Women against Marriage: Wiliam Rowley’s The Birth of Merlin

박환희 /Park Hwanhee

2018, vol.28, no.1, pp. 131-146

William Rowley’s The Birth of Merlin depicts women characters that utilize linguistic skills to disrupt the expectations of marriage held by other male characters in the play. Modestia rejects marriage because she sees it as fleeting and voluntarily chooses what she sees as the more stable, everlasting life attained in a nunnery. In the process, she persuades her sister Constantia to follow suit, ultimately breaking their father’s and their suitors’ expectation of marriage as a loving union between man and woman that produces heirs to continue the family name. As the demonized seductress, Artesia manipulates verbal cues and signs to trick both King Aurelius and Prince Uter, in order to achieve her goal of invasion. In doing so, Artesia disrupts Aurelius’ expectation of marriage as token of peace and love, and Uter’s hope for continuing a romantic relationship with her. The women therefore suggest a subversive reading of marriage in early modern English literature.