Returning from the ‘infernal deepes’: Fiammetta’s Early Modern English Stepsisters

Bezzola Lambert, Ladina. (2016) Returning from the ‘infernal deepes’: Fiammetta’s Early Modern English Stepsisters. Rassegna Europea di Letteratura Italiana, 47. pp. 105-118.

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This essay focuses on the female complaint in vogue in England in the second half of the sixteenth century and on Shakespeare’s critical revision of this model in his epyllion The Rape of Lucrece (1593). A short historical overview discusses the textual origins, an analysis of three widely popular complaints illustrates the typical pattern of female complaints: an adulteress (a royal concubine and historical figure) returns from the dead to plead for sympathy and restore her reputation among the living. While English female complaints have often been discussed in relation to Boccaccio’s De mulieribus claris as an important model, the genre is here related to his Fiammetta . The confrontation is illuminating for the decisive contrasts in the fictional setting: the English complaints are public, driven by vanity and worldly ambition rather than love, and declared to be the work of male authors. This distinguishes them from Fiammetta’s ostensibly private, anonymous and hence disinterested account of her passion for Panfilo, of which she herself is the living author. The Rape of Lucrece is then shown to exploit both models in an attempt to retell the legend of the Roman Lucretia in a way at once informed and innovative, proving the young Shakespeare a worthy author. Her private complaint allows his Lucrece to free herself from the suspicion of collusion or pride while ostensibly making her the true author of her story.
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaften > Fachbereich Englische Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft > English Modern Literature (Habermann)
UniBasel Contributors:Bezzola Lambert, Ladina
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
Last Modified:18 Oct 2018 13:27
Deposited On:18 Oct 2018 13:27

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