Masculinity and Marian Efficacy in Shakespeare's England offers a new approach to evaluating the psychological 'loss' of the Virgin Mary in post-Reformation England by illustrating how, in the wake of Mary's demotion, re-inscriptions of her roles and meanings only proliferated, seizing hold of national imagination and resulting in new configurations of masculinity. The author surveys the early modern cultural and literary response to Mary's marginalization, and argues that Shakespeare employs both Roman Catholic and post-Reformation views of Marian strength not only to scrutinize cultural perceptions of masculinity, but also to offer his audience new avenues of exploring both religious and gendered subjectivity. By deploying Mary's symbolic valence to infuse certain characters, and dramatic situations with feminine potency, Espinosa analyzes how Shakespeare draws attention to the Virgin Mary as an alternative to an otherwise unilaterally masculine outlook on salvation and gendered identity formation.
Ruben Espinosa is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Texas at El Paso, USA.
'Ruben Espinosa's eloquent and sensitive study of nine of Shakespeare's plays, from an early history through the late Romances, makes a compelling case for how the fracturing of Marian efficacy in post-Reformation England not only influenced the construction of gender in English culture, but also shaped Shakespeare's dramaturgy. ' Katharine Goodland, CUNY College of Staten Island, author Female Mourning and Tragedy in Medieval and Renaissance English Drama 'Persuasively argued, this study confirms what scholars have been slow to recognize - that the Virgin Mary was a powerful presence on the English stage. Although the Virgin May may have been marginalized by Protestant theology and polemic, her potency, comfort, and efficacy could not be erased from the English psyche and was available for reimaging on the early modern English stage.' Renaissance Quarterly '[Espinosa] is careful not to be too reductive; his argument is not one-to-one mapping of Marian symbology, but a careful, nuanced hunt for motifs that both sustain and potentially disrupt conceptions of Protestant, English masculinity.' Sixteenth Century Studies Journal