Virgin Fairies and Imperial Whores: The Unstable Ground of Religious Iconography in Thomas Dekker’s The Whore of Babylon
Thomas Dekker's 1607 play The Whore of Babylon invokes Catholic-inflected Marian imagery in complex and contradictory ways that are revelatory of the increasingly fractured nature of reform Christian sectarianism in seventeenth-century England. The Whore of Babylon focuses on conflicts which derive both their origins and their resolutions from fairy lore. Dekker's play is plagued from the outset by too many conflicting genres, traditions, and religio-political weathercocks. He disastrously invokes the figure of the Fairy Queen and changeling belief in a stalwart defense of Protestant righteousness in an era when fairies were becoming increasingly associated with the false, Catholic Church. Dekker compounds this set of ideological associations by portraying a fairy queen as a paragon of chaste virtue and moral leadership set off against a nightmare vision of Catholic carnality. The two female characters threaten repeatedly to collapse into one another, imploding the distinctions between the warring factions of Christianity and revealing them for what they might, horrifyingly.