Witness to Despair: The Martyr of Malfi’s Ghost
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The performance of salvation produces a domestic martyrdom: it obscures the bodily and psychic destruction wrought by household violence, positing union with God as a battered wife’s happy reward. Household becomes scaffold as the quietly suffering wife becomes her husband’s spiritual exemplar; her quiet submission to violence becomes proof of her commitment to the integrity of his household and family, devotion to which stood as a cipher for devotion to God in post-Reformation England (Peters, 2003, pp. 291–2; Owens, 2005, pp. 107–8). Such stoic – even apparently pleasurable – suffering, moreover, gave a wife like Anne Frankford the temporary authority to speak freely, to testify to her religious commitment in a semi-public way. Nevertheless, as the final moments of Mitchell’s Woman Killed remind me, the performance of salvation is always a precarious act, forever haunted by the violence it forecloses and by the tension, ambivalence, terror, and doubt that violence trails in its wake.
KeywordsFemale Body Audience Member Bodily Surveillance Death Scene Final Moment
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