attempt is made, the result is not comedy or confirmed masculine identity but parodic domestic roles and an inexorable progress toward tragic conclusions.12 In the course of the Henry VI plays, the disruption defined through reference to Amazons changes; although readers have tended to equate Joan and Margaret as figures of the French, the feminine, or the theatrical, these plays stage a significant shift in the terms of gendered performance. That shift is articulated in the difference between Amazon and amazonian, a difference that mirrors as it theorizes the movement inward that structures the tetralogy.

In I Henry VI, Joan is called an "Amazon" (1.2.104)13 as an articulation of doubled identity; constantly forced on the awareness of spectators both onstage and off, her position as a manly woman generates a peculiarly essentializing rhetoric that traces her disruptive effect to the fact that she "is" a collection of contradictory things. Margaret, by contrast, is termed "amazonian" and subjectively described as "play[ing] the Amazon" (1.4.114; 4.1.106); doubled identity here gives way to doubled performance, to a rhetoric of identity as relentlessly contingent. Joan functions only problematically within an economy governed by men because her value, as a gendered commodity and as an iconographie figure, does not remain constant; described through extremes of masculinity and femininity, catalogued as a virgin and as a whore, she figures these structures of categorization themselves as constructing not a continuum but an unsocializable collection of opposites. Margaret, by contrast, manipulates the terms of the socialized continuum itself. The moments at which she is identified as a virgin or a whore—as Henry's bride, as Suffolk's mistress—serve not to identify her through unassimilable contradictions but precisely to assimilate her into the middle ground of domestic convention. And it is Margaret's revision of the roles of mother, wife, and queen that brings masculinity and femininity into their most acutely performative conflation.

The rhetorical strategy that distinguishes Joan from Margaret participates in a larger distinction among monitory texts. Joan is described in the language of exemplary catalogues, which impose gendered conventions through the reification of polarities; extravagances of good and bad, restrained and excessive, familiar and alien, are categorized against one another in order to suggest a socialized space between, and it is Joan's embodiment of extremes at the expense of this socialized space that makes her a threat. Margaret, by contrast, recalls the language of conduct manuals, in which conventions are rhetorically performed rather than iconographically framed: as she plays a series of self-consciously domestic roles, Margaret at once echoes and suggests the transgressive potential of the terms through which wives, mothers, and even queens are defined. Both systems rely heavily on the relationship of the body to sexual acts; but if the first reifies that relationship as a self-evidently referential structure, the second implies, often against its own declared ideological ends, that the body may be less accessibly material than the processes through which convention is performed. The shift between ways of theorizing, and thus controlling, identity recalls another theory of the relationship between the embodied and the performed. In "The Signification of the Phallus" Lacan describes "the intervention of a 'to seem' that replaces the 'to have,' in order to protect it on the one side, and to mask its lack on the other."14 In negotiating the various implications of being, having, and seeming, Lacan suggests a transition from the rhetoric of identity as difference to the rhetoric of seeming as masking or appropriating the place of difference. By invoking this structure in order to articulate the roles played by Joan and by Margaret, I do not wish to argue that the play's variously amazonian women occupy the place of the phallus—although, considering the fantastic materiality and infinite metonymic retreat of early modern Amazons, the association possesses a certain imaginative power. I suggest instead that the tetralogy's representational strategy mirrors Lacan's in representing the conventional signs of discrete sexual identity, first as embodied paradox and, more powerfully, as constructed through a performance that is also a veil.

The three parts of Henry VI complicate the naturalized connection between masculinity and men through the changing relationships not only between "masculine" and "female" but also between "amazonian" and "Amazon," relationships that range from equation and causality to paradox. Such complications of identity and referentiality are in a sense the inevitable result of theatricality itself, which, Barbara Freedman argues, is constituted through a strategy of misreading analogous to the events of the Lacanian mirror stage: "Both tragic and comic narratives stage misrecognition in the quest for recognition. Whereas Shakespeare's tragedies address the need and failure to find a place in another's eyes, the comedies are more concerned with dislocating perspective; they suggest that only a limited perspectival space defined by error constitutes identity."15 In the Henry VI plays the theatrical effect itself is doubled, for, through its peculiar representation of women's place, Shakespeare's first tetralogy conflates the generic effects that Freedman describes. If Margaret's appearance as Henry's prospective bride at the end of 1 Henry VI shifts that play's register from tragic to comic conclusions, and if the results of that marriage turn comedy back toward tragedy, the plays mix up the conventions of recognition and misrecognition as well. "A woman's general. What should we fear?" Richard asks in 3 Henry VI (1.2.68), the false causality between statement and question marking the intersection of understanding and its failure. The attempt to relegate women to their place within masculinist hierarchies through the simple fact of recognizing them as women ignores another of the play's simple facts: that women may be masculine as well. "Henry VI, Part III, then, is spectacularly marked by the dissolution of every kind of male bond," write Howard and Rackin;16 I want to argue here that the tetralogy's spectacles of female agency are less that dissolution's symptom than its cause.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 4048

Henry VI, Part 1 defines Joan with relentless thoroughness as an outsider. Opposed to an English male aristocratic ideal, she is a woman, a peasant, a virgin, a whore, a saint, a witch, an Amazon, and French. Her threatened invasion, while it challenges English idealizations of heroic significance and physical space, could consolidate those ideals; if the English, at the end of 1 Henry VI, return to a smaller England, they bring with them a clarified sense of what Englishness means. Such a process appears to reiterate a convention of subjectivity, a negotiation of the relationship between familiar and strange that produces identity through difference; the multiplication of Joan's alien identities not only reflects that which is not English but comes, through that opposition, to define Englishness itself. Recognition of Joan, and violent disassociation from her, construct the male heroic subject, or, in Rackin's historiographic terms, male heroic abstractions are opposed to the insistence of female bodies: "[T]he whole issue of physical presence vs. historical record, dramatized in 1 Henry VI as a conflict between English men and French women, is central, not only to this particular play, but to the history play genre itself."17 Joan's "femaleness," however theatrically contingent, is an ideologically absolute condition against which the play constructs its privileged terms. Henry VI, Part 1 stages the processes of deliberately oppositional self-construction, what Butler, in her theory of "sex" as a function of sociality and power, describes as "a repudiation which produces a domain of abjection, a repudiation without which the subject cannot emerge." Butler goes on to argue, "This is a repudiation which creates the valence of 'abjection' and its status for the subject as a threatening spectre."18 But if Joan is abject and her threatening otherness useful, I would argue that her utility is complicated by the relationship it sets up between who she is and what she does. The play most effectively equates identity to performance in a figure who is neither English nor male nor conventionally heroic; the essentializing rhetoric that surrounds Joan both mirrors and parodies the play's various representations of essential connections between maleness and masculinity, between kingship or heroism and authority. If the play's resolution, defined in terms of nationalism, gender, or individual subjectivity, depends on a return to naturalized causalities, that return is proleptically disrupted in the characterization of Joan herself. The threat posed by Joan is not simply her evident otherness—which might, after all, only tell the hero what he wants to know—but is also the sense in which that otherness produces a more efficient claim to embodied referentiality than that posed by English male heroic authority itself.

The representation of Joan is thus ideologically useful in that it clarifies categorical and hierarchical structures by defining her against them; at the same time, because her role draws together gendered conventions identifying both the powerful and the abject, it might call into question the discretion and the privileged position of defining structures themselves. Henry VI, Part 1 insists on the verb of equation that links Joan to terms of description: Joan "is" a range of things, contradictory but always extreme, and in the spaces between them domesticity, as a nationalist and ultimately a familial ideology, is constituted. In her first encounter with the Dauphin, Joan offers a challenge and a warning: "My courage try by combat, if thou dar'st, / And thou shalt find that I exceed my sex" (1.2.89-90). That trial prompts the Dauphin's own statement of definition, the implications of which will follow Joan throughout the play. "Stay, stay thy hands! Thou art an Amazon, / And lightest with the sword of Deborah" (11. 104-5). The Dauphin here conflates what Joan is, what she has, and what she does, suggesting an economy within which signification does not float but remains firmly anchored to the conditions of its production. Joan's body may not display the monomastic utility invoked by "Amazon," but it has been nonetheless modified for her purpose, transformed by her encounter with divine grace. She says, "And, whereas I was black and swart before, / With those clear rays which she infused on me / That beauty am I blessed with which you may see" (11. 84-86). And her sword, if not actually the sword of Deborah, has been chosen by supernatural intervention, placed in her hands by a force that is not her own. The curious literalism of what should be metaphor gives Joan a singularity of function even as she is doubly read; throughout 1 Henry VI her identity will be defined by equation, by the rhetoric of "I am" and "you are." "Assigned am I to be the English scourge" (1. 129), she says. For the admirers and the objects of this scourging, its outcome may be differently valued but its processes look much the same.

It is this gap—between the recognized efficiency of Joan's acts and the dispute over their value—that complicates negotiations of relationships among men. True to theatrical form, 1 Henry VI privileges an almost exclusively homosocial universe; Howard and Rackin characterize the history play as "a specifically masculine genre" and argue that "its masculinity was identified with its function as an ideological apparatus for the construction of an emergent national consciousness."19 Women in such a context are defined most logically as the matter from which homosocial bonds are built, and this function is as important in the consolidation of hostility as it is in the making of friendship. Figured as individual chivalric conflicts or as wars between nations, battles between men (like alliances) display women as prize, as motive, and as cause. More than anything else, such displays require that the task of defining women in terms of sexual value must rest with men; that value may shift—Helen of Troy may look different to the Trojans than she does to the Greeks—but women themselves are always excluded from its determination. Fighting for or through or because of women gives logic to a male homosocial universe only as long as the place of women themselves remains constant, and in 1 Henry VI such constancy is an impossible fiction. Rather than being fought for, Joan la Pucelle is fought against, entering into the play's privileged masculine terms through the condition of masculinity itself. The resulting clash of conventions creates a kind of exemplary chaos, in which Joan is defined in terms that variously respond to evidence of her own agency rather than demonstrating the determinative power of men. When the French argue among themselves or with the English over her value, the terms of disagreement suggest that the relationship between her sexual and martial roles upsets the conditions through which the place of women is defined: is she given to the Dauphin as a gift or brought to him as an ally? Is she like the French in fighting for their cause, or are the French and the English, alike in being men, united against her? Are her grounds of battle those of nationalism, chivalric heroism, or some odd, early version of what we might now term women's rights? Responses to the play have suggested that Joan's presence onstage unites the English against the French, the men against the woman, the audience against the French, the audience and the English and arguably the French against Joan,20 the multiple gestures toward some consolidation of alliances suggest that Joan la Pucelle has anything but a consolidating effect.

The shifting values attached to her produce a constellation of names that trace the failure of consensus: in his introduction to Saint Joan George Bernard Shaw writes, "She is the most notable Warrior Saint in the Christian calendar, and the queerest fish among the eccentric worthies of the Middle Ages."21 The oddity of her iconography inflects Shakespeare's representation as well as those that precede and follow from it. In 1 Henry VI she is "a holy maid" (1.2.51), "an Amazon" (1. 104), "Pucelle or pussel" (1.4.107), "a witch" (1.5.6), a "high-minded strumpet" (1. 12), "Divinest creature, Astraea's daughter" (1.6.4), "France's saint" (1. 29)—and this is only in Act 1. In the multiplicity of epithets and encomia, Shakespeare echoes his sources; for Hall, in particular, Joan requires an agility of description which, even as it condemns her as "monster" and "orgayne of the deuill," gives rhetorical space to her own claims. Speaking of "[t]his wytch or manly woman, (called the maide of GOD)," Hall ascribes her virginity (if it exists) simultaneously to her "foule face" and to her own agency, making her at once a sign of the depravity that is Frenchness and a deceiver of noble rulers, "wise men," and "lerned clarkes." He writes, "O Lorde, what dispraise is this to the nobilitie of Fraunce: What biotte is this to the Frenche nacion?"22 The historical fact of Joan disrupts any rhetoric of analogy between Englishmen and Frenchmen; France may, in Hall's reading as in Shakespeare's, be outside whatever is English, but Joan la Pucelle represents a clear threat not only to Englishness but also to anything redeemably male in that which is French. Joan disrupts the rhetoric that connects men to men; and if the French seem willing to privilege her utility over her threat to their own masculinity, it is nonetheless true that even their praise marks her difference. The sense in which that difference both separates her from men and divides men from one another becomes explicit when she persuades Burgundy to abandon the English cause for that of the French. "Done like a Frenchman—[aside] turn and turn again!" (3.3.85), she says, and suddenly Burgundy's relationship to national identity, whether French or English, is not connection and self-definition but treason.

"Amazon," perhaps the most imaginatively powerful of Joan's identities, might encompass all of her extremes; a mythological structure that accommodates Penthesilea, chaste hero of Troy, beside the sexually ravenous cannibals of the New World can surely find space for a saint who is also a high-minded strumpet. Indeed, martial chastity and sexual excess are often invoked simultaneously to define the Amazon, providing a logic for Joan's doubleness. Gabriele Bernhard Jackson reads such doubleness as the play's insistence on the shiftiness of iconographic value: "In my reading of 1 Henry VI, the disjunctive presentation of Joan that shows her first as numinous, then as practically and subversively powerful, and finally as feminized and demonized is determined by Shakespeare's progressive exploitation of the varied ideological potential inherent in the topically relevant figure of the virago. . . . At no stage is the allocation of value clearcut."23 Virgin and whore, saint and witch, ideal and debased, masculine and feminine, Joan makes inevitable the punning paradox of Talbot's "Pucelle or pussel." Readings of her iconography point to anxieties concerning women which range from demonic possession to Catholicism to martial violence to sexual excess to the presence of a queen on the throne; behind each of these readings is the recognition that Joan's conflation of sexual and martial agency, like that represented in stories about Amazons, interrupts the privileged system of homosocial masculinity, rather than being defined by its terms. In the constellation of terms attached to female martiality, the strategies of definition locating women in a particular social place are still in play; but their efficacy comes into question when women can also take the place of men.

Definitions of Joan do not converge even in the name of patriotism; if for Hall and for Holinshed her monstrosity is demonstrably un-English, for other contemporary writers the nationalist distinction is less simple. Agrippa, in Female Pre-eminence, writes, "The English Nation were most ungratefull, should they ever forget their Obligations to this Sex," but oddly follows this with a brief history of Joan, describing what she has done for the French: "taking Arms like an Amazon, [she] arrested their fortune, put a stop to the torrent of their victories, and by degrees restor'd the withering de Luces to their former lustre."24 Christopher Newstead's Apology for Women follows Agrippa both in praising Joan and in invoking her in a context that fails to privilege nationalist agendas. He offers an exemplary catalogue of warlike women that places her in the company of Artemesia, Semiramis, Boadicea, and the Amazons of classical mythology.25 And Thomas Heywood, again like Agrippa, brings her analogically close to Englishness, offering a chapter in his Gynaikeion titled "Of English Viragoes. And of Ioan de Pucil."26 Each of these accounts accepts the militant virginity that 1 Henry VI places radically in question; each recognizes militance itself as a mode of nationalism not incongruously embodied in women. Still, though, such accounts suggest a certain ambivalence of their own: not everyone would agree with Newstead that Amazons make good exempla; not everyone would wish to return to the female heroic past celebrated by Agrippa, who himself calls Joan a "strange ridling Prodigy",27 and Heywood mediates his praise of Joan through her claims and those of her chroniclers, giving her history few of his own words and little of his authority. Joan "would report to diuerse" concerning her divine visitation; "The French Chronicles affirme" her acts of heroism; "she was proclaimed a Virago" in a declaration from the pope.28 Such gestures of ambivalence and mediation show that, while Joan's power to signify goes unchallenged, the question of what she signifies remains unclear. Both the accounts that praise her and those that deplore her do so in ways that allow the spectacle of female masculinity to rhetorically displace the importance of national boundaries. In 1 Henry VI, whatever fighting against Joan does or does not prove about being masculine, it at least demonstrates the fact of being English; but her exemplary function in early modern texts suggests that even this process of consolidation may be obscured by the shifting terms in which she is read.

Rather than continuing to focus on the ways in which accounts of Joan differ, I would like to turn to the sense in which they seem always to produce the same effect. Whether we imagine the grammatical condition of and or or—whether Joan exists simultaneously through contradictory identities or moves through a range of registers or "is" one thing but is erroneously read as another—the extremes of characterization preclude what is in between. No matter what we accept or reject about her claims of virginity and pregnancy, Joan cannot function conventionally as chaste daughter, generative mother, or nurturing wife; she is dislocated throughout this play from the domestic universe in which the roles played by women materialize the connections among men.29 Though her virginity is, according to her, absolute, it has no iconographic power to save her; Vives writes, "We haue redde of wome[n], that haue ben taken & let go agayne of the moste vnruly soudyours [soldiers], only for the reuerence of the name of virginitie, bicause they sayde that they were virgins,"30 but such logic does not work for the soldiers who capture Joan. She has no recognized value on which men can agree; the representational force of her virginity is opposed to, without being mediated by, her own claims to sexuality and the English definition of her as a whore. The categories are less confused than insisted upon as separate but equal. The rhetoric that condemns her, recalling Talbot's pun on her name, reiterates the paradox rather than demanding a single "truth": "Now heaven forfend! The holy maid with child?" (5.4.65); "And yet, forsooth, she is a virgin pure! / Strumpet, thy words condemn thy brat and thee" (11. 83-84). Joan's death, like her martial success and her iconographic effect, is a result of being at once neither and both. The space between virgin and whore, the complicated negotiation that produces the terms of the domestic, is precluded both by what others say about Joan and by what Joan says about herself; her ability to remain so relentlessly outside, however broadly the inside is defined, emerges from this sense in which she is never imaginably at home.

This becomes explicit when Joan tries to find some space within the heimlich; her final claim to be pregnant is an attempt to become recognizable as a commodity, a woman defined in terms of specific social value. Having witnessed the failure of her insistence on virginity and nobility, Joan performs what readers have always found to be a startling reversal, not only claiming pregnancy but revealing a disconcerting flexibility about the question of paternity. This, I would suggest, is a belated and doomed attempt to enter into the system of male bonds in conventionally feminine terms, to literally embody the condition that connects men to one another; and if her captors do not value the Dauphin's child, Joan is willing to change her story through the invention of a series of fathers until her body performs an acceptable role. But as the play makes clear, the attempt to rewrite this particular body as doing socially conventional work cannot succeed. What is perhaps most interesting here is that the men of the play do not care whether Joan's claims are true or false, whether she is indeed the mother of a child and, if so, whose child; in an ideological sense the question is not worth asking, for the literal fact of pregnancy could not, for Joan, be equated with the social value of maternity. Joan is defined by and as the frustration of the bonds that her final narrative attempts to form, and hers is not an identity that can be revised. Like the stories of amazonian maternity narrated by early modern authors, in which Amazons kill, cripple, or enslave their male children or return them to anonymous fathers, Joan's version of maternity cannot be translated into patriarchal terms. Her last desperate claim, and the death that follows, have been read as feminization, putting her body back into a recognizable social place; yet I think that this ending demonstrates more explicitly than any other element of Joan's story that for her such a place does not exist.31

Joan's threat to the male homosocial systems of the play rests on this dislocation; her identity as a woman is not socializable, and her martial performance threatens to make conventions of masculinity inscrutable as well. Battling each other, men affirm what masculinity is; battling Joan, whose doubleness is relentlessly legible, they have difficulty knowing what it means. When Bedford asks, "A maid? And be so martial?" he points to the fact that Joan's martial acts do not constitute a transvestite disguise plot; there is no moment of redeeming revelation and refeminization, for the female body is always visibly the referent of masculine acts.32 "Where is my strength, my valor, and my force?" asks Talbot; "Our English troops retire; I cannot stay them. / A woman clad in armor chaseth them" (1.5.1-3). If Talbot conventionally marks the center of English male chivalric valor, he finds in Joan's female masculinity the potential unwriting of the referential structure that defines him; his statement "I know not where I am nor what I do" (1. 20) suggests that Joan's presence unravels the naturalized connection between masculinity and men. It is not Joan who kills him; indeed, they are not even opposites in the representational logic of 1 Henry VI but are rather two objects that cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Rackin writes that "Talbot, the English champion, and Joan, his French antagonist, speak alternative languages."33 When the English scourge speaks her deflating words over the English champion, she proves that he has come too far into her field of discourse.

Readers have theorized Joan's difference in many ways, from the mythological to the sexual to the economic to the theological, but her opposition to the play's martial, male, English center seems clear.34 Indeed, in recalling her abortive battle with young Talbot, Joan herself sees it as a convention, a set of oppositions always already in quotation marks.

Once I encountered him, and thus I said: "Thou maiden youth, be vanquished by a maid." But with a proud, majestical high scorn He answered thus: "Young Talbot was not born To be the pillage of a giglot wench."


The maid is opposed to the "giglot wench," the French to the English, the Amazon to the would-be conqueror, the woman to the man. And yet such lines might be obscured by the image of Joan, and the distinction between outside and in threatens at times to disappear entirely; England itself is not safe from the effects of Joan's iconography. Bedford articulates this vulnerability in one of the play's earliest speeches, while the body of Henry V still lies onstage: "Posterity, await for wretched years, / When at their mothers' moistened eyes babes shall suck, / Our isle be made a nourish of salt tears, / And none but women left to wail the dead" (1.1.48-51). England in this image becomes a place of women, a space defined by the loss of men; the land of Amazons is always, such rhetoric implies, closer than you think.

Or perhaps the heimlich is simply farther away. The moments at which the terms of the center are threatened suggest less an invasion than a dispersal; Joan la Pucelle, with all the strangeness she signifies, never comes close, but the various elements that converge to produce familiarity can always move apart. Leah Marcus takes this possibility to its logical extreme when she finds in Joan an image of Queen Elizabeth I:

In Henry VI, Part 1, Joan La Pucelle functions in many ways as a distorted image of Queen Elizabeth I. She, like Elizabeth, is a woman who "acts like a man." She collects about her a markedly similar set of idealized symbolic identities. Yet she belongs to the enemy camp. The figure of Joan brings into the open a set of suppressed cultural anxieties about the Virgin Queen, her identity, and her capacity to provide continuing stability for the nation.35

If Joan looks like Elizabeth, if Elizabeth looks like Joan, this is not a domestication of the strange but an estrangement of the domestic; the metonymies that lead from queen to biblical heroine to classical goddess should never be pursued to the borders occupied by devils and witches and whores. Understood in the terms that define Joan la Pucelle, Queen Elizabeth I would figure a revision of royal iconography in which the sovereign, rather than embodying the bond that draws men together, makes monstrous the hierarchical connection of monarch to male subject and thus disrupts the lateral connections that define unified male subjectivity itself. Such disruption, 1 Henry VI suggests, is the danger posed by female martiality; in the set of associations traced by Marcus, that danger is unimaginably escalated in the figure of a martial female queen.

Henry VI, Part 1 ultimately resists the identification of Queen Elizabeth with Joan, or at least distorts the mirror image to the point of unrecognizability; there remains a powerful impulse to keep the figure of Joan la Pucelle outside the terms of the familiar. It is an impulse that has driven readings not only of dramatic structure but of canon: if Joan is definitively not English and in some sense not French, she is also sometimes not Shakespeare's. Tillyard, in Shakespeare's History Plays, describes this argument as he dismisses it:

Apart from the queer reluctance to allow Shakespeare to have written ill or like other dramatists when he was immature, the chief reason why people have been hostile to Shakespeare's authorship [of 7 Henry VI] is the way he treats Joan of Arc. That the gentle Shakespeare could have been so ungentlemanly as to make his Joan other than a saint was intolerable. This is precisely like arguing that Shakespeare could not have written King John because he does not mention Magna Carta.36

Not, perhaps, precisely. The gesture that defines Joan la Pucelle as "not Shakespeare's" is not merely a defense of chivalry or good historicism but a symptomatic reproduction of the play's own logic, logic that identifies the familiar through the power of the contrary example: if idealized Englishness is constructed against France's Joan, then the idealized Shakespeare, in controversies over the authorship of this play, has been constructed against a Joan who belongs to someone else entirely. By this logic, to allow Joan into the canon is to endanger the most important bond of all—that which links Shakespeare to his readers and thus to the "Shakespearean." In metatextual negotiations, as with those that take place onstage, the terms in which Joan is defined suggest the fragility of privileged systems of connection.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2605

Possession may, as Lacan asserts, always be an illusion; it is also, however, a way of articulating the relationship between agency and desire that structures the representation of women in Henry VI, Part 2. As York speaks his last line to Joan—"Curse, miscreant, when thou com'st to the stake" (1HVI,5.3.44)—the statement of finality, punctuated by the stage direction "Exeunt," is immediately undermined by another stage direction: "Enter Suffolk, with Margaret in his hand. " For Joan, being a Frenchwoman in the hands of the English is an experience of violence that demonizes sex; for Margaret, literally in the hand of Suffolk and metonymically in the hands of the king, the position is more conventionally eroticized, her body defined as a commodity well worth the effort expended to acquire it. "She's beautiful, and therefore to be wooed; / She is a woman, therefore to be won," says Suffolk (11. 78-79); and where Joan's beuaty had been, like her sword, a weapon divinely bestowed, Margaret's is read as a commodity adding to her value and lending agency to the men who look at her. Immediately recognizable as an object of desire, Margaret is given a version of power which, like the power of all Petrarchan objects, returns itself to the man disempowered by her beauty. "Fie, de la Pole, disable not thyself," Suffolk says,

Hast not a tongue? Is she not here? Wilt thou be daunted at a woman's sight?

Ay, beauty's princely majesty is such Confounds the tongue and makes the senses rough.

(11. 67-71)

The hint that Margaret might possess the power to disable men—a hint to which the play will come back with, quite literally, a vengeance—is here transformed into a conventionally self-authored loss of speech analogous to that suffered by Sidney's Astrophil.37

The tropes that link sexual and political economies define Margaret's place onstage, making her at once a prize of war and a prisoner of love. "To be a queen in bondage is more vile / Than is a slave in base servility, / For princes should be free," she tells Suffolk, and he replies, "And so shall you, / If happy England's royal king be free" (11. 112-15). The equation of sovereign privilege and erotic power will return to haunt the men who desire Margaret; for the moment, though, such shifts in agency and literalization are remote, and Suffolk constructs success from the familiar materials of Petrarchan language.

Solicit Henry with her wondrous praise; Bethink thee on her virtues that surmount, And natural graces that extinguish art; Repeat their semblance often on the seas, That, when thou com'st to kneel at Henry's feet, Thou mayest bereave him of his wits with wonder.

(11. 190-95)

Agreeing to function as the connection between men, Margaret enables Suffolk to conquer his king, bringing Henry not only to desire but to dependence: "So am I driven by breath of her renown / Either to suffer shipwreck or arrive / Where I may have fruition of her love" (5.5.7-9). And yet, we should perhaps remember, triangles work in a number of directions; if Suffolk reads Margaret as a mediating term, for Margaret herself Suffolk mediates effectively—and briefly—between a position of disadvantage and one of extraordinary power. Margaret's body does not long remain a passive text, and Shakespeare's own text is governed less by Petrarchan conventions of desire than by the anxieties of a more material fragmentation. Henry VI, Part 2 stages the shift from "Queen Margaret, England's happiness!" to the "blood-bespotted Neapolitan, / Outcast of Naples, England's bloody scourge!" of York's accusation (1.1.37; 5.1.117-18). Margaret, aggressively conventionalized as the matter of male bonds, becomes instead the cause of their most radical dissolution, precipitating the representational violence not of sonnets but of civil war.

Echoes of a familiar rhetoric attach themselves to Margaret long before York's reinvocation of the English scourge. "Such commendations as becomes a maid, / A virgin, and his servant, say to him," she instructs Suffolk at the end of 1 Henry VI (5.3.177-78), immediately recalling that other maid who has scarcely left the stage.38 But if Margaret's body—female, French, desirable, and of dubious lineage—recalls Joan la Pucelle, her performance is markedly different. She moves inward as decisively as Joan remains outside, her body focusing projections of the future as the body of Henry V had summoned nostalgia for the past. "Her valiant courage and undaunted spirit, / More than in women commonly is seen, / Will answer our hope in issue of a king" (1HVI, 5.5.70-72). Even here, in Suffolk's early words, Margaret is already both in and curiously out of place, her courage and spirit analogous to the conquests of Henry V, while Henry VI stands in a mediated relationship to both: "For Henry, son unto a conqueror, / Is likely to beget more conquerors, / If with a lady of so high resolve / As is fair Margaret he be linked in love" (11. 73-76). The dynamics of this triangle, from the perspective of the living English male sovereign authority, have already gone wrong, as will those of the triangle formed by Margaret, Suffolk, and Henry VI. "She should have stayed in France and starved in France" (2HVI, 1.1.133), Gloucester says, but such literal marginalization, like the categoric strategy on which it relies, does not work for Margaret as it did for Joan. Identified as mother, queen, and wife, Margaret embodies a range of conventionally feminine obligations and transgressions that locate her in the midst of English nationalist negotiations, not despite but because of their aggressively domestic terms.

It is important to note that the disruptive effect of women in this play stems not from any rebellion against convention but from full participation in it. The Margaret of 2 Henry VI plays out a woman's part: if the first play of this tetralogy presents the materiality of Joan's body iconographically, the second defines Margaret's body in terms of its utility, representing her first as an object and finally as an agent of acquisition. That shift in agency structures Margaret's appearances in the play, as the qualities that make her desirable to Suffolk and to Henry become the means through which she herself claims the agency of desire. Imagined as a royal accessory, she is acquired at a cost, gaining control of the English succession even as England loses control of France. The marriage, which Henry reads as a triumph of desire and Suffolk as a strategic climax, is for Margaret only the beginning. "Margaret shall now be Queen and rule the King; / But I will rule both her, the King, and realm" (5.5.107-8), Suffolk says at the end of I Henry VI It is a prophecy perhaps best answered by a stage direction from 2 Henry VI that uncannily parallels Suffolk's entrance "with Margaret in his hand": "Enter the King with a supplication, and the Queen with Suffolk's head . . ." (4.4, s.d.).

And why, we might briefly pause to wonder, is she carrying his head? Margaret does not directly cause Suffolk's death. But as she walks onstage, she has an odd effect on the doubled convention, erotic and political, of fragmentation-as-synthesis: the metaphor that presents the ruler as the head of the body politic, like the Petrarchan tropes that dissect the body of the mistress for the pleasure of other men, is displaced by this economy in which bodies, men's bodies, literally come apart. Margaret's mourning takes a darkly comic form—"Here may his head lie on my throbbing breast, / But where's the body that I should embrace?" (11. 5-6)—as it materializes Suffolk's earlier conceit:

If I depart from thee, I cannot live, And in thy sight to die, what were it else But like a pleasant slumber in thy lap? Here could I breathe my soul into the air, As mild and gentle as the cradle babe Dying with mother's dug between its lips. . .


"Leaving you would kill me," the Petrarchan lover routinely tells his mistress, claiming her through her claim on him; but the dynamics of power look rather different if he is right. Objectified in such conventional terms, Margaret figures the ways in which conventions themselves might go wrong, reentering the representational space of 2 Henry VI with the fragmented body of her object of desire.39 And Suffolk's death marks the first explicit displacement of King Henry as well: "His body will I bear unto the King. / If he revenge it not, yet will his friends; / So will the Queen, that living held him dear," says the courtier who picks up the pieces (4.1.146-48). Imported to connect Suffolk to his king, Margaret transforms that connection into an image of violence and loss; in Margaret, Henry gets rather more than Suffolk had bargained for.

"These are no women's matters" (1.3.117), Glucester tells the queen as dissent threatens England, but the fragmentation central to 2 Henry VI is precipitated first by male attempts to acquire Margaret and finally by Margaret's own strategies of acquisition, transforming passion into action, an object to an agent within explicitly feminine conditions of performance. Margaret effects disruption through adultery, envy, lust, shrewishness, extravagance, and conceit, her excesses conventionalized even as they are held responsible for the increasingly precarious state of England. Gloucester's wife Eleanor, who, like her husband, will fall victim to Margaret's revenge, recognizes her power of categorical upset, telling Henry: "Look to't in time. / She'll hamper thee and dandle thee like a baby. / Though in this place most master wear no breeches, / She shall not strike Dame Eleanor unrevenged" (11. 144-47). But again, as in the Petrarchan fantasies of Suffolk and of King Henry himself, reading Margaret proves a dangerous business. The structures of power may be clear, but positions within them shift without warning; and Eleanor finds herself the object rather than the agent of revenge.

Not all these lords do vex me half so much As that proud dame, the Lord Protector's wife. She sweeps it through the court with troops of ladies, More like an empress than Duke Humphrey's wife. Strangers in court do take her for the Queen.

(11. 75-79)

No one in Queen Margaret's court should look too much like Queen Margaret. But this is not the "Captain Margaret" of 3 Henry VI, who emasculates her husband by taking command of his armies; this is instead a figure of specifically feminine pique, whose physical violence is limited to the stage direction "She gives the Duchess a box on the ear" (2HVI, 1.3.138, s.d.).

Margaret, in short, is dangerous in this play because she is conventional, because desire for her makes her husband an effeminate cuckold and because her own feminine vanity makes her a formidable political conspirator. The synthesis of desirability and agency disrupts the hierarchical relationship between homosocial privilege and the heterosexuality through which it is reproduced; Henry's marriage guarantees not the promised continuity of father and son but the intervention of women in the negotiations among men. Thus Gloucester falls as a consequence of both Margaret's ambition and his own conjugal indulgence, much as Henry falls to his own desire, for in the world of this play, men are victimized by Margaret's performance of femininity as effectively as York will be by her sword. Coppélla Kahn has argued that, in history plays, "liaisons with women are invariably disastrous because they subvert or destroy more valued alliances between men."40 Such an effect, naturalized through repetition in the Henry VI plays, is in fact distinctly un-natural; it suggests that heterosexuality, rather than playing its proper part in the perpetuation of male homosocial systems of power, violates the hierarchical relationship on which that power is based, invading rather than delineating the space between men. Instead of the logic that draws men together through the processes of evaluation and exchange, these plays offer an alternative logic in which female agency disrupts male control over the significance of conventional roles. The terms of the heimlich, of domestic convention itself, thus become signs of disjunction rather than consolidation; in 2 Henry VI the enemy is at home, and Henry's marriage, which Joyce Green MacDonald calls "a marriage contradicting in every particular the patriarchal mandate for the union of a prince," systematically strips him of the conditions of agency which, for the space of 3 Henry VI, Margaret will take on.41

Henry's marriage to Margaret does not merely unman him but places him in a distinctly precarious relationship to the crown; echoing the chronicles, Gloucester holds that union responsible for the fragmentation of England itself.

O peers of England, shameful is this league! Fatal this marriage, canceling your fame, Blotting your names from books of memory, Razing the characters of your renown, Defacing monuments of conquered France, Undoing all, as all had never been!


Margaret erases the glory of England as Joan la Pucelle had deflated posthumous Talbot's catalogue of glory—"Him that thou magnifi'st with all these titles / Stinking and fly-blown lies here at our feet" (4.7.75-76)—but here what Rackin has described as women's "anti-historical" effect is generated and articulated from within. Both Joan and Margaret threaten to obscure the terms through which men recognize one another and thus identify themselves, but in 2 Henry VI history is obscured not by a battle but by a marriage. "My wife was wise and good had she bene rightly sought, / But our vnlawful getting it, may make a good thing nought," Henry says in The Mirror for Magistrates.42 In 2 Henry VI, Margaret, the "thing" to be "got," recoils upon the getter, turning the structures of acquisition and desire into her own narrative tools. Wanting to be queen, she marries Henry; wanting to be first in importance, she ousts Gloucester; simply, apparently, wanting, she acquires Suffolk, in whole and then in part. There is an insistently conventional femininity not only in the nature of these transgressions but in Margaret's mediated participation in them: as a desiring subject, she works indirectly, appropriating to her uses the structures and the desires of men. If Joan la Pucelle might consolidate an English male aristocratic ideal through opposition, Queen Margaret gets under its skin.

Domesticity, in this context, fails to reassure; there is no space, literal or mythological, between Margaret and England as there is between England and Joan, and Margaret's implication in nationalist and familial tropes fragments the political state even as she appropriates the rhetoric of statecraft. Margaret's presence is inescapably quotidian: where Joan's iconographic identities exist in synchronic contradiction, Margaret's have a diachronic utility. Chastity makes her a wife, sexuality makes her a queen, maternity makes her the mother of a prince, and, in 3 Henry VI, martiality will make her an effective king. Because her roles begin in femininity and persist into usurpation, Margaret is difficult to put in her place; even Heywood, who places her among his "English Viragoes," prefers to say as little as possible, stating only that iconographic rhetoric lacks words to contain her.

Of queene Margaret the wife of Henrie the sixt, her courage, resolution, and magnanimitie, to speake at large, would aske a Volume rather than a compendious discourse, to which I am strictly tyed. And therefore whosoever is desirous to be further instructed in the successe of those many battailes fought against the house of Yorke, in which she was personally present, I referre them to our English Chronicles, that are not sparing in commending her more than womanish spirit, to euerlasting memorie.43

As Heywood's catalogue of exempla directs the reader to the chronicles, diachronic action again displaces synchronic definition; Margaret must be read less according to what she is than to what she does. The privileging of action—or, in the context of Shakespeare's plays, of acting—is implicit in Margaret's adroit deployment of femininity in the second part of Henry VI; it will emerge fully in the aggressive seemings of the third.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 6405

As 3 Henry VI begins, Margaret no longer stands in a mediated relationship to sovereign power. The king has become "Base, fearful, and despairing Henry!" (1.1.178), and Margaret claims the space of government. The claim, again, is based on an invasion that has already taken place. When Henry, yielding to York, disinherits his own son, Margaret first desires to disclaim her relationship to national and familial domesticity altogether: "Ah, wretched man! Would I had died a maid / And never seen thee, never borne thee son, / Seeing thou hast proved so unnatural a father!" (11. 216-18). Margaret here wishes herself back in the position of Joan, the maid opposed to rather than implicated in the political and erotic terms of Englishness. But if for Joan that distance is always potentially an illusion, for Margaret it is not even that. Playing the roles of mother and wife, she chastises Henry for his own more tenuous connection to their son and by extension to kingship itself:

Hadst thou but loved him half so well as I, Or felt that pain which I did for him once, Or nourished him as I did with my blood, Thou wouldst have left thy dearest heart-blood there, Rather than have made that savage duke thine heir And disinherited thine only son.

(11. 220-25)

Constructing a causal relationship between maternity and good sovereignty, Margaret excludes the king, displacing him simultaneously in marital and martial terms: "I here divorce myself / Both from thy table, Henry, and thy bed. . . . The northern lords that have forsworn thy colors / Will follow mine, if once they see them spread" (11. 247-48, 251-52). If generative heterosexuality identifies Margaret as the means through which Henry is connected to and reproduced in his son, here the means becomes an end; Margaret's declaration of agency, rather than her passively maternal body, reasserts the identity of Prince Edward as that identity is threatened by the king's paternal failure. Her martiality does not replace the conventional femininity of maternal obligation but emerges from it; with her claim to Henry's armies, Margaret makes violence itself domestic. Henry articulates the causality: "Poor Queen! How love to me and to her son / Hath made her break out into terms of rage!" (11. 264-65), he says, revealing the sense in which the conventionalized femininity of 2 Henry VI leads inexorably to the "ruthless queen" of Part 3. Margaret seems always to be between men in these plays, but as she shifts her investment from Suffolk to Henry, from Henry to his son, the dynamics of power implicit in that position become distinctly double-edged.

For the chroniclers Henry is "a ruler not Ruling," and Margaret, in consequence, becomes "quene Margarete his wyfe, in whom the whole rule of the realme consisted"; "The Quene, which bare the rule"; "the Quene, whiche then ruled the rost and bare the whole rule"; "Quene Margarete, whose breath ruled."44 In such accounts Margaret's agency, however aggressively defined, results from the king's abdication; Hall writes, "[T]he Quene encouraged her frendes, and promised great rewardes to her helpers: for the kyng studied nothing but of peace, quyet and solitarie life."45 Because there is no king, there must be Queen Margaret. Howard and Rackin suggest that this causality structures 3 Henry VI: "Margaret's prominence in the action immediately suggests a weakness in the patriarchal structures that should have rendered her less visible and less powerful"; they conclude, "The scandal of Henry VI, Part III is not that a woman is a general, but that a man, and an anointed king to boot, can perform none of the actions expected of a father and a king."46 But I think that for Shakespeare the construction of Queen Margaret is a more deliberate process: as it conflates claims to maternal and martial agency, her statement "I here divorce myself takes on the force of a speech act, creating a role that exceeds the space left empty by the king. Accused of playing the Amazon, Queen Margaret figures an agency that is constructed without being contingent. Within the terms of amazonian logic, women may assume power through the absence of men, but in so doing, they alter the conditions of power itself, making it difficult if not impossible for the conventional relationships between agency and maleness to return. As she brings the spectacle of female martiality into England and into the play's national and familial structures, Margaret appropriates a kind of editorial control over what the roles of king and queen, husband and wife, man and woman can be understood to mean, closing down the imaginative possibility of a naturalized reinscription of hierarchy. The terms through which Margaret becomes amazonian are those of recognizing something already in place, not of discovering something new. Conventional domesticity does not provide a space of safety in 3 Henry VI, for both Margaret's rhetoric and that which describes her suggest that martial women are not born but can be made.

"I would Your Highness would depart the field. / The Queen hath best success when you are absent," Clifford tells Henry, and Margaret adds, "Ay, good my lord, and leave us to our fortune" (2.2.73-75). This differs subtly but significantly from the account given by the chronicles, in which Margaret's success contextualizes Henry's failure: "Happy was the quene in her two battayls, but vnfortunate was the kyng in all his enterprises, for where his person was presente, ther victory fled euer from him to the other parte, & he commonly was subdued & vanqueshed."47 In 3 Henry VI Margaret's possessive—our fortune—exiles Henry from the condition of England; he does not lose the battle so much as vanish from its terms of representation, as when his son tells him, "When I return with victory from the field, / I'll see Your Grace. Till then I'll follow her" (1.1.261-62). The dyad of mother and son, like that of sovereign and subjects, excludes the king, for the Margaret of 3 Henry VI is no longer constructed through triangles. Her roles draw substance from familial and political connections, but her relationship to agency is not contingent on third terms. Having consolidated the functions of domesticity, Margaret makes maternal and national obligation the same thing: to fight for her son is to fight for the integrity of England itself. "A woman's general. What should we fear?" Richard asks; but in the world of 3 Henry VI, in which Margaret's synthesis of martiality and maternity intervenes in the connections and actions conventionally reserved for men, his question contains a differently self-evident answer than he imagines.

Where Joan la Pucelle embodies contradictory iconographic positions by literalizing a series of tropes, Margaret consolidates contradiction through the explicitness of playing, her masculine performance inseparable from the fictional female body she presents onstage. For Margaret's role-playing, even when referred to what seem the most essential of causes, is relentlessly performative; having appropriated the terms of Englishness, she disrupts them through a theatrical presence that confounds materiality and illusion. Butler writes, "[T]he regulatory norms of 'sex' work in a performative fashion to constitute the materiality of bodies and, more specifically, to materialize the body's sex, to materialize sexual difference in the service of the consolidation of the heterosexual imperative. . . . what constitutes the fixity of the body, its contours, its movements, will be fully material, but materiality will be rethought as the effect of power."48 On the early modern stage such apparently counterintuitive causalities of embodiment reflect dramatic necessity, and for history plays the relationship between performative agency and political power poses questions that are particularly acute. For 3 Henry VI those questions are at once focused and redoubled as the concerns of politics and sex converge in Queen Margaret. The connections among power, performance, and heterosexual imperatives produce a female sexual body that is not only a theatrical but a political intervention. And if, as Butler suggests, heterosexual sociality constructs and makes use of certain kinds of bodies, the manifestly constructed body of Margaret makes effective use of heterosexual sociality itself. A boy-actor in a woman's part, a Frenchwoman who becomes England's queen, a queen who acts as a king, a mother who defends the patrilineal rights of her son by standing in a father's place, Shakespeare's Queen Margaret constructs agency through a revision of the relationship of bodies to acts and of women to the systematic conventions of masculine identity.

Because these plays attempt to identify the center against what it is not—or, in the case of Queen Margaret, what it should not be—the space of English male subjectivity is defined by the performances of women. And, with Margaret's various deployments of domesticity, that space becomes ever more claustrophobic. As I have suggested, her domestic sphere is national as well as familial, a conflation that inflects the play more generally. Thus, having captured York, Margaret brings home the frustration of his political ambition through a death in the family: "Look, York, I stained this napkin with the blood / That valiant Clifford, with his rapier's point, / Made issue from the bosom of the boy" (1.4.79-81). Rutland's death, which is for Margaret a logical consequence of this kind of war, represents for his father a monstrous crossing of lines:

O tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide! How couldst thou drain the lifeblood of the child, To bid the father wipe his eyes withal, And yet be seen to bear a woman's face? Women are soft, mild, pitiful, and flexible; Thou stern, obdurate, flinty, rough, remorseless.

(11. 137-42)

York here attempts to re-separate, to oppose "women" to "Margaret" and prove through her acts that she is not one; calling on conventions of femininity, he rhetorically returns women to their place. Yet Margaret's performance disrupts the masculine structures that give such conventions authority, denaturalizing the distinctions on which York insists; and even his own language mirrors Margaret's privileging of playing, of seeming over being seen to be. The verb of equation linking Margaret to the qualities she does or does not possess connects her to adjectives rather than to nouns; where Joan is Amazon, witch, strumpet, scourge, Margaret is stern, obdurate, flinty, rough, remorseless. Margaret does not seem as, act as she should, and York's metaphor of the "tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide," figuring the female body as a costume, implicates sexual essentialism itself in the rhetoric of performance.

According to York, Margaret epitomizes all that women and queens should not be: "But that thy face is, vizard-like, unchanging, / Made impudent with use of evil deeds, / I would assay, proud queen, to make thee blush" (11. 116-18). According to early modern monitory texts, however, she acts precisely as women and queens always threaten to do; The English Gentlewoman, for example, describes predictable disillusion rather than monstrous wonders but echoes York's rhetoric closely nonetheless. "What prodegy fuller of wonder, then to see a woman thus transformed from nature?" Brathwait writes. "Her face is not her owne, note her complexion; her eye is not her owne, note her straid motion; her habit is not her owne, eye her strange fashion. Whilest loose weares imply light workes; and thin cobwebbe couers promise free admittance to all sensuali louers."49 In such clichés, as in Shakespeare's first Henriad, female excess, inherently theatrical, is at once a snare for men and an appropriation of apparent maleness. Cosmetics and clothes produce a strangely masculine monster, and exposure of the essential woman holds as many unpleasant surprises as does the armor of feminine convention. Joan Riviere refers to "the conception of womanliness as a mask, behind which man suspects some hidden danger."50 In 3 Henry VI the danger is doubled: to interrogate one masquerade is to be confronted by another, and any attempt to see either the woman or the warrior results only in the reminder that Margaret, at any given moment, quite efficiently seems to be both. "Tell him my mourning weeds are laid aside / And I am ready to put armor on" (3.3.229-30), she says in response to Edward's challenge; her response, like Joan's encounter with young Talbot, is later mediated by quotation marks. The Post relays the message—"'Tell him,' quoth she, 'my mourning weeds are done, / And I am ready to put armor on'"—to which Edward replies, "Belike she minds to play the Amazon" (4.1.104-6).

The anxiety produced by such playing emerges fully in the only simile of York's great speech: "How ill-beseeming is it in thy sex / To triumph, like an Amazonian trull / Upon their woes whom fortune captivates!" (1.4.113-15). The term that finds a logical referent in Joan la Pucelle is attached only fearfully and contingently—"like an Amazonian trull"—to England's queen. If Margaret is "Amazonian," the adjective attaches itself uneasily; for if she marks the space "beyond" —beyond Englishness, maleness, a constant and referential understanding of power—she does so from so far inside the structures defining those terms that it is not clear where the English male aristocratic hero can safely go. "[Y]ou are more inhuman, more inexorable, / O, ten times more, than tigers of Hyrcania. / See, ruthless Queen, a hapless father's tears!" says York (11. 154-56); the "inhumanity" of Margaret's performance lies in its exposure of the transgressive potential of women's roles, its playing out of the anxious possibility of literalization. Margaret gives York the blood of his son, identifying it by defining the paternal connection that he cannot recognize without her help. Metaphorically articulated, such an act precisely enables male bonding, using women to materialize fantasies of parthenogenesis. Literalizing the rhetoric of those fantasies in an act of violence, Margaret dismantles patrilineal systems of connection.

This is the threat posed by the amazonian in 3 Henry VI: the play does not attack the conventions that define women's roles but performs them, demonstrating their vulnerability to revision from within. Margaret's transgressions gain force from their revelation that the logic of transgression is already in place, for in fact the terms of seeming—or, to take up York's term, ill-beseeming—that attend Margaret's performance are not alien but familiar. As John Knox's rhetoric in The First Blast suggests, female dominance might always shift from the political to the personal and back again; Knox's notorious observation that those seeing England under female rule "should judge the whole world to be transformed into Amazons" is followed by a detailed discussion of the Amazon at home.

To the further declaration of the imperfections of women, of their natural weakness and inordinate appetites, I might adduce histories proving some women to have died for sudden joy, some for unpatience to have murdered themselves; some to have burned with such inordinate lust that, for the quenching of the same, they have betrayed to strangers their country and city; and some to have been so desirous of dominion that, for the obtaining of the same, they have murdered the children of their own sons. Yea, and some have killed with cruelty their own husbands and children.51

Women, Knox argues, are always potentially excessive, always potentially amazonian: women make bad enemies; women will betray their countries; women will become dangerous within the family, killing their children and their men. The Margaret of 5 Henry VI emerges from this tradition of anxious polemics, in which the amazonian is linked to the domestic through terms of violence. The most logical victims of that violence are the husbands and children whose identity conventional femininity should work to mediate and define.

As Margaret's first victim, King Henry VI is identified in terms of his vulnerability to revision; in Warwick's words,

The proud insulting Queen, With Clifford and the haught Northumberland, And of their feather many more proud birds, Have wrought the easy-melting King like wax.


Describing himself as "the hapless male to one sweet bird" (5.6.15), Henry can be understood only in relation to the desires and intentions of his wife. Conquering her husband erotically and aesthetically, Margaret literalizes the fantasy of female power articulated by Suffolk and by Henry himself in conventionally Petrarchan terms; the revelation of 3 Henry VI is that Petrarchan fictions have real consequences, leading as naturally to "Captain Margaret" as they do to the rhetoric of desire.52 And Warwick, describing Henry as "My sovereign, with the loving citizens, / Like to his island girt in with the ocean, Or modest Dian circled with her nymphs" (4.8.19-21), suggests that a woman who appropriates the power ascribed to her by the language of courtship does so at the expense of men. Explicitly feminized, aestheticized, and made chaste, a Diana more modest than martial, Henry himself becomes a Petrarchan object, protected from the obligations of maleness and of kingship. As Diodorus writes of the Amazons, "Theire husbondes stonde in like condition as women and wives doo among vs in oure contrey, ordeyned of purpose to kepe the house at home, to be buxom and obedient vnto theire wives, clerely discharged from all maner of warre, beryng no rome nor office of worship in theire contrey."53

Richard wishes of Margaret "That you might still have worn the petticoat, / And ne'er have stol'n the breech from Lancaster" (5.5.23-24), but King Henry, mediating between memories of his father and hopes for his son, is always contingent—the significance of his death divided between foreshadowing and afterthought, the death itself a virtual aside. Prince Edward, too, represents a presence substantiated only through nostalgia and anticipation. Thus Oxford says of him, "O brave young prince! Thy famous grandfather / Doth live again in thee: long mayst thou live / To bear his image and renew his glories" (5.4.50-54). But for Prince Edward, as for his father, the connection to Henry V is displaced, his past and future defined and circumscribed by a body that is still onstage. Howard and Rackin argue that "the play also demystifies the idea that patriarchal blood lines, even ones unadulterated by bastardy, guarantee the valor or worth of the father's descendants. .. . Edward claims the throne in his father's name, but he does so in his mother's spirit."54 Edward—the other Edward—calls Margaret "You, that are King, though he do wear the crown," and the crown prince is most recognizably his mother's son. In Richard's words, "Whoever got thee, there thy mother stands; / For well I wot thou hast thy mother's tongue" (2.2.90, 133-34).

The multiple representations of Margaret turn against her son even as they are turned to his cause; her roleplaying itself precludes the return of kingship to any uncontested state. When Prince Edward appropriates the rhetoric of sovereignty, he does so through an essentialist logic that is newly fragile, his contested position as male heir figuring the play's detachment of referentiality from men. In response to Warwick's "Injurious Margaret!" Prince Edward asks, "And why not Queen?" Warwick's reply reveals that such signifiers are not firmly fixed: "Because they father Henry did usurp; / And thou no more art Prince than she is Queen" (3.3.78-80). Relying on primogeniture, Prince Edward is vulnerable to the failure of that term; and his connection to Henry V, like his father's, is ultimately a false trail, or at least one obscured by Margaret's intervention. The impossibility in this play of returning to an unproblematic condition of patrilineal logic results directly from her attempt to stage-manage such a return. When women cease to be objects proving a connection among men and become instead agents attempting to impose it, the register of the connection necessarily shifts from the natural to the constructed. This is the lesson that Prince Edward does not learn; where Margaret inverts sovereignty through a consolidation of roles, her son reads it as self-evident. And, in 3 Henry VI, in the newly formed court of the rival King Edward IV, he reads it wrongly. His body recalls not a heroic past but the presence of his mother, and the terms of his death—Edward's "Take that, thou likeness of this railer here"—insist that his mother's body signifies as his father's name does not. This is a mirror game not between two King Edwards but between mother and son, and it is distinctly unhealthy to be the son of an Amazon.55

Margaret's rhetoric of mourning is at once conventionally maternal and a sharp reminder of another, earlier moment of violence. Comparing her son's death to that of Caesar, she says, "He was a man; this (in respect) a child, / And men ne'er spend their fury on a child" (5.5.51-57). Men may not; Margaret already has. And the death of Rutland reappears, not only as a linguistic ghost in a metatheatrical revenge plot but as a reminder that, through Margaret, domestic violence connects the fragmentation of families to that of England itself. Henry VI, Part 3 does not present a dynamic in which essentialized femininity gives way to martial agency only to collapse back into maternal helplessness. Instead, the conditions of martiality are always those of maternity, and the female body is itself staged as performance.56 Grieving mother, like grieving wife, is a role, neither more nor less genuine than the condition of being beautiful or amazonian or tiger-like. "Here sheathe thy sword. I'll pardon thee my death" (1. 70), Margaret tells her tormentors. Even physical vulnerability is a trope, a reminder of the fact that both rape and death here operate at the level of metaphor and that such metaphorical swords always cut both ways.

As it makes visible the constructedness of dramatic conventions and gender roles, Margaret's amazonian performance precipitates the disjoining of men from one another and from any essentialized condition of masculinity. By the play's conclusion, her presence seems necessary for masculinity to be connected to men at all. Before the final battle, it is not Prince Edward's presence or the king's name but Margaret's rhetoric that clothes men in the performativity of heroism, as the prince himself observes: "Methinks a woman of this valiant spirit / Should, if a coward heard her speak these words, / Infuse his breast with magnanimity, / And make him, naked, foil a man at arms" (5.4.39-42). This is only a local example of Margaret's larger implication in the structures of violence; from the beginning the play is explicit about her responsibility not only for individual performances of masculine martiality but for martial conflict itself. According to Edward, duke of York, it is her roleplaying that brings England to irrecoverable self-fragmentation: "For what hath broached this tumult but thy pride? / Hadst thou been meek, our title still had slept; / And we, in pity of the gentle King, / Had slipped our claim until another age" (2.2.159-62). Having brought England to civil war, Margaret bears a responsibility that is theatrical as well as political and identifies her as the cause of the play: "Hadst thou been meek, our title still had slept"—or, in Edward's final condemnation, "No, wrangling woman, we'll no longer stay. / These words will cost ten thousand lives this day" (11. 176-77). Margaret is thus conventionally feminized as a "wrangling woman" even as she plays her most martial role. Her own rhetoric of inspiration participates in the conflation of nationalist impulses with her position as a grieving wife: "Lords, knights, and gentlemen, what I should say / My tears gainsay; for every word I speak, / Ye see, I drink the water of mine eye" (5.4.73-75). Because her domestic chaos coincides with England's own, Margaret anticipates the state of disconnection toward which the tetralogy tends. Relationships defined in nationalist or familial terms are relentlessly denaturalized by her performative play. At the moment of victorious consolidation, Edward IV finds it difficult to banish this ghostly reminder of contingency and loss, as his proliferation of insistences suggests: "Away with her. Go, bear her hence perforce"; "Away, I say! I charge ye bear her hence"; "Away with her, and waft her hence to France." (5.5.68, 81; 5.7.41). The last question in this play full of questions—"What will Your Grace have done with Margaret?" (5.7.37)—suggests that disposing of an amazonian queen is a difficult speech act indeed.

The answer to this question is, I think, another question: as he contemplates the captive Margaret, Richard asks, "Why should she live, to fill the world with words?" (5.5.44). The image has a particularly historical—or perhaps, in Rackin's term, antihistorical—referent, for Margaret will indeed live on ahistorically into the England of Richard III, continuing to offer political forecasts long after she should have died in ignominious exile. Rather than disappearing in response to Edward's slightly hysterical orders, Margaret brings into the world of Richard III the economy of fragmentation and loss that had so distressed York, an economy in which kings are traded for kings, husbands for husbands, sons for sons:

Though not by war, by surfeit die your king, As ours by murder, to make him a king! Edward thy son, that now is Prince of Wales, For Edward our son, that was Prince of Wales, Die in his youth by like untimely violence! Thyself a queen, for me that was a queen, Outlive thy glory, like my wretched self!


Through the anomalous presence of Queen Margaret, the language of reciprocity, which defines men as the tokens and the victims of exchange while women survive to count the costs, persists into Richard III.57 Having survived the three parts of Henry VI, Margaret in this final play explicates the conflation of the political and the domestic that she has so disruptively performed, theorizing the narrative of loss that equates civil war and family feud.

To return to Clarence's question, what is to be done with Margaret? Edward's response at the end of 3 Henry VI is a refusal of circles or mirrors, a statement that historical spectacles always move forward:

And now what rests but that we spend the time With stately triumphs, mirthful comic shows, Such as befits the pleasure of the court? Sound drums and trumpets! Farewell sour annoy! For here, I hope, begins our lasting joy.


Edward is notoriously wrong here, and the failure to evade images and repetitions of the past, figured through the persistent presence of Queen Margaret, haunts not only Richard III but literary history itself. Robert Greene, in his notorious critique of Shakespearean originality, returns to what seems to have become a kind of historical primal scene:

trust them not: for there is an vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.58

Greene's misquotation is a near-quotation that replaces "woman" with "player" in a gesture that is no substitution at all. In playing, in seeming, in the ruthless appropriation of text, Shakespeare is equated with the Queen Margaret of his own reinvention.59 If Joan la Pucelle has been taken to identify 1 Henry VI as "not Shakespeare's," Margaret here becomes the sign that Shakespeare's text was never his to begin with—or perhaps such conventions of ownership, like Margaret's own paradoxical conventionality, produce only an infinite circularity, for what does it mean to attack Shakespeare for having no words of his own if the attack is formulated in Shakespeare's own words? Here again an attack from outside takes the form of that which is already inside; again the terms of alienation reproduce even as they invade the heimlich; and again Margaret, brought to England to articulate a relationship among men, becomes less the matter of that relationship than the sign of its radical failure.


1 Edward Hall, The Vnion of the two noble and illustrate famelies of Lancastre and Yorke beeyng long in continual discension for the croune of this noble realme (London, 1548), fol. Cljr; and Richard Brathwait, The English Gentlewoman, drawne out to the full Body: Expressing, What Habilliments doe best attire her, What Ornaments doe best adorne her, What Complements doe best accomplish her (London, 1631), 40.

2 Joseph Candido offers a useful overview of such structural readings in his essay "Getting Loose in the Henry VI Plays," Shakespeare Quarterly 35 (1984): 392-406, esp. 392n; see also Phyllis Rackin's description of the tetralogy in Stages of History: Shakespeare's English Chronicles (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1990), 62.

3 For readings of the tetralogy's women as similar to one another, see David Bevington, "The Domineering Female in 1 Henry VI," Shakespeare Studies 2 (1966): 51-58, esp. 51; Leah Marcus, Puzzling Shakespeare: Local Reading and its Discontents (Berkeley: U of California P, 1988), 89-90; and Phyllis Rackin, "Anti-Historians: Women's Roles in Shakespeare's Histories," Theatre Journal 37 (1985): 329-44, esp. 332.

4 Jean E. Howard and Phyllis Rackin, Engendering a Nation: A feminist account of Shakespeare's English histories (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), 65.

5 Lisa Jardine, Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare (Sussex, UK: Harvester Press, 1983), 105.

6 Sigmund Freud, "The 'Uncanny' " (1919) in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Worksof Sigmund Freud, ed. and trans. James Strachey, 24 vols. (London: The Hogarth Press, 1953), 17:220.

7 Freud, 226. Freud reaches this claim by tracing the contradictory definitions of heimlich; for his extended analysis, see 220-26.

8 Bevington, 51-58; Rackin, "Anti-Historians," 329; Marcus, 75; Nancy Gutierrez, "Gender and Value in 1 Henry VI: The Role of Joan de Pucelle," Theatre Journal 42 (1990): 183-93, esp. 190; Patricia-Ann Lee, "Reflections of Power: Margaret of Anjou and the Dark Side of Queenship," Renaissance Quarterly 39 (1986): 183-217, esp. 214; and Christopher Pye, "The Theater, the Market, and the Subject of History," English Literary History 61 (1994): 501-22, esp. 511.

9 Phyllis Rackin, "Historical Difference/Sexual Difference" in Privileging Gender in Early Modern England, Jean R. Brink, ed. (Kirksville, MO: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1993), 37-64, esp. 43.

10 For an anthropological account of the processes through which women mediate and materialize connections among men, see Gayle Rubin, "The Traffic in Women: Notes on the 'Political Economy' of Sex" in Toward an Anthropology of Women, Rayna R. Reiter, ed. (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1975). For further theorization of women's roles in the construction of male homosocial bonds, see Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia UP, 1985), esp. 1-20; and David M. Halperin, "Why is Diotima a Woman?" in One Hundred Years of Homosexuality and Other Essays on Greek Love (New York: Routledge, 1990).

11 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990), 140.

12 Theseus's marriage to Hippolyta produces tragedy in a literal sense, resulting in the illicit desire of Phaedra for Hippolytus, staged by Seneca in Hippolytus.

13 Quotations from the Henry VI plays follow The Complete Works of Shakespeare, ed. David Bevington, 4th ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 1992).

14 Jacques Lacan, "The Signification of the Phallus" in Écrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977), 281-91, esp. 289.

15 Barbara Freedman, Staging the Gaze: Postmodernism, Psychoanalysis, and Shakespearean Comedy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, .1991), 3.

16 Howard and Rackin, Engendering a Nation, 93.

17 Rackin, "Anti-Historians," 334. For an earlier version of this opposition of material to spiritual, see Bevington's claim that "Talbot triumphantly demonstrates the ascendancy of the truest sort of masculinity—not man's body but his mind and soul—over the trammels of the flesh" ("The Domineering Female," 55).

18 Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of 'Sex' (New York: Routledge, 1993), 3.

19 Howard and Rackin, Engendering a Nation, 47.

20 See for example Gutierrez's argument concerning Joan's effect on the audience: "The French soldiers and the contemporary English audience, normally 'natural' enemies, become allies when threatened by a woman" (190).

21 George Bernard Shaw, Saint Joan (1924; rpt . New York: Random House, 1956), 3.

22 Hall, fols. Cviir and Cxiiiv. On the relationship between Shakespeare's portrayal of Joan and the chronicles', see Richard F. Hardin, "Chronicles and Mythmaking in Shakespeare's Joan of Arc," Shakespeare Survey 42 (1990): 25-35.

23 Gabriele Bernhard Jackson, "Topical Ideology: Witches, Amazons, and Shakespeare's Joan of Arc," English Literary Renaissance 18 (1988): 40-65, esp. 64-65. See also Clayton G. MacKenzie, "Myth and Anti-Myth in the First Tetralogy," Orbis Litterarum 42 (1987): 1-26, esp. 2-3.

24 Henry Cornelius Agrippa, Female Pre-eminence: or the Dignity and Excellency of that Sex, above the Male (1509), trans. H[enry] C[ase] (London, 1670), 66-67.

25 See Christopher Newstead, An Apology for Women: or, Womens Defence (London, 1620), 17-18.

26 See Thomas Heywood, GYNA KEION: or, Nine Bookes of Various History Concerninge Women (London, 1624).

27 Agrippa, 66.

28 Heywood, 236. Christine de Pizan, whose Le Ditié de Jeanne d'Arc was the first poem praising Joan of Arc and the only one written during Joan's lifetime, celebrates her martial conquests without apparent ambivalence; for Christine de Pizan, of course, neither Joan's nationality nor her sex gave cause for concern. For one reading of this poem in the context of Christine's life and other writings, see Charity Cannon Willard, Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works (New York: Persea Books, 1984), 204-7. For a discussion of the poem in the context of other early literary representations of Joan of Arc, see Deborah Fraioli, "The Literary Image of Joan of Arc: Prior Influences," Speculum 56 (1981): 811-30.

29 On the confusion of categories, see Jeanne Addison Roberts, "Birth Traumas in Shakespeare," Renaissance Papers (1990): 55-66, esp. 62.

30 Johannes Ludovicus Vives, A very Frutefull and pleasant boke called the Instruction of a Christen Woman, trans. Richard Hyrde (London, 1541), G2r.

31 For a reading of Joan's feminization as a trope of woman-taming, see Jackson, 60.

32 Shaw calls Joan "the pioneer of rational dressing for women" (3). On the visual doubleness of female body and masculine armor, see Marcus, 100; Gutierrez, 185; and Jackson, 54.

33 Rackin, "Anti-Historians," 331. Catherine Belsey reads Joan in the context of such "extra-human" figures as Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth; see The Subject of Tragedy: Identity and difference in Renaissance drama (London: Methuen, 1985), 185.

34 See, for example, Hardin, 35; Pye, 511; and John D. Cox, "Devils and Power in Marlowe and Shakespeare," The Yearbook of English Studies: Early Shakespeare Special Number 23 (1993): 46-64, esp. 61.

35 Marcus, 53.

36 E.M.W. Tillyard, Shakespeare's History Plays (London: Chatto and Windus, 1948), 162. Shaw suggests that even if the play is Shakespeare's, the intention is not, a possibility that displaces guilt while maintaining authority: "The impression left by it is that the playwright, having begun by an attempt to make Joan a beautiful and romantic figure, was told by his scandalized company that English patriotism would never stand a sympathetic representation of a French conquerer of English troops, and that unless he at once introduced all the old charges against Joan of being a sorceress and harlot, and assumed her to be guilty of all of them, his play could not be produced. As likely as not, this is what actually happened" (24).

37 This conceit, that looking at the beloved object causes a loss of language which nonetheless produces poetry, runs throughout such sonnet sequences as Astrophil and Stella. See, for example, the famous concluding lines of Sonnet 1 : "Thus great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes, / Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite, / 'Fool,' said my Muse to me, 'look in thy heart and write' " (Sir Philip Sidney: Selected Poems, ed. Catherine Bates [New York: Penguin Books, 1994], 11. 12-14).

38 Lee, in her account of the ways in which Margaret is iconographically connected to Joan, quotes Pius II: "They said that the spirit of the Maid, who had raised Charles to the throne, was renewed in the Queen" (199).

39 For readings of this stage direction, see Janet Adelman, Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origin in Shakespeare's Plays, Hamlet to The Tempest (New York: Routledge, 1992), 8; and Rackin, "Historical Difference," 42.

40 Coppélla Kahn, Man's Estate: Masculine Identity in Shakespeare (Berkeley: U of California P, 1981), 55.

41 Joyce Green MacDonald, " 'Hay for the Daughters!': Gender and Patriarchy in The Miseries of Civil War and Henry VI" Comparative Drama 24 (1990): 193-216, esp. 209.

42 "How king Henry the syxt a vertuous prince, was after many other miseries cruelly murdered in the Tower of London" in The Mirror for Magistrates (1559), ed. Lily B. Campbell (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1938), 216.

43 Heywood, 239-40. It is worth noting that reticence verging on disavowal characterizes the end of Hey—wood's list of viragoes: Joan la Pucelle, of whom he would prefer to say nothing that others have not already said, is followed by Emma, of whose slaughter of the Danes he says, "though it after prooued ominous, and was the cause of much miserie and mischiefe, yet it shewed in her a noble and notable resolution"; and Emma is followed by Margaret, the last item in his catalogue, of whom he would apparently prefer to say nothing at all. Here, as in the Henry VI plays, even the encomiasts show a certain ambivalence. For Heywood in particular this ambivalence appears to exercise its own fascination; in his 1640 catalogue of female worthies, The Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts of Nine the Most Worthy Women of the World, he will return to Queen Margaret, making her his second Christian and his penultimate queen, to be followed only by Queen Elizabeth herself.

44 Hall, fols. Clij , Cliiij , Clix , Clxvij , and Clxx . For r r r-v v v readings of a possible connection between such descriptions of Margaret and representations of Queen Elizabeth I, see Lee, 214-17; and Marcus, 89-93.

45 Hall, fol. Clxxvjv.

46 Howard and Rackin, Engendering a Nation, 84 and 85. See also Kahn's statement, "From this point on, it is Margaret who takes charge of the Lancastrian cause, a woman stepping into the vacuum of authority left by a weak man" (60-61).

47 Hall, fol. Clxxxiiijr.

48 Butler, Bodies That Matter, 2.

49 Brathwait, 123.

50 Joan Riviere, "Womanliness as a Masquerade" (1929) in The Inner World and Joan Riviere: Collected Papers 1920-1958, ed. Athol Hughes (London: Karnac Books for the Melanie Klein Trust, 1991), 90-101, esp. 101.

51 John Knox, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558) in The Political Writings of John Knox, ed. Marvin A. Breslow (Washington, DC: The Folger Shakespeare Library, 1985), 37-80, esp. 44-45.

52 On the relationship between male tyranny and female sexual excess, see Rebecca Bushneil, "Tyranny and Effeminacy in Early Modern England" in Reconsidering the Renaissance, Mario A. di Cesare, ed. (Binghamton, NY: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1992), 335-54, esp. 343.

53 Diodorus Siculus, The Bibliotheca Historica, trans. Skelton, 2 vols. (London: Oxford UP, 1956), 1:287-88.

54 Howard and Rackin, Engendering a Nation, 87.

55 For accounts of Amazon violence against male children, see Diodorus Siculus, 200; and Strabo, Geography of Strato, trans. Horace Leonard Jones, 8 vols. (London: William Heinemann, 1918), 5:235. Amazonian maternity is, in this sense, always about breaking the bonds among men.

56 For readings of Margaret's grief as feminization, see Howard and Rackin, Engendering a Nation, 97; and Irene G. Dash, Wooing, Wedding, and Power: Women in Shakespeare's Plays (New York: Columbia UP, 1981), 191.

57 For samples of the ongoing debate over Margaret's agency—do curses make history or merely take advantage of hindsight?—see Marcus, 95; and Rackin, "Anti-Historians," 337. For a historical view of the contingency of Margaret's power, see Lee, 192.

58 Robert Greene, Greenes Groatsworth of witte, bought with a million of Repentance (London, 1592), FT.

59 For readings of the relationship between Margaret and Shakespeare as suggested by Greene, see Howard and Rackin, Engendering a Nation, 96; see also Marcus, 96.

Source: "Fearful Simile: Stealing the Breech in Shakespeare's Chronicle Plays," in Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 49, No. 2, Summer, 1998, pp. 140-67.


Fathers and Daughters in Shakespeare


Feminist Criticism