Representing Rape in the English Early Modern Period

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This study makes an important contribution with its interdisciplinary scope, with chapters on Old Testament rape narratives, medieval and early modern English law and legal practices pertaining to rape, elitist poetry concerning rape as well as popular prose narratives, and pictorial representations of Lucrece, as well as chapters on the drama of the period. It delineates a congruence between rape and pornography, and traces the ways rape becomes effaced as a brutal crime to become an occasion in the service of men, as the context for heroic rivalry among men, or as an act that women secretly desire.


“Baines has written an enlightening and much-needed interdisciplinary study of rape in Renaissance literature….Baines’s volume compares favorably with the growing number of studies (for example, Chris Mounsey’s and Ian Frederick Moulton’s) on pornography and general lewdness in early modern culture – although Baines concentrates on the most brutal and most basic kind of sexual aggression in early modern literature and culture….Highly recommended.” - CHOICE

“… considers a wide variety of materials – verse narratives, prose tales, stage plays, paintings, and prints – showing how genre and form inflect the representation of rape without altering the bias pattern. As Baines outlines the way early modern texts encoded ancient and classical ideas about women and rape, her book follows the course of two competing and overlapping historical developments. On the one hand, we see evidence of gradual movement toward women’s ability to claim full rights as legal subjects, or, more simply, our progress toward fully human status…. On the other hand, the main story here is the persistence through the Renaissance and beyond of a literary and artistic trope of rape, and its assimilation to a pornographic agenda that has enabled continuation of the idea that woman’s ‘no’ means ‘yes’…. This book challenges us to reconsider the link between aesthetics and sexual violence…. The book will be valued for its careful attention to interesting but frequently overlooked plays such as The Second Maiden’s Tragedy, Marston’s Sophonisba, or the Wonder of Women, and Fletcher’s Tragedy of Valentinian.” – Cynthia Marshall, Professor and Head of English, Rhodes College

“…. a provocative and passionate study of the impossibilities of adequately representing rape from the victim’s point of view in the early modern period….comprehensive and persuasive….. the range of material it addresses – high literary texts, more popular literature, feminist theory and historiography – also makes it a significant book for scholars working on early modern poetry and prose. Her general thesis about rape and early modern pornography is one that scholars and students working in early modern cultural studies will have to take seriously.” – Graham Hammill, University Of Notre Dame

“Moving across several different genres and audiences, Baines’ analysis of the representation of rape in early modern England is learned, lucid and challenging….Demonstrating that the transformation of masculine violence into feminine desire is a transformation indebted to cultural ideals and practices that long predate Freud, Baines demonstrates how much more work there is to be done on early and post modern imaginings of rape. She has produced a work that addresses issues of enduring and contemporary relevance to scholars of literature, feminism, and the history of sexuality.” – Pamela Royston Macfie, The University of the South

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
1. Biblical Narratives and Pornographic Metaphors
2. Law, Legal Compendia, and Theories of Generation
3. High Poetry and Low Prose: The Rape of Lucrece; Hero and Leander; The Unfortunate Traveller, and The Adventures of Master F. J.
4. Staging Rape with Dutiful Daughters, Manly Maids, and Pornographic Subtexts
5. Late Replays, the Fletcher Factory, and the Marriage Solution
6. Picturing Lucrece and the Masculine Gaze
Afterword; Bibliography; Index

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