ABSTRACT

The bleeding brides, husbands, and children that I have explored so far represent crucial intersections of blood and home on the early modern stage in that their bleeding is occasioned by domestic rites, and their blood registers potent anxieties regarding late sixteenth-and early seventeenthcentury domestic ideologies. Together, these bleeding men, women, and children also dramatize the idea of bloodline-that is, the quality of shared kinship or kind represented in the early modern period through tropes of blood-in various stages of continuation or annihilation.1 By focusing on these bleeding fi gures, my aim has been to explore the connections and confl icts between post-Reformation ideologies of the Protestant household and depictions of domestic rituals and relationships as physically hazardous. In this chapter, I turn to the elusive idea of bloodline itself as perhaps the clearest metaphorical link between blood and home on the early modern stage. The use of blood as a metonym for lineage, of course, was common in medieval and early modern England.2 Ideologies of bloodline, however, usually remit to systems of sexual and familial honor, as we see in Middleton and Rowley’s 1622 The Changeling. When faced with her father at the revelation of her sexual transgressions and dishonor, the wounded Beatrice-Joanna envisages her material blood as a corruption of Vermandero’s bloodline, to be cast off as waste:

Oh come not near me, sir: I shall defile you. I am that of your blood was taken from you For your better health. Look no more upon’t, But cast it to the ground regardlessly; Let the common sewer take it from distinction. (5.3.158-62)3

Mortally wounded by her (detested) sexual partner and co-conspirator, De Flores, Beatrice-Joanna faces death as a form of just punishment for the loss of her honor. The abject shame expressed in these lines, in that she fears she will “defi le” her father and imagines herself deserving to be cast into a “common sewer,” refl ects the consequences for women whose honor is compromised. Beatrice-Joanna is guilty of many crimes: among

them, she arranges the murder of her would-be husband, Alonzo, in order to marry her preferred suitor Alsemero; she loses her virginity to De Flores in exchange for the murder; and she substitutes the body of her virgin maid for her own on her wedding night. Each of these acts constitutes an injury to her honor; in allowing De Flores access to her body, she in eff ect robs two men (fi rst Alonzo and then Alsemero) of their rightful enjoyment of her virginity. Since sexual honor demands, in its simplest terms, the absolute, unbroken control of a woman’s sexuality by a sequence of male relatives, Beatrice-Joanna’s determination to marry contrary to her father’s wishes represents not only a challenge to his authority but the potential corruption of his bloodline.4