“DARKE HIDDEN VERTUOUS”: DECONSTRUCTING THE VIRGIN FIGURE IN MARY WROTH’S LOVE’S VICTORY AND JOHN FLETCHER’S THE FAITHFUL SHEPHERDESS
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This project analyzes the virgin figure as deployed by two Protestant playwrights. Clorin in John Fletcher’s The Faithful Shepherdess (c.1608) and Silvesta in Mary Wroth’s Love’s Victory (c.1620) are anomalous characters, remaining firm in their celibacy past the close of their respective plays. My research considers the use of these virgin figures in connection to early modern constructions of gender and sexuality, analyzing the virgin’s significance for theatrical performance, Petrarchan poetics, and female religio-political action. While Wroth uses Silvesta to challenge limitations on the virgin body’s potential, Fletcher ultimately reinforces a patriarchal sex/gender model, although both plays demonstrate the utility of the virgin figure as a discursive tool.