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Abstract

Margaret Cavendish’s The Unnatural Tragedy (1650) is both tribute to and critique of Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore (1633). I argue that The Unnatural Tragedy undermines the masculine ideology on female speech and silence, linking male figures’ voices with treachery and incest and female voice, conventionally sexualized, with truth and honesty. The main thrust of The Unnatural Tragedy is against the passive feminine virtues embodied by Madame Bonit and Soeur whose adherence to the feminine virtues of silence and obedience and the masculine ideology of honour lead to their loss of control over their lives. In contrast to silence, Cavendish shows that speech is a subjective space from which female figures criticize male figures’ voices and systems of governance. Following the methodology of presentism, I argue that The Unnatural Tragedy resonates with contemporary Palestinian representation of gender difference through the binary opposites of speech and silence. Bonit’s oppressive silence and her refusal to publicize her husband’s mistreatment of her and Soeur’s rape and subsequent murder by her brother offer my female students a point of focus to consider the destructive Palestinian ideology of honor which is based on silencing the female voice.

Note on the Author

Bilal Tawfiq Hamamra has published articles on Shakespeare, Webster and Thomas Heywood. His research interests are in Early Modern Drama, Shakespeare and Women’s Writings. He is a presentist who uses an eclectic approach to analyse early modern literature from a Palestinian perspective. He has a PhD in Early Modern Drama from the University of Lancaster, UK and works currently as an assistant professor of English Literature at the Department of English Language and Literature, An-Najah National University, Nablus, Palestine.

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