ABSTRACT

This introduction presents an overview of key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book illustrates Marian devotion via attacks against Roman Catholicism. It argues that Shakespeare draws on Marian influence as a means of exploring perceptions of masculinity, both in individual and in cultural terms, and masculine identity formation to offer his audience new avenues of exploring both religious and gendered subjectivity. The book explores Shakespeare's attention to the theological import and equivocal nature of the Virgin Mary's dual identity as Theotokos and perpetual virgin in my third chapter, 'Virgins, Mothers, and the Virgin Mother in Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear'. Despite the Protestant polemical attempt to cast Mary as an overbearing mother, the long-held view of the Virgin Mary as a compassionate mother appears to endure. Given the cultural emphasis on a masculine-centered ideological structure and theology, the compassionate dimension of the Virgin Mary could be seen as an attractive alternative to that phallocentric world.