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  • 1. While acknowledging that Shakespeare did write some mothers, Rose explains that motherlessness was necessary for children to realize their own personhood: ‘... separation from the mother [... ] proves the enabling condition for a full (i.e., both public and private) adult life’ (1991, 301). She concedes, however, ‘of course there are mothers in Shakespeare’ (291).
  • 2. There are no mothers at all in As You Like It, 1 Henry IV, 1 Henry VI, 2 Henry VI, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Measure for Measure, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, Timon of Athens, Twelfth Night, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Two Noble Kinsmen. About half of Shakespeare’s plays include significant young female roles with no mothers—All’s Well That Ends Well, As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors, Cymbeline, 1 Henry VI, King Lear, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Measure for Measure, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Pericles, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, Titus Andronicus, Troilus and Cressida, Twelfth Night, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Two Noble Kinsmen, and The Winter’s Tale.
  • 3. Emphasis in the original.
  • 4. Of course, both Marina and Perdita have mothers—and they reunite with them at their plays’ respective ends. But since these girls spend their formative years without their natural mothers, their identities are shaped as if they had no mothers. And, as will be shown, Marina’s and Perdita’s strength relies on this matronly absence.
  • 5. At what point does a female character stop being considered a daughter? For the purposes of this essay, the character needs to be a speaking role (which excludes Princess Elizabeth in Henry VIII and Philoten in Pericles, among others) and must be before or just beginning her first marriage (which excludes Richard IIIs Lady Anne).
  • 6. There are, of course, no act or scene divisions in the quarto.
  • 7. Though Leonato does not directly address his wife, it is possible that the last line in this sequence is meant for her:

DON PEDRO: You embrace your charge too willingly. I think this is your daughter?

LEONATO: Her mother hath many times told me so. (1.1.84-6)

  • 8. Except where noted, all quotations from Shakespeare’s plays are taken from The Norton Shakespeare, second edition.
  • 9. Emphasis added. ‘Modest’ here can also be understood as ‘small’, but as Hero plays a major role in attaching Beatrice to Benedick, the word's decorous meaning is the primary one.
  • 10. All quotations from Pericles (2004) come from the Arden 3rd series.
  • 11. Lychorida, the nurse, may have filled a mother role for Marina, though the only evidence for this that the play provides is that Marina’s first entrance as an adult is heralded with mourning Lychorida’s death. Marina refers to her as ‘friend’ (4.1.19), but nothing more.
  • 12. Caliban attempts to rape Miranda before The Tempest begins, and encourages Stefano to kill Prospero and take Miranda for his bride; Imogen suffers a step-mother who wants her dead, an uncouth suitor who violates her privacy, and a step-brother who plans to rape her, all before Cymbeline’s fifth act commences. Though not mentioned in this essay, Perdita invokes Polixenes’s wrath by daring to ally herself with Florizel. He threatens to ‘devise a death as cruel for thee /As thou art tender to't' (4.4.428-9).
  • 13. Pericles is concerned with sex throughout, especially the virginity of daughters. The play’s first scene shows Pericles recoiling from Antiochus’s incest with his daughter. Act two displays Simonides praising Thaisa's ‘virgin honour’ (2.5.12). In act three, the paracletes of Diana’s temple rescue Thaisa from her watery tomb, while act four is an extended meditation on Marina’s struggles to defend herself from rape. At their moment of reunion in act five, Pericles asks Marina, ‘Thy name, my most kind virgin?’ (5.1.131). Marina functions as a sort of foil to Thaisa—while Thaisa ensconces herself in a temple of virgins, Marina must use all her power to protect her own virginity. Literature so often delivers examples of ‘the fallen woman’, but Pericles is a variation on this theme. Neither Marina nor Thaisa is a fallen woman, but the troubles for both arise from sex. As a result of her marriage to Pericles, Thaisa is separated from her husband and infant daughter for more than a decade; Marina is preoccupied with protecting her virgin status in a society dangerous to it.
  • 14. As will be shown, in The Winter’s Tale reunion scene, Hermione speaks to Perdita, but Perdita speaks only to her mother's statue.
  • 15. Though she is acquainted with the country girls Mopsa and Dorcas, their bickering over Perdita's adopted brother, the Clown, indicates that they are too immature to provide Perdita with examples of virtuous female behavior, nor are they much interested in being companions for Perdita.
  • 16. This action may well be a distillation of behavior modeled by Mopsa and Dorcas. There is an inversion of gender politics in terms of wooing in Bohemia, as evidenced by all three young women. However, in Perdita’s case, at least, Florizel woos her in return, and the Shepherd supports the match.
  • 17. As Perdita notes in lines 7-9 of this scene, Florizel is in disguise. He has shrugged off his royal duties to spend time with Perdita, and she honors his disguise by calling him Doricles, his chosen name for the country.
  • 18. Antigonus, however, relates his dream of Hermione to the infant Perdita when he leaves her on the coast of Bohemia.
  • 19. In staging The Winter’s Tale for the American Shakespeare Center in 2015, director Jenny Bennett highlighted Hermione’s absence from the play through a clever use of space. When Hermione appeared in a scene, Bennett filled the stage with actor bodies—the court, the bedroom, the trial, and the reunion used all or nearly all the actors the ASC had to offer. With the exception of the sheep-shearing scene, which also used the entire company, every other scene in the play took place in threes and fours, made all the more striking after the crowding of the play’s early scenes. Additionally, Hermione’s presence onstage was always accompanied by large properties (with the exception of the trial scene)—thrones, a bed, a dais for the statue. Through this staging, Bennett lent weight to Hermione’s presence and starkly highlighted her absence.
  • 20. Measure for Measure 3.1.350.
  • 21. I do not mean to suggest by this that Marina and Perdita are unruly women in need of authority, or that they are disobedient. Rather, they are navigating new territory with their natural parents for the first time, and, as princesses, will be expected to behave in a certain way.
  • 22. All’s Well also contains an intact mother-daughter pair in Diana and the Widow; Anne Bullen and Elizabeth are discounted here for Elizabeth’s last- second appearance as an infant in Henry VIII.
  • 23. The author would like to gratefully acknowledge her colleagues and friends Kerry Cooke, Marshall B Garrett, and Stephanie Holladay-Earl; and this collection’s editor, Berit Astrom, who were instrumental in shaping this piece.
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