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The English Romance in TimeTransforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare$
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Helen Cooper

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199248865

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199248865.001.0001

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Women on trial

Women on trial

(p.269) CHAPTER SIX Women on trial
The English Romance in Time

Helen Cooper (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The romance of the falsely accused woman led a particularly vibrant life in England, where it may have originated; Shakespeare uses such a plot in six of his plays. That the accusation is false places it at odds with the French romance readiness to accommodate adultery, often mistermed ‘courtly love’. The political relevance of the motif was sharply boosted by Henry VIII’s prosecution of three of his wives and the consequences of those charges for the succession to the throne. The trial of the accused woman also focuses an issue found much more widely in romance, the debate as to whether women are good or wicked, and therefore as to the justifiability of misogyny: a debate that connects with the ardent sexuality of the heroines discussed in the previous chapter.

Keywords:   misogyny, falsely accused woman, adultery, courtly love, Henry VIII

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